The First Time Reader’s Guide to Junot Diaz

Junot Diaz
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It’s hard to discuss the works of Junot Diaz, because at a quick glance they are quite similar. The Pulitzer Prize Winning writer hailing from the Dominican Republic often has characters cross over in his works, particularly that of of the character Yunior, whom Diaz has admitted is modeled after himself. Diaz isn’t the most prolific author, either. Since his first collection was released in the 90s, Diaz has only managed an additional collection and one novel. Both have been critically acclaimed, though.

The difference between Diaz’s works lies past the narrators, the style and storytelling. The difference between the works lies between the themes, the bits of reality that Yunior captures and that Diaz shares with us, which dark form of reality Diaz decides to show us.



Drown mostly shows the issues surrounding being foreign, poor and fed up in America. The stories follow Yunior through crime, friendship and love. These stories show some of the grittiest times that Diaz has shown us. Perhaps the stories in the most simplest and least experimental form, particularly compared to the novel that comes after. Drown was written by Diaz during an MFA, and some of these experimentation show in the later stories, playing with time skips and alternate events happening.The book may be Diaz at his most tame, but nonetheless it is a collection of work by Diaz – which means beautiful prose and writing well worth your time.


The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao


Diaz’s first (and to date, only) novel showcases all his talents across the depths of his studies and life in literature. The story follows Oscar Wao and is perhaps Diaz’s most experimental work. Involves a curse that follows a family across generation and countries, sex, and dictatorship in countries with multiple points of view.

The novel follows Oscar, who is destined to be unsuccessful with women but wonderfully versed in Tolkien knowledge. The novel is laced with footnotes giving historical knowledge to help the story, and ultimately being Diaz most ambitious and extremely successful in every attempt it makes at greatness.


This Is How You Lose Her


Diaz’s most recent book combines the characters and content of his first collection, with the knowledge and skills of his novel.

The stories are like Drown, focusing on Yunior but more so on the theme of love, with an interest in unrequited and failed love. The collection takes place across Yunior’s life, even following him into his later years of midlife crisis, and contains Diaz’s best prose to date. This Is How You Lose Her is a book that is dangerous to give to readers: it is one of the best things published in the past decade, if not longer, but it is also so good that nothing they read may attempt to touch to be as good.

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