Thursday, January 17, 2008

Armchair Traveling

Considering that at one time my husband and I discussed moving (for employment reasons) to the Dominican Republic, I know next to nada about the country. I just finished reading a book titled The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz, and realized I’d read two other novels about this same period in DR history. In fact, Díaz refers to these books in his work: The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa and In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez. All three books explore aspects of the atrocities committed during the mid- 20th century Trujillo era, some 30 years of brutality the U.S. (oops!) enabled and then ignored because it suited us politically and economically. What, we supported a dictator? No me dígas! You don't learn that in high school history class. Hey, give me some credit for knowing my geography: the Dominican Republic shares an island with Haiti, though I never seem to remember which side's which.

Anyhoo, if you want to “travel” to this beautiful country that’s in our own backyard (one island over from a place called Cuba that US citizens are only allowed to visit in an armchair), Díaz’s book takes us to the present-day DR, too. It seems like a truly beautiful country functioning on the edge of chaos, still reeling from its long history of being used and abused by the colonial powers that be (or were). I warn you though, the author piles on tragic events like a latter-day Sophocles, and despite a heavy dose of humor, reading this book may leave you depressed and puzzled, perhaps even embarrassed that you, like me, know so little about 20th century American (the continent) history.

Since flying in a commercial airplane isn’t something I’ll be doing any time soon (unless I get a gas mask), armchair traveling is the only way I’ll be going anywhere. My next journey is to the American West on a book called The Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins. Hasta la vista!

1 comment:

bravenewfrickenworld said...

Junot Diaz rules! I Love that book.