Thursday, August 6, 2009


Hello again- 
    This is Lexi....
    Other faculty and staff are going to be posting new discussion topics soon, but I wanted to start you off with another one today.

How does the Spanglish/ Spanish influence Oscar's story? Does it make it feel more authentic? Did it distance you from the story or draw you closer? As a non-Spanish speaker, does the language make you feel like an outsider possibly paralleling how Oscar might have felt? If you do understand Spanish how did that connection impact your reading of the novel?


  1. Hey Lexi,

    This is Jessie Stettin. I definitely found that being a non spanish speaker distances me from Oscar's story. Although I am enjoying so far, it would help if I understood all the phrases etc.

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  3. Hey there Lexi,

    Jeetayu Biswas here, I loved the fact that Diaz had a very colloquial tone throughout the story and the Spanish added to the homely aspect. Even though I did not understand the specifics of the language, I found that I could figure out what was happening based on context.

  4. Hi Lexi,

    My name is Valerie Marchenko. When I read the Spanish and knew the meaning, the connection through understanding felt nice; however, when I did not recognize the words—especially when they appeared more than once—I was somewhat annoyed. The instances where context did not clarify the translation were few, and overall I think the inclusion of Spanish phrases contributed to the concept of the bicultural world in which Oscar lives.

  5. Hi Lexi,
    My name is Jeffrey Osgood. I do not speak Spanish; however, I actually found that my inexperience with the Spanish language made the story more interesting for me. Whenever I would come across a Spanish phrase that was unfamiliar to me-this happened often-I would automatically and intentionally develop an interpretation of what I thought the phrase probably meant based on the context and my understanding of the story, characters, and culture depicted in the story. This would paint a picture of the story in my mind. I would then actually look-up the translation of the phrase, which would obviously reveal exactly what was happening in the story. Following the translation, the picture in my mind would change.
    This became interesting when I compared these two mental pictures of the story. I found that the discrepancy served as a gauge for my understanding of the story and my own personal attitude towards the people and culture portrayed in the story. In a small way, it was like seeing the same events through two different sets of eyes.

  6. Hi,

    I'm Ellie Kellman. (I teach Yiddish literature at Brandeis.) To me,the mixing of Spanish and English in the novel is one of the most thought-provoking parts. The author is aware that many readers will not know the Spanish and Dominican slang words and will have to guess what they mean from the context. So maybe he's trying to get us to feel what it's like _not_ to understand, never to be sure that we're completely getting the meaning.

    At the beginning of his other book, a collection of short stories called _Drown_, Diaz quotes something a Cuban-American writer, Gustavo Perez Firmat, wrote: "The fact that I am writing to you in English already falsifies what I wanted to tell you. My subject: how to explain to you that I don't belong to English, though I belong nowhere else."

    By starting his collection of stories about Dominican immigrants with this statement, Diaz seems to be saying something about his own relationship to English. I imagine that one of the most painful things about being an immigrant writer would be gradually losing fluency in your mother tongue, so that you eventually realize that you can express yourself more fully in the language of your adopted country. But then so many nuances of meaning and feeling get lost. I think that's why Diaz uses so many individual Spanish words - they convey some of the nuances.

  7. Hi Lexi- my name is Rachel Goldenberg. I like the fact that the author used spanish and spanglish in the novel because I felt as if it furthered our understanding of each character's own story and added comic relief at times to a potentially dismal novel. By using many spanish phrases throughout the novel, it also serves to connect the narrator to the Wao family- it is as if by using the native language to add his two-cents, he is offering up a feeling of empathy. As a spanish-speaker, I enjoyed being able to comprehend the spanish dialect used in the novel, but wish I had understood more of the colloquial phrases. I know, though, that my mother and friend, who do not speak spanish and who are also reading the book, find it frustrating when they come across a line in spanish- they feel as if they are missing out on a part of the story.