This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
This is what I wrote about the first Junot Díaz book I read, This is How You Lose Her:
We follow Yunior through various phases in his life, as he loves and loses women. He is a Dominican man in the tradition of (Dominican) men – full of a blustering masculinity that is in fact a facade for his fragility, a victim who revels in his power when he happens to seize it, a man who is afraid to be vulnerable, and who is not strong enough to be honest about love. This book is also a masterclass on how to write a sexist character without writing a toxic story.
I read the book after reading his essay in The New Yorker came out. It definitely coloured the way I viewed his writing. I remember thinking that even if I was moved by what he wrote, I was also saddened by the plight of the women he had loved and hurt, woman he had reduced to initials in an essay. Who will tell their stories of vulnerability and strength?
A while ago, women in literary circles came out and revealed how he’d behaved with them, assaulted them, forcing on them acts they had no interest in. Suddenly the machismo in his characters felt too real, and it didn’t seem like a leap to assume that the women in his books weren’t treated respectfully because he himself didn’t. I felt bad when I read about his childhood trauma, but I’m more cynical now. Was that simply a preemptive strategy for when news gets out?
Love Marriage by V. V. Ganeshananthan
I discovered this author in the anthology All the Women in My Family Sing, a collection of essays by women of colour. The anthology itself was how anthologies usually are – some interesting essays, some others that could have been written better. I liked V. V. Ganeshananthan’s essay and wanted to read more of her writing.
Love Marriage is the story of a family and the Sri Lankan civil war. It starts off from the perspective of Yalini, an American according to her passport, born to Tamil immigrant parents. She grows up mostly sheltered from what goes on in the country her parents left behind, but the violence of the past finds a way to bleed into the present. She meets her uncle Kumaran, formerly associated with the Tigers, and now seeking asylum in Canada so he can die in relative peace.
We get to read many perspectives – Yalini’s parents fell in love in New York City and married each other, while Kumaran’s daughter decides to marry a man she’s never met before, one who finances from Canada the ideology she fights for. But this means the novel frequently jumps between characters, and just as we feel we are getting to know someone, we are pulled away and deposited in someone else’s thoughts. The writing is lyrical though, with many lovely phrases.