This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

thisishowyouloseherAs a queer white girl from Utah, my experience is much different from the experiences and lives described in “This is How You Lose Her.”  However, I really felt the emotion of the book– the ways that we struggle to not fuck up in love and the ways that we inevitably do.  I cried often while reading this book.  I think I just really felt its human-ness; how random life is in the pain and the setbacks it gives us and the brief moments that we feel on top of the world and alight with love and purpose.

Although the book was over 200 pages I read it in two days which is pretty unusual for me– it really was that absorbing.  The novel starts and ends the same way with Yunior having cheated on his current girlfriend with whatever “suicas” he is currently seeing.  (From my understanding of the word, a suica is a woman-on-the-side).  After his infidelities are exposed he feels terrible and does everything he can to get the relationship back, but to no avail.  At the end of the book, Yunior’s best friend Elvis tells him that he should write the “Cheater’s Guide to Love.”

I never quite knew what to feel about Yunior- if he was a dude I knew in real life, I’d probably write him off pretty quickly as being a complete asshole yet in reading him as  a fictional character I had quite a bit of sympathy for him.  He can’t seem to not cheat and yet he feels terribly about it and is sent into deep spirals of depression each time he does.

For Yunior, cheating seemed to be almost a part of his culture- many times throughout the book it was mentioned that Dominican men always cheat.  Although women are referred to as sex objects, they are also highly revered by the men in the book.  Though there is constant talk among the men in the book about getting laid, there is also a lot about women’s pleasure and men enjoying eating a woman’s “toto”.  For some reason I get the idea that a white dude would probably never write about that in a novel.  It was a really interesting goddess vs. slut type paradigm.

Although most of the women in the book are background characters, the story “Otravida, Otravez” is written from a young woman’s perspective by the name of Yasmin.  She came to the United States as an immigrant from the Dominican Republic and the story finds her working at a hospital laundry facility, sharing a room with another immigrant woman, and  dating a man who is also from the Dominican Republic and still has a wife in Santo Domingo.  It’s one of the best pieces of fiction from a first person female perspective that I’ve read from a male writer.

Besides being about the loss of romantic love, the book also describes other kinds of maternal love, brotherly love and competition, and friendship.  Much of the book is also about the death of Yunior’s brother, Rafa, and how he and his mother cope (or don’t cope) with it.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“The half-life of love is forever.”

“That’s the most we can hope for.  Nothing thrown, nothing said that we might remember for years.  You watch me while you put a brush through your hair.  Each strand that breaks is as long as my arm.  You don’t want to let go but don’t want to be hurt either.  It’s not a great place to be but what can I tell you?”

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5 Comments

  1. January 20, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    I just finished this today! Very well written, though of course I didn’t feel it was as good or complete as Oscar Wao. Have you ever read any Wally Lamb? I feel like I should know the answer to that, but I don’t! If you HAVEN’T, then I insist you read “She’s Come Undone,” which is one of my all-time favorite books, and such an astonishingly well-written female perspective by a male writer that it’s hard to believe it was really written by a man.

    WHAT ELSE ARE WE READING? Me, just finished “How Should a Person Be?” by Sheila Heti. Super good.

    • January 22, 2014 at 5:49 am

      Woah, that’s crazy! I love synchronicity! I actually have not read anything by Wally Lamb. I will have to check him out. I just finished “It Chooses You” by Miranda July and just started “Half Empty” by David Rakoff.

      • January 22, 2014 at 12:52 pm

        Jealous of the Rakoff. Let me know how that goes! Also, have you seen July’s movie, The Future?

      • January 23, 2014 at 6:39 am

        I will! And I have watched half of it so far on Netflix. It makes me sad so I have to take it in small doses.

      • January 28, 2014 at 1:10 am

        Oh, yeah. True. It’s kind of haunted me since, but I think that’s a testament to July’s talent, in its own way.


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