Drown - A Book Review

Drown, 1996, by Junot Diaz, is a collection of short stories, about Dominican kids and adults, in the Dominican Republic and America, trying to get by in a tough world, where money doesn't come easily and love sometimes comes less easily. The first story "Ysrael" is one about the cruelty of children. Ysrael is a boy who had much of his face eaten off by a pig. Biding his time with the belief that he will go to America for facial reconstruction, he wears a mask, not unlike the of a superhero or a luchador. He has many enemies, cruel children who taunt, hit and chase, and it's said no one can run faster than he (perhaps not even the Flash). Yunior and his older brother Rafa, who we will meet time and time again in this collection, decide to pay Ysrael a visit. Rafa and Yunior don't have the best of intentions for Ysrael.

The title story "Drown" is one of escape and of a friendship grown cold. This story deals with the layers of friendship between two young men who part ways when one graduates high school and goes to college to escape the barrios of New Jersey. Only that's not what truly separates them. When Beto comes to town for a visit, flashes of the past reveal what came up between these once close friends.

These and the remainder of the stories deal with sexuality, race, class, violence, drugs, adultery, immigration, family and relationships. Sometimes these issues are brought up graphically, but as the author has said, not in a voyeuristic way. No one in real life is perfect and that is reflected in this book.

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