This Is How You Lose Her

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I’m not usually a fan of too many short stories, there have been only a handful that have stuck with me. However, Junot Diaz’s take on the short story concept is quite fascinating. It more of a journey than separate individual stories that are loosely connected to each other. Although the stories were published at different times, they connect so fluidly that it immediately makes one whole mesmerising story of life; from the cesspool of the unknown to a sense of satisfaction at maturity. Junot Diaz puts his Dominican- American heritage to use in the telling of these stories and doesn’t beat about the bush with fancy words. He tells his stories simply and matter of fact like and gives us a very realistic portrait of what goes through the minds of people based on the recurrent theme of infidelity.

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The first story of the lot was published in 1998 in The New Yorker and was titled “The sun, The Moon, The stars.” The protagonist Yunior can be found in Junot’s previous collection of short stories as well. In this story Yunior is trying to salvage his relationship with Magdalena and he says, “Our relationship wasn’t the sun, the moon, the stars, but it wasn’t bullshit either.” Diaz’s crass portrayal of romance may not be something we are used to but it is something we easily adapt to when reading his work. It is definitely more realistic and less romanticized than popular romance novels these days and that is rather refreshing. The second story ‘Nilda’ was published in 1999 in the New Yorker. Nilda is the protagonist here and is also the girlfriend of Yunior’s brother. This story is one about the friendship and bond formed between Nilda and Yunior as they wait every night for Rafa to come home. Nilda stays over to escape her drunken mother. Having similar troubled pasts makes it easy for them to get comfortable with each other. Nilda is tells him about her dreams and intentions of building a home for runaway kids because she always wished she had a place to get away from her mother. The third story was titled ‘Alma’ and published 8 years later in The New Yorker. This story is the shortest of the lot and tells the story of how he cheated on his girlfriend of 8months and how she ridicules him in public. The next story was published before Alma in 1999 of The New Yorker and is the only story told from a female perspective and also the only one that doesn’t have a heartbreaking story about a degenerating relationship; this story was titled ‘Otravida, Otravez’. The next story is titled ‘Flaca’ and was also published in 1999 but in Star Magazine and tells the story of Yunior’s two year serious relationship with Veronica from New Jersey who he met in college. ‘The Pura Principle’ is the next story in the series and a rather emotional one as well. It traverses Rafa’s battle with leukaemia and relationship with Pura which consequently puts a strain on his relationship with his mother and brother. Though he moves out, his mother allows him to steal money from her. This was published in 2010 in The New Yorker. The next story, ‘Invierno’, is by far the most moving and emotionally wreaking stories in the entire collection. Yunior’s father, who he hardly knows finally relocates them after all these years and it traces the difficulties of being an alien in a foreign land – not knowing the language or culture and having to start from scratch and build your way up all over again. ‘Miss Lora’ was published in 2010 and tells the story of the awakening of Yunior’s lust as he falls for a middle aged woman, Lora who ends up being his teacher. According to Diaz this was by far the easiest story he has ever written. The last story is called ‘The Cheater’s Guide to Love’ and is the story of how Yunior gets caught cheating with fifty girls because he’s dumb enough to cheat and leave evidence in the form of emails on his computer.

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The stories blend together quite perfectly and author brings his characters to life by their colloquial speech and mannerisms. It received a number of accolades and well deserved recognition. According to The Telegraph, “Junot Díaz’s short story collection is so sharp, so bawdy, so raw with emotion, and so steeped in the lingo and rhythms of working-class Latino life that it makes most writing that crosses the Atlantic seem hopelessly desiccated by comparison” and “Language is key. Díaz is both a minimalist—scraping, chiselling, honing his prose into its flinty essence—and a maximalist who’s capable of code switching, flipping between the colloquial and the highbrow, creating a taut lexical calabash made up of Caribbean phrases, black American vernacular and the playful pugilism of urban street banter.”