‘How To Date A Brown Girl (Black Girl, White Girl, Or Halfie)’ by Junot Díaz

Diaz, Junot 1995

How To Date A Brown Girl (Black Girl, White Girl, Or Halfie) by Junot Díaz, 1995

The magic trick:

Having the narrator directly address the reader with helpful hints as in an advice column

The Junior stories jump off the page with their voice – young, brash, funny, offensive. The magic trick that makes this particularly story so effective, though, is the second-person, directive quality of the narration. It is as if Díaz has constructed a handbook for us. The “us” in that sentence is part of Díaz’s genius. The story is directed at a young Dominican male, teaching him what parts of his culture to hide, when to get angry, when to play it cool, etc. Given that the story first appeared in The New Yorker, the notion that the majority of the audience was going to be Dominican – or really anything other than the mainstream, educated middle class – is sheer silliness. Díaz, of course, knows this, which only makes his cultural observations and wit all the more pointed and hilarious. And that’s quite a trick on Diaz’s part.

The selection:

Dinner will be tense. You are not good at talking to people you don’t know. A halfie will tell you that her parents met in the Movement, will say, Back then people thought it a radical thing to do. It will sound like something her parents made her memorize. Your brother once heard that one and said, Man, that sounds like a whole lot of Uncle Tomming to me. Don’t repeat this.

Put down your hamburger and say, It must have been hard.

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