Monday, March 7, 2011

Researching an Author Online: Junot Diaz

I recently took over teaching a literature class at George Mason University when a faculty member was no longer able to continue with the class. While I inherited a syllabus with a great list of books, I was generally unfamiliar with them. It didn’t seem fair to the students to change the syllabus a few weeks into the semester. This means that I must do extra research and preparation on the books and authors throughout the semester.

What more could a writer, reader and academic ask for in a job? It is the kind of task that we do on our own when we read. Over the next semester, I’ll share some of my favorite author and book internet resources with you as I research them.

The first book the class read is Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. This text, with many comic book, Dungeons and Dragons, gamer, Dominican slang and other references that I didn’t immediately recognize, was a bit of a challenge for me at the beginning. However, some aspects of the book were familiar: It was very New Jersey-specific (some jokes about the stink, but not only) and the tale was mainly about loss, relationships and the life of an immigrant family teetering between two cultures.

The more that I read the book and about it, my interest piqued in it’s construction of the narrative and character. Diaz uses many voices and references to create both an individual and community voice. While in the end it isn’t my favorite book or a book that I wish I had written myself, I do have great respect for it.

If you’re read the book or plan to read the book, you might find these web resources interesting:

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