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