The Struggle for Identity and the Need for Documenting History in Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Jiménez, Mónica Fernández
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The work which will be the primary source of analysis in this paper is The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2008) by Junot Díaz. The novel places the concept of diasporic identity formation as a challenge which directly affects the daily lives of second generation Dominican-Americans living in Latino and Caribbean majority neighbourhoods in the United States. These groups often suffer categorisation practices imposed on them both by the mainstream North American society and by members of their same community. These practices, added to the generational gap between them and their immigrant parents, often translate into fragility and fragmentation when developing an identity. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao has been chosen for the paper because it includes some chapters dealing with the past of the Dominican Republic. In this way, it does not consider diaspora an isolated phenomenon, but rather relates it to past historical events. The purpose of the broad historical scope of the novel is to highlight the importance of transmitting a critical historical memory of the country of origin to the second-generation individual. Documenting the past might help these characters overcome fragility in the formation of a stable Dominican-American identity. This need of providing young generations with critical historical information is reflected in the novel through the efforts that the narrator makes to recollect and retell the personal story of Oscar, the protagonist of the book, and his family.