This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
Junot Díaz’s writing is arresting, his prose style deeply affecting and his characters are fallible and memorable – am I gushing too much already?
Díaz is a bit of a rock star for his fans (obviously not excluding myself) and with such long waits between his books, the release of his second short-story collection has been hotly anticipated. This new collection speaks directly to his earlier work, notably Drown, and has at its centre, Yunior – a character past readers will recognise. In previous interviews, Díaz has admitted he considers Yunior his ‘alter ego’ so it’s perhaps not a surprise he appears again here.
The voice is undoubtedly Díaz, with a large dash of second-person narrative and a heady mix of Spanglish. The stories are linked but, as with Drown, there is no linear narrative. Rather they act as riffs on his trademark themes such as dysfunctional relationships and the contemporary immigrant experience.
Very occasionally, there’s a hint that Díaz is getting ready to experiment with new ideas, notably in the story ‘Otravida, Otravez’, which features the voice of a 28-year-old female immigrant. It’s always a risk when writing linked stories to include one so markedly different from the others, and the piece did feel out of place when read in context of the book. But when I reread this on its own I was surprised at how moving I found it.
Díaz walks a fine line between depicting violence and sexism and glorifying it. He uses vulgar language, his characters treat one another badly and there are undertones of misogyny. But there is something unbearably tender and genuinely hilarious in his work – I feel enormous affection for his characters. While this collection didn’t hit me with as much force as his earlier writing, it still left me gutted.