Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Díaz’s first book, Drown, established him as a major new writer with “the dispassionate eye of a journalist and the tongue of a poet” (Newsweek). His first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, was named #1 Fiction Book of the Year” by Time magazine and spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, establishing itself – with more than a million copies in print – as a modern classic. In addition to the Pulitzer, Díaz has won a host of major awards and prizes, including the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, the PEN/Malamud Award, the PEN/O. Henry Prize, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the Anisfield-Wolf Award.
Now Díaz turns his remarkable talent to the haunting, impossible power of love – obsessive love, illicit love, fading love, maternal love. On a beach in the Dominican Republic, a doomed relationship flounders. In the heat of a hospital laundry room in New Jersey, a woman does her lover’s washing and thinks about his wife. In Boston, a man buys his love child, his only son, a first baseball bat and glove. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness--and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own. In prose that is endlessly energetic, inventive, tender, and funny, the stories in the New York Times-Bestselling This Is How You Lose Her lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weakness of the human heart. They remind us that passion always triumphs over experience, and that “the half-life of love is forever.”
Your girl catches you cheating. (Well, actually she’s your fiancée, but hey, in a bit it so won’t matter.) She could have caught you with one sucia, she could have caught you with two, but as you’re a totally batshit cuero who didn’t ever empty his email trash can, she caught you with fifty! Sure, over a six-year period, but still. Fifty fucking girls? Goddamn. Maybe if you’d been engaged to a super open-minded blanquita you could have survived it—but you’re not engaged to a super openminded blanquita. Your girl is a badass salcedeña who doesn’t believe in open anything; in fact the one thing she warned you about, that she swore she would never forgive, was cheating. I’ll put a machete in you, she promised. And of course you swore you wouldn’t do it. You swore you wouldn’t. You swore you wouldn’t.
And you did.
She’ll stick around for a few months because you dated for a long long time. Because you went through much together—her father’s death, your tenure madness, her bar exam (passed on the third attempt). And because love, real love, is not so easily shed. Over a tortured six-month period you will fly to the DR, to Mexico (for the funeral of a friend), to New Zealand. You will walk the beach where they filmed The Piano, something she’s always wanted to do, and now, in penitent desperation, you give it to her. She is immensely sad on that beach and she walks up and down the shining sand alone, bare feet in the freezing water, and when you try to hug her she says, Don’t. She stares at the rocks jutting out of the water, the wind taking her hair straight back. On the ride back to the hotel, up through those wild steeps, you pick up a pair of hitchhikers, a couple, so mixed it’s ridiculous, and so giddy with love that you almost throw them out the car. She says nothing. Later, in the hotel, she will cry.
You try every trick in the book to keep her. You write her letters. You drive her to work. You quote Neruda. You compose a mass e-mail disowning all your sucias. You block their e-mails. You change your phone number. You stop drinking. You stop smoking. You claim you’re a sex addict and start attending meetings. You blame your father. You blame your mother. You blame the patriarchy. You blame Santo Domingo. You find a therapist. You cancel your Facebook. You give her the passwords to all your email accounts. You start taking salsa classes like you always swore you would so that the two of you could dance together. You claim that you were sick, you claim that you were weak—It was the book! It was the pressure!—and every hour like clockwork you say that you’re so so sorry. You try it all, but one day she will simply sit up in bed and say, No more, and, Ya, and you will have to move from the Harlem apartment that you two have shared. You consider not going. You consider a squat protest. In fact, you say won’t go. But in the end you do.
For a while you haunt the city, like a two-bit ballplayer dreaming of a call-up. You phone her every day and leave messages, which she doesn’t answer. You write her long sensitive letters, which she returns unopened. You even show up at her apartment at odd hours and at her job downtown until finally her little sister calls you, the one who was always on your side, and she makes it plain: If you try to contact my sister again she’s going to put a restraining order on you.
For some Negroes that wouldn’t mean shit.
But you ain’t that kind of Negro.
You stop. You move back to Boston. You never see her again.
At first you pretend it don’t matter. You harbored a lot of grievances against her anyway. Yes you did! She didn’t give good head, you hated the fuzz on her cheeks, she never waxed her pussy, she never cleaned up around the apartment, etc. For a few weeks you almost believe it. Of course you go back to smoking, to drinking, you drop the therapist and the sex addict groups and you run around with the sluts like it’s the good old days, like nothing has happened.
I’m back, you say to your boys.
Elvis laughs. It’s almost like you never left.
You’re good for like a week. Then your moods become erratic. One minute you have to stop yourself from jumping in the car and driving to see her and the next you’re calling a sucia and saying, You’re the one I always wanted. You start losing your temper with friends, with students, with colleagues. You cry every time you hear Monchy and Alexandra, her favorite.
Boston, where you never wanted to live, where you feel you’ve been exiled to, becomes a serious problem. You have trouble adjusting to it fulltime; to its trains that stop running at midnight, to the glumness of its inhabitants, to its startling lack of Sichuan food. Almost on cue a lot of racist shit starts happening. Maybe it was always there, maybe you’ve become more sensitive after all your time in NYC. White people pull up at traffic lights and scream at you with a hideous rage, like you nearly ran over their mothers. It’s fucking scary. Before you can figure out what the fuck is going on they flip you the bird and peel out. It happens again and again. Security follows you in stores and every time you step on Harvard property you’re asked for ID. Three times, drunk whitedudes try to pick fights with you in different parts of the city.
You take it all very personally. I hope someone drops a fucking bomb on this city, you rant. This is why no people of color want to live here. Why all my black and Latino students leave as soon as they can.
Elvis says nothing. He was born and raised in Jamaica Plain, knows that trying to defend Boston from uncool is like blocking a bullet with a slice of bread. Are you OK? he asks finally.
I’m dandy, you say. Mejor que nunca.
Except you’re not. You’ve lost all the mutual friends you had in NYC (they went to her), your mother won’t speak to you after what happened (she liked the fiancée better than she liked you), and you’re feeling terribly guilty and terribly alone. You keep writing letters to her, waiting for the day that you can hand them to her. You also keep fucking everything that moves. Thanksgiving you end up having to spend in your apartment because you can’t face your mom and the idea of other people’s charity makes you furious. The ex, as you’re now calling her, always cooked: a turkey, a chicken, a pernil. Set aside all the wings for you. That night you drink yourself into a stupor, spend two days recovering.
You figure that’s as bad as it gets. You figure wrong. During finals a depression rolls over you, so profound you doubt there is a name for it. It feels like you’re being slowly pincered apart, atom by atom.
You stop hitting the gym or going out for drinks; you stop shaving or washing your clothes; in fact, you stop doing almost everything. Your friends begin to worry about you, and they are not exactly the worrying types. I’m OK, you tell them, but with each passing week the depression darkens. You try to describe it. Like someone flew a plane into your soul. Like someone flew two planes into your soul. Elvis sits shivah with you in the apartment; he pats you on the shoulder, tells you to take it easy. Four years earlier Elvis had a Humvee blow up on him on a highway outside of Baghdad. The burning wreckage pinned him for what felt like a week, so he knows a little about pain. His back and buttocks and right arm so scarred up that even you, Mr. Hard Nose, can’t look at them. Breathe, he tells you. You breathe nonstop, like a marathon runner, but it doesn’t help. Your little letters become more and more pathetic. Please, you write. Please come back. You have dreams where she’s talking to you like in the old days—in that sweet Spanish of the Cibao, no sign of rage, of disappointment. And then you wake up.
You stop sleeping, and some night when you’re drunk and alone you have a wacky impulse to open the window of your fifth-floor apartment and leap down to the street. If it wasn’t for a couple of things you probably would have done it, too. But (a) you ain’t the killingyourself type; (b) your boy Elvis keeps a strong eye on you—he’s over all the time, stands by the window as if he knows what you’re thinking. And (c) you have this ridiculous hope that maybe one day she will forgive you.
From This is How You Lose Her © September 2012 by Junot Diaz, published by Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.
Finalist for the 2012 National Book Award
Winner of the Sunday Times Short Story Award
A Time and People Top 10 Book of 2012
Finalist for the 2012 Story Prize
Chosen as a notable or best book of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The LA Times, Newsday, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, the iTunes bookstore, and many more...
“Junot Díaz writes in an idiom so electrifying and distinct it’s practically an act of aggression, at once enthralling, even erotic in its assertion of sudden intimacy… [It is] a syncopated swagger-step between opacity and transparency, exclusion and inclusion, defiance and desire… His prose style is so irresistible, so sheerly entertaining, it risks blinding readers to its larger offerings. Yet he weds form so ideally to content that instead of blinding us, it becomes the very lens through which we can see the joy and suffering of the signature Díaz subject: what it means to belong to a diaspora, to live out the possibilities and ambiguities of perpetual insider/outsider status.” –The New York Times Book Review
"Nobody does scrappy, sassy, twice-the-speed of sound dialogue better than Junot Díaz. His exuberant short story collection, called This Is How You Lose Her, charts the lives of Dominican immigrants for whom the promise of America comes down to a minimum-wage paycheck, an occasional walk to a movie in a mall and the momentary escape of a grappling in bed." –Maureen Corrigan, NPR
“Exhibits the potent blend of literary eloquence and street cred that earned him a Pulitzer Prize… Díaz’s prose is vulgar, brave, and poetic.” –O Magazine
“Searing, irresistible new stories… It’s a harsh world Díaz conjures but one filled also with beauty and humor and buoyed by the stubborn resilience of the human spirit.” –People
“Junot Díaz has one of the most distinctive and magnetic voices in contemporary fiction: limber, streetwise, caffeinated and wonderfully eclectic… The strongest tales are those fueled by the verbal energy and magpie language that made Brief Wondrous Life so memorable and that capture Yunior’s efforts to commute between two cultures, Dominican and American, while always remaining an outsider.” –Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“These stories… are virtuosic, command performances that mine the deceptive, lovelorn hearts of men with the blend of tenderness, comedy and vulgarity of early Philip Roth. It's Díaz's voice that's such a delight, and it is every bit his own, a melting-pot pastiche of Spanglish and street slang, pop culture and Dominican culture, and just devastating descriptive power, sometimes all in the same sentence.” –USA Today
“Impressive… comic in its mopiness, charming in its madness and irresistible in its heartfelt yearning.” –The Washington Post
"The dark ferocity of each of these stories and the types of love it portrays is reason enough to celebrate this book. But the collection is also a major contribution to the short story form... It is an engrossing, ambitious book for readers who demand of their fiction both emotional precision and linguistic daring." –NPR
“The centripetal force of Díaz’s sensibility and the slangy bar-stool confidentiality of his voice that he makes this hybridization feel not only natural and irresistible, but inevitable, the voice of the future… [This is How You Lose Her] manages to be achingly sad and joyful at the same time. Its heart is true, even if Yunior’s isn’t.” –Salon
“[A] propulsive new collection… [that] succeeds not only because of the author's gift for exploring the nuances of the male… but because of a writing style that moves with the rhythm and grace of a well-danced merengue.” –Seattle Times
“In Díaz’s magisterial voice, the trials and tribulations of sex-obsessed objectifiers become a revelation.” –The Boston Globe
“Scooch over, Nathan Zuckerman. New Jersey has bred a new literary bad boy… A.” –Entertainment Weekly
“Ribald, streetwise, and stunningly moving—a testament, like most of his work, to the yearning, clumsy ways young men come of age.” –Vogue
“[An] excellent new collection of stories… [Díaz is] an energetic stylist who expertly moves between high-literary storytelling and fizzy pop, between geek culture and immigrant life, between romance and high drama.” –IndieBound
“Taken together, [these stories’] braggadocio softens into something much more vulnerable and devastating. The intimacy and immediacy… is not just seductive but downright conspiratorial… A heartbreaker.” –The Daily Beast
"Díaz manages a seamless blend of high diction and low, of poetry and vulgarity… Look no further for home truths on sex and heartbreak." –The Economist
“This collection of stories, like everything else [Díaz has] written, feels vital in the literal sense of the word. Tough, smart, unflinching, and exposed, This is How You Lose Her is the perfect reminder of why Junot Díaz won the Pulitzer Prize… [He] writes better about the rapid heartbeat of urban life than pretty much anyone else." –The Christian Science Monitor
“Filled with Díaz’s signature searing voice, loveable/despicable characters and so-true-it-hurts goodness.” –Flavorwire
“Díaz writes with subtle and sharp brilliance… He dazzles us with his language skills and his story-making talents, bringing us a narrative that is starkly vernacular and sophisticated, stylistically complex and direct… A spectacular read.” –Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"[This is How You Lose Her] has maturity in content, if not in ethical behavior… Díaz’s ability to be both conversational and formal, eloquent and plainspoken, to say brilliant things Trojan-horsed in slang and self-deprecation, has a way of making you put your guard completely down and be effected in surprising and powerful ways." –The Rumpus
“As tales of relationship redemption go, each of the nine relatable short stories in Junot Díaz's consummate collection This Is How You Lose Her triumphs… Through interrogative second-person narration and colloquial language peppered with Spanish, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author authentically captures Junior's cultural and emotional dualities.” –Metro
“Searing, sometimes hilarious, and always disarming… Readers will remember why everyone wants to write like Díaz, bring him home, or both. Raw and honest, these stories pulsate with raspy ghetto hip-hop and the subtler yet more vital echo of the human heart.” –Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Díaz’s standout fiction remains pinpoint, sinuous, gutsy, and imaginative… Each taut tale of unrequited and betrayed love and family crises is electric with passionate observations and off-the-charts emotional and social intelligence… Fast-paced, unflinching, complexly funny, street-talking tough, perfectly made, and deeply sensitive, Díaz’s gripping stories unveil lives shadowed by prejudice and poverty and bereft of reliable love and trust. These are precarious, unappreciated, precious lives in which intimacy is a lost art, masculinity a parody, and kindness, reason, and hope struggle to survive like seedlings in a war zone.” –Booklist (starred review)
“Díaz’s third book is as stunning as its predecessors. These stories are hard and sad, but in Díaz’s hands they also crackle.” –Library Journal (starred review)
“Magnificent… an exuberant rendering of the driving rhythms and juicy Spanglish vocabulary of immigrant speech… sharply observed and morally challenging.” –Kirkus
“A beautifully stirring look at ruined relationships and lost love—and a more than worthy follow-up to [Díaz’s] 2007 Pulitzer winner, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” –Bookpage
"In This Is How You Lose Her, Díaz writes with subtlety and grace, once again demonstrating his remarkable facility for developing fully-realized and authentic characters with an economical rawness... Díaz skillfully portrays his protagonist so vividly, and with so much apparent honesty, that Yunior’s voice comes across with an immediacy that never once feels inauthentic." –California Literary Review
"Díaz continues to dazzle with his dynamite, street-bruised wit. The bass line of this collection is a thumpingly raw and sexual foray into lives that claw against poverty and racism. It is a wild rhythm that makes more vivid the collection’s heart-busted steadiness." –Dallas Morning News
"One of contemporary fiction's most distinctive and irresistible voices." –Michiko Kakutani,
“Graceful and raw and painful and smart... The pages turn and all of a sudden you’re done and you want more.” –The Boston Globe
“Like Raymond Carver, Díaz transfigures disorder and disorientation with a rigorous sense of form... [He] wrings the heart with finely calibrated restraint.” –The New York Times Book Review