Jul 30, 2015


Drown by Junot Díaz

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Every weekend, we bring you Book Pages, where we share pages from our favorite books.  Today, we’re featuring Drown, by the Dominican Pulitzer Prize author, Junot Díaz.  The excerpt below is my favorite part of the book.  Enjoy!

I lived without a father for the first nine years

of my life.  He was in the States, working and the only

way I knew him was through the photographs my

moms kept in a plastic sandwich bag under her bed.

Since our zinc roof leaked, almost everything we owned

was water-stained: our clothes, Mami’s Bible, her

makeup, whatever food we had, Abuelo’s tools, our

cheap wooden furniture.  It was only because of that

plastic bag that any pictures of my father survived.

When I thought of Papi I thought of one shot specif-

ically.  Taken days before the U.S. invasion:  1965.  I

wasn’t even alive then; Mami had been pregnant with

my first never-born brother and Abuelo could still see

well enough to hold a job.  You know the sort of pho-

tograph I’m talking about.  Scallopped edges, mostly

brown in color.  On the back my mom’s cramped

handwriting — the date, his name, even the street, one

over from our house.  He was dressed in his Guardia

uniform, his tan cap at an angle on his shaved head, an

unlit Constitución squeezed between his lips.  His dark

unsmiling eyes were my own.

I did  not think of him often.  He had left for Nueva

York when I was four but since I couldn’t remember a

single moment with him I excused him from all nine

years of my life.  On the days I had to imagine him–

not often, since Mami didn’t much speak of him any

more–he was the soldier in the photo. He was a cloud

of cigar smoke, the traces of which could still be found

on the uniforms he’d left behind.  He was pieces of my

friend’s fathers, of the domino players on the corner,

pieces of Mami and Abuelo.  I didn’t know him at all. I

didn’t know that he’d abandoned us.  That this waiting

for him was all a sham.

pages 69 and 70, of Drown, by Junot Díaz

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Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Dr. Perez-Litwin is the Founder & CEO of ELLA Leadership Institute, a multi-platform professional development organization designed to advance the careers and leadership of women. She's the creative force behind the LATINAS THINK BIG™ national tour, sponsored and live-streamed by Google.

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  1. I read Drown and loved it. A great story indeed.

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin angelica says:

      Hi Rachel! So nice to see you around here!

      Yes, Drown is an excellent read. And it is one of those books you can read many times and find something new about it!

  2. I love, love, love Junot Diaz! I had the pleasure of meeting him at a writer’s conference in Boston many years ago and I like him even more since then!

    I remember he read an excerpt from Drown and I was completely hooked. In fact, I think I bought that book right there at the conference!

    Thanks for reminding me that I need to go look for it and read it again! BTW, I love this series!

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin angelica says:

      Dear Roxana, Junot Diaz has agreed to be interviewed here on New Latina! So I hope you’ll like it once it is published!

      And, I am so happy you like this weekend series. I really enjoy looking through my books and sharing those pages. It’s so easy to do, and readers seem to really enjoy them!

  3. Angelica, thank you for sharing this passage. I have DROWN in my TBR-pile! His book about Oscar Wao changed me last summer. It was a reading experience, like non other. Whenever people ask me about it, I always say, “It sizzled in my hands.” Will look forward to the interview. ; )

  4. I love Junot Diaz and have read all his work!

    He brings me back to my childhood – reminds me so much of home, to my life in Washington Heights and my life as a Dominicana

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