Familiar, yet refreshing, Junot Díaz’s This is How You Lose Her begs for a pairing that possesses an inspired and reliable experience.
There wasn’t a title that seemed more appropriate; This is How You Lose Her was theperfect accompaniment to a Sam-Smith-laden playlist, fresh off my break up. It was my first taste of the fresh, acclaimed voice of Junot Díaz, who won the Pulizter forThe Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao five years earlier.
Spanning generational, cultural and geographic boundaries, This is How You Lose Her is a book about maturation, explored in the context of relationships of varying complexity and depth. Though technically a collection of Díaz’s masterful short stories, the seamlessness of these episodes from Yunior’s life immerses you in familiar relational territory.
On it’s face, How You Lose Her is about infidelity, but that distillation under-appreciates the cultural genius of the novel. Ruined romances are merely a foreground. Díaz challenges his own cultural norms with universal human emotions and all-too-relatable experiences of learning about love and relationships through Yunior and Rafa’s trial-and-error approach to women. Their failures are epic, their infatuations naïve and their development sincere.
Díaz conflates the already complicated territory of romantic relationships with a cultural narrative that emphasizes a greater issue with how men are socialized to behave in relationships. In the background, we see a this greater struggle play out as two Dominican boys develop personal understandings of what it means to be a committed man while contending with their father’s legacy, cultural expectations and their own genuinely amorous hearts.
I was delighted to find that How You Lose Her is by no means a break-up book; instead, it’s something of a manual for us all on what not to do when in love.
We all have some context to bring to this collection of stories, and we’ll all projectour own complicated experiences and relational failures onto Junot Díaz’s remarkably accessible style. What I appreciate about Díaz is that he doesn’t deny us the things we love about being in love, nor does he spare the gory details. He gives us the essence of something familiar, but delivers it beautifully.
I strive to enjoy a book with a pairing that enhances the experience of its sensory qualities. For this read, pop open a bottle of 2014 Saddlerock Riesling. Like love, our Riesling has a subtle sweetness that goes down easy, complemented by something ever-so-slightly-sour every once and a while. Unlike love, this pleasant and simple white wine won’t let you down or run off with some other chica or chico; it’s all yours to enjoy.