Rhonda's Reviews > This Is How You Lose Her

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
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Aug 07, 12

bookshelves: first-reads
Read from July 31 to August 02, 2012

I read this book as I got it through "first reads". However, I hadn't realized that it would include so many Spanish phrases that I wouldn't be able to understand. I'm not really sure what there is to love about this book, looking at the other reviews. Perhaps you have to be Latino to understand and appreciate it. It just seemed disjointed to me with characters that just seemed to come out of nowhere and then were dropped like they never existed. I also didn't understand the significance of the switch from past to present and back in various places. However, there were some very funny segments, like when Yunior talks about how he and his brother threatened each other. That had me laughing out loud. Other than that, I'm sorry, I just couldn't relate to this at all. The main essence of the book seemed to be about how guys think with their dicks and screw up relationships....with language to match. Even when Yunior's brother died, there didn't seem to be much emphasis on the emotion surrounding that event as he was just portrayed as a "sucio" anyway. Well, at least I learned one Spanish word. ;)
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Comments (showing 1-38 of 38) (38 new)

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Apgrant2 perhaps you should read his other shorts. Yunior is a recurring character in all of Junot Diaz' stories.


Rhonda Maybe then, in order to get a full appreciation and understanding of this book, it might be a good idea to read the books that were written before it. It might also be helpful to have English translations for all of the Spanish phrases. I realize that I've probably missed the real essence of this book for these reasons.


message 3: by Gail (new)

Gail Rhonda, you are such a fast reader. omg. What you read a book a day? lol


Rhonda No..not really....I've been reading my current book VERY slowly...too many things going on...but I hope to speed it up soon. ;)


Raquel My advice is just to look up the Spanish words. You can always use Yahoo's Babel Fish or Google Translate.


Reader It just seemed disjointed to me with characters that just seemed to come out of nowhere and then were dropped like they never existed.

Uh. You realize this was a short story collection and not a novel, right? Of course it's going to be disjointed and they're not all going to include the same characters over and over. That's kind of how short story collections work.

Perhaps you have to be Latino to understand and appreciate it.

Why do white people always make these kinds of comments? It seems impossible for whites to see minorities as human beings. I can guarantee, Rhonda, that if I were to say something like, "Maybe you have to be a white person to relate to Book With All White Main Characters," you'd find it ridiculous. You'd probably insist that race isn't the point, and that I should be able to look past color. Maybe you should do the same here.


message 7: by Nyki (new)

Nyki Seriously, 1-star because you couldn't understand it? Do you do the same when there are English words you've never heard in a book? Pick up some new words and realize that using words en español without translation is something a lot of US Latino writers do to 1) work within the framework of their own language (a hybrid of the two) and 2) force Anglo audiences to engage with the now-pedestrian Spanish language, rather than catering to them and giving translations.


message 8: by Kristen (new)

Kristen @Rhonda: perhaps looking at the book as a way into a cultural history that is unfamiliar to you might be a way into a more rewarding experience of reading, and may carry over to other experiences... Always good to keep in mind the fact of having a position at the periphery with everyone else, looking in at a shared culture. Peace.


Rhonda Raquelle, unfortunately, I've used Babelfish when trying to translate Korean and some other languages in the past with poor translation. Perhaps it works better with Spanish.


Rhonda Reader, my comment was not meant as a racist comment at all. I just finished reading a play based on a Korean family which I thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed. There was Korean writing included in the book but each entry was accompanied with an English translation. I was focusing on my inability to understand the book, rather than insulting the Latino culture. As a matter of fact, I host international students in my home and my Latino guests were always amongst my favourite.

As for the idea that this was a series of short stories, I, honestly,was confused by that because there did seem to be a combination of continuity with certain characters throughout the book and new characters added in other parts. I also didn't understand the different format introduced at the end of the book. I've never seen this combination style of writing before.


Rhonda Nyki, yes, seriously, I gave the book 1 star because I could neither understand or appreciate this book. Keep in mind that this is an open forum to freely express opinion here, based on individual experience. In that regard, there are no right or wrong answers. It may be so that it is the Latino writing style to use the Spanish language without translation and that was my point in commenting that one might better understand and appreciate the book if one were, in fact, Latino. In the same way, I wouldn't pick up a book written in the Russian or French language, as an example, because I don't speak the language. To make the assumption that it is a good idea to force a person to find there own translations to get the full meaning and appreciation of the cultural nuances of the book is a little presumptuous. In many cases language doesn't translate well and the underlying meaning behind the words gets lost.


message 12: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Reader wrote: "It seems impossible for whites to see minorities as human beings."

You do realize that what you did right there, yes? If you don't, Reader, then maybe you should look past your impulsive and irrelevant argument


Rhonda: I highly recommend you give Diaz another try and check out "The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao." Wonderful book. Very accessible and beautiful.


Rhonda Thanks, Rebecca. I'll keep that in mind, for sure. :)


Lauren I was privileged enough to hear Junot speak a couple years ago, after "Oscar Wao" won the Pulitzer. He explained that he purposely uses Spanish not only to fully immerse the reader in the reality of the character, but also to shift their level of complacency - especially for non-native speakers. Imagine what it's like for Spanish speakers in a world dominate by English. People like you (unfortunately, and I intend no disrespect) expect everyone to conform to what makes you comfortable. Junot is simply bringing your privilege to your attention, and placing you in his and all other minorities' shoes.

As a white reader, who has fully come to terms with the unavoidability of my privilege (there is no denying it, no defending against it, as much as our cultural guilt would wish us to forget we have it), I am utterly grateful to writers like Junot who do not conform, and do not aim to please the common denominator. We are a better culture for it. I hope you can learn something from what he's trying to do here.


message 15: by Rhonda (last edited Sep 11, 2012 10:40PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Rhonda No disrespect to Junot and I'm also a minority. I respect Juno's intentions and appreciate what you are saying. However, by judging me for my inability to understand, and for my opinion, might be seen as reverse prejudice. Just because English is my first language does not necessarily make me privileged. If I were in Spain or Mexico, for instance, with most books written in Spanish, then would I still be the privileged one? Why am I being judged for being white and Englisb speaking? "People LIKE me"? I "expect people to conform to me"? That's ridiculous! So,.if you don't choose to read a book in Hebrew, I guess that must mean you are an antisemite who expects everybody to conform to you then, right?


message 16: by Alejandra (new) - added it

Alejandra I don't think you need to be Hispanic, Latino, or chicano to connect with this work. if anything, it offers you a great opportunity to learn a bit of a new language and find undertones similar from that culture to your own. That's what Diaz does for me! perhaps, like others have said, diving into his short stories could prove more interesting for you.


Julia Smillie I'd also argue, having read just about everything Diaz has written, that he provides plenty of context - perhaps subtle - so that if you don't understand exactly what the Spanish words mean, then you can at least understand the general intent.

I'm about as white as they come and it's Diaz's bravery in writing flawed characters, in getting to the heart of how we deal with each other and relate to each other, that is the true universal language. He accomplishes that, in my opinion, like very, very few writers today.


message 18: by Jessica (last edited Sep 14, 2012 10:27AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jessica Reader wrote: Why do white people always make these kinds of comments? It seems impossible for whites to see minorities as human beings. I can guarantee, Rhonda, that if I were to say something like, "Maybe you have to be a white person to relate to Book With All White Main Characters," you'd find it ridiculous. You'd probably insist that race isn't the point, and that I should be able to look past color. Maybe you should do the same here.

Hm, while I do understand your point that readers should be able to look past race in stories I also understand that it's not always easy to relate to stories that come from cultural backgrounds drastically different from our own. I find it's easier to enjoy books when I can relate to the characters and sometimes too large a cultural divide inhibits that. Doesn't mean those books are bad, just means it doesn't have the same effect on me that it might have on you.

That being said, it is important to be open and allow yourself exposure to other cultures. I loved this book, but just because a reader worries that she may have been unable to connect thematically to the cultural elements of the book doesn't mean she is racist.


Rhonda I completely disagree, Jessica. The more correct idea would be that, perhaps you have to be Spanish speaking to understand the Spanish phrases in the book and the deeper meaning that often doesn't translate well. When I made the comment about being Latino, I was referring to the language. I also can't be faulted for not being able to relate to the book for the other reasons I've mentioned above that, as far as I know, have nothing to do with the culture. Furthermore, if you've read all the comments I've written, in reply to everyone's input, you would have seen that I made a remark about a book with Korean immigrants which I thoroughly enjoyed. If you check the books I've read in the past, you'll also see that I've read a couple of books with the characters being Indian. Thus, I think what you have to say is a bit presumptious and completely incorrect.


message 20: by Jessica (last edited Sep 14, 2012 03:42PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jessica Wow, okay. I didn't say anything intended to attack you, Rhonda, and I certainly never said that you -- or anyone -- can or should only read books about your own culture. I also wasn't trying to fault you for not being able to relate to a book for whatever reason. As a matter of fact, I did read your responses but I wanted to respond to Reader's comment "Why do white people always make these kinds of comments", which I found to be a little, well, loaded. I too have read and enjoyed many books from across the globe, but there have also been some books that don't connect with me because of cultural nuances. I don't say, "This book is bad because it's about somebody different than me." I just say, "There's a thematic element that doesn't click with me." It could be a cultural element, but it could also be a generational or psychological element, or a personal experience I've never shared. I might say the same thing when I can't relate to a book about a single father in his sixties. Who knows, maybe acknowledging what I can't relate to will spur me to learn more about another culture!

It's a fact that I tend to enjoy books more when I can relate to something about the characters. That something could be any number of things, cultural or psychological or generational, but I don't think that's an unusual characteristic in readers. I also don't think that just because I'm white and I question if maybe the reason I couldn't relate to a specific book is because the author's culture is different is because, as Reader put it, I can't see minorities as human beings. And that is in no way presumptuous or incorrect.


Reader Rebecca said: "You do realize that what you did right there, yes? If you don't, Reader, then maybe you should look past your impulsive and irrelevant argument."

Haha, there's always that one moronic white person who feels the need to derail and try to make themselves the victims of racism.

Get over your ignorant and irrelevant self, Rebecca.


Rhonda Honestly, it seems that this book is loved by all those who read it. Maybe I just didn't "get" it....I usually don't read books a second time, but this time, it's different. I really am intrigued by what I must've missed. Really though, I do sense a lot of bitterness towards "white" people. I see people as people, no matter what the race or religion. Just because I can't understand a language or can't relate to a specific culture, doesn't mean that I'm against that culture. I think that has to be recognized here and not taken personally. Furthermore, just because I didn't enjoy the book, does not mean that I am insulting anybody...There's way too much drama here. If you didn't like a book written by a white person, would that mean that you are against white people?


message 23: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Look, Reader, you need to get over your issues. I was merely wanting to address the fact that you were asking Rhonda to look past color while you couldn't see past hers. The fact that your comment was so contradictory and bitter frustrated me, but now I see you've got a bigger chip on your shoulder.

I'm not a victim, and I sure as sh*t wasn't pretending to be. Let your anger go, open your mind, and recognize when a little irrelevant comment on the internet slaps your prejudice upside its head.


P.S. Hear, hear, Rhonda. I completely understand how you feel about the text. I actually feel alienated when I read a lot of standard American Lit (which, we all know, is predominantly white), but this doesn't make me self-loathing.


Rhonda Thank you, Rebecca... and to Jessica, my apologies... I think I may have mistaken part of your portion of Reader's quote as your response... My silly mix-up, especially considering the quoted text was bold. :p


Rhonda Thank you, Rebecca... and to Jessica, my apologies... I think I may have mistaken part of your portion of Reader's quote as your response... My silly mix-up, especially considering the quoted text was bold. :p


message 26: by Clif (last edited Sep 25, 2012 02:58PM) (new)

Clif Hostetler Did you know that there's a link to your review in this essay by Darryl Camplbell on his blog, "The Millions?" He refers to you as "that lady on Goodreads." You should be honored by the attention he has shown, even though his comment could be construed as being critical. I liked your review, and it sparked some good comments.


Rhonda Thanks, Clif. I had no idea that my review appeared anywhere else but right here...I feel like the equivalent of the youtube video gone viral (well, not so viral, but you get the idea)...Not sure that's such a good thing. :P I think that, for me, the decision to list the books I've read on Goodreads would feel slightly lacking in purpose without leaving some sort of feedback at the end. Afterall, I like to read the reviews of others when I'm deciding whether or not I'll choose a specific book. It only makes sense that I share my opinions as well. Just because I don't appreciate a particular book doesn't make it bad. It's my personal opinion, for whatever it's worth, and I feel that I'm entitled to that. Thank you to those who take the time to read it and my apologies to those who feel offended.


message 28: by Clif (new)

Clif Hostetler Rhonda wrote: ".... the decision to list the books I've read on Goodreads would feel slightly lacking in purpose without leaving some sort of feedback at the end. ..."
Well stated! I write reviews as a way of making a record of the emotions experienced while reading the book. That serves as a way of holding on to a past experience. And after going to all that effort, why wouldn't I want to share it to the Goodreads.com world?


Maria Alejandra reading is pretty much about understanding other cultures. If we only read ourselves, what would be the point of it..
as for the phrases in spanish, there are dictionaries and web translators...
i think you should try this author with another approach, expand your mind to the things you find far away from your way or seeing things. I think this is the only way possible.


Rhonda So are you saying, Maria, that I should appreciate a book just because of the cultural difference? I'm going to turn the tables a little and suggest that perhaps it's possible not to enjoy a book for reasons other than the cultural difference. In the same way, I would imagine that it's also possible to like a book for the very fact that you can relate to the culture, regardless of whether or not the book was well written.... while, at the same time, having the expectation that everybody else should like it too... If they don't, assuming that ot must be due to their narrowmindesness where different cultures are concerned... perhaps even labelling them as prejudice or racist, regardless of the reason they didn't like the book. I've enjoyed books involving the Korean culture and the Indian culture and other cultures different than mine. I've also found some I didn't like involving other cultures and my own as well... So, I wonder who you'd assume is actually being narrow minded in this case.


Ginger OMG, I bet you never expected this review to be so controversial. :) I too had trouble with the back and forth between English and Spanish, but I actually attempted to translate it with little success. Because it is Dominican Spanish, none of the translators translate it perfectly. So I often got garbled phrases that I still couldn't figure out. I too am giving it 1 star because I was also lost, and personally I don't think enough content was lost in translation to give the benefit of the doubt. In addressing other comments made here, I'd like to point out that though the book is presented as a collection of short stories, it really doesn't read that way. You're following the same guy throughout his relationships with various women, always returning to the ex. So you can call it a collection of short stories, but since none of the stories could stand on their own, it just doesn't fit. Also, I'm intrigued by how you are automatically white just because you don't speak Spanish...you may be white, but I can't see that as a clue to the fact, hell there's a Latino dude next door right now that doesn't speak a word of Spanish....just sayin.


Rhonda Very well said, Ginger.... And, no, I had no idea that my review would strike up such a controversy.


Maria Alejandra I'm not saying you're narrow minded. I just think the reasons you gave for not liking this book can be fixed.


Maria Alejandra By the way, it is funny how much the perception changes between readers. I felt the writing in Otra vida, otra vez not just outstanding and mature, but very touching and sensible to what a women(raised in our culture) can feel in those situations.


Rhonda Maria, certainly, if one feels he/ she may have missed some detail in a book, then re-reading it might be a choice. However, personal preference for literature is much like taste for art one might put on a wall. If I don't enjoy a book then I don't see that as a problem that needs to be fixed, much like one wouldn't try to like the art. They'd just take it off the wall.


Rhonda I can't give an opinion on Otra Vida Otra Vez as I haven't read that book.


Maria Alejandra I see what you mean.
Otra vida, otra vez is a short story in the book.


Rhonda Oops. I thought you were referring to a completely different book. Of course I don't remember, off-by-heart, the names of each of the chapters in the book. I finished reading it almost three months ago. To refresh my memory, I read that chapter again and, I can't say I share the same sentiments that you do.


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