A Piece of Fanmail, or, La Gratitud de un Nerd Dominicano.
Junot Diaz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning Dominican-American author. I am not (a Pulitzer Prize winner). The following email is one I sent him last fall, in the hopes of achieving some catharsis. I didn’t expect (or receive) an answer from him, but I figure I’d put this out into cyberspace. I hope you enjoy reading.
Dear Mr. Diaz,
I hope this email finds you well, and enjoying the kind of Autumnal Massachusetts weather that can only be described as “crisp.” I have been meaning to write you this email for the better part of a year, ever since I finished the one-two punch of The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This Is How You Lose Her, both of which left me dazed, confused, and moved to tears. If Oscar captured the experience of being a Dominican/Caribbean transplant to the United States perfectly, the one-foot-in and one-foot-out point of view of those lucky (and unlucky) enough to have left our homelands for “Los Paises”, This is How You Lose Her was a much more intimate strike to the very core of my being.It felt personal in a way few books I have read before, or since, ever have.
As someone born and raised in the Dominican Republic, and specifically in La Romana (and more specifically, inside Casa de Campo for a few of my formative years), I read the opening chapters of your most recent book in rapt disbelief. You have managed to capture the angst and passion of a crumbling relationship, that fire that burns between two people who once loved each other, better than anyone I have ever had the privilege of reading. That a similar thing happened to me in the same setting as your characters, was an eerie coincidence. That I had pre-ordered two copies of your book, one for me and one for her, which were delivered days after the return to the United States (and final break-up), is Divine Comedy.
I send this to you now because I felt as if I couldn’t stand having a blank draft email staring back at me in all my cowardice. In all honesty, it took me many years to have the courage to even read any of your work, despite all of my American friends insisting I read it because “you’re like from the DR, right?”. I knew it would be a mirror I would be afraid to look into. I regret not having picked up the pages to Oscar orDrown – which I’ve just ordered – previously, and have tried to make amends by advocating for your fantastic work quite fervently.
I just wanted to thank you for everything you have done for us Dominican Nerds, who spent our afternoons watching Caballeros del Zodiaco, Dragonball-Z, and Ranma & 1/2, losing ourselves in dreams of moving to Japan and becoming a master warrior, or at least a ninja. Thank you from those who stayed indoors to read dusty old tomes of The Fellowship of the Ring while every other kid was outside playing vitillas and pretending to be Sammy Sosa. Thank you from the many of us who moved to the States in pursuit of better academic opportunities, but still get excited every time we hear un merenguito or find a Presidente (which is easier said than done in the South or the Midwest).
Thank you for capturing the nuance and internal conflict of our people.
Jose R. Lopez-Sanchez