‘Aguantando’ by Junot Díaz

Aguantando by Junot Díaz, 1996

The magic trick:

Making the imagined even more moving than the real-life vignettes

This is a wonderful quilt of stitched-together vignettes in the style of Sherman Alexie. The plot isn’t linear, but there is forward momentum, as we wait with the family to see if their father ever returns from America.

Each anecdote is effective, some are incredibly moving. The reader gets a vivid picture of both Santo Domingo and this family’s life there. Nothing touches the ending, though. Yunior imagines his father returning. Even amid the negative characterizations of the man, the kid can’t help but idolize him. The fantasy vignette turns out to be the most moving of them all. And that’s quite a trick on Díaz’s part.

The selection:

The week the letter came I watched her from my trees. She ironed cheese sandwiches in paper bags for our lunch, boiled platanos for our dinner. Our dirty clothes were pounded clean in the concrete trough on the side of the outhouse. Every time she thought I was scrabbling too high in the branches she called me back to the ground. You ain’t Spiderman, you know, she said, rapping the top of my head with her knuckles. On the afternoon that Wilfredo’s father came over to play dominos and talk politics, she sat with him and Abuelo and laughed at their campo stories. She seemed more normal to me but I was careful not to provoke her. There was still something volcanic about the way she held herself.

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