After I finished reading Drown, I was completely overcome with emotions.
I truly believe that literature can be used to teach all of the skills that districts and states wants students to learn, but I also believe that literature can be used to teach empathy. Yes, empathy! And, empathy is what our country seems to need urgently!
This book is a collection of short stories about Dominican immigrants' struggle to acquire the “American Dream." Every short story is told from the perspective of a fictional character, Yunior, who is reflecting on his childhood.
When I first started reading this book, the sex sort of threw me off, but I kept on reading. However, that very last chapter actually made me fall completely in love with this book and have empathy for the struggle of immigrants to try and acquire the American dream, and yea I have been turning the idea of the American dream over and over in my mind lately.
We learn early on that Yunior’s father left his family and moved to the United States. Based on the short stories, it appeared that the father never came back. However, we learn, during the telling of the Dad’s story in the very last chapter, that the Dad did come back when Yunior was nine, and he moved his family to the United States. This last chapter helped me to understand some of the earlier stories and how Yunior and his family ended up in New Jersey. This last chapter also helped me to empathize with some people’s struggles of immigrating to the United States and trying to get a piece of the "American Pie." (Whatever that is?)
Reading this book, I thought a lot about Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. In the blog that I wrote about Catcher in the Rye, I vowed to never subject students to that book, but thank God for change, and I have sort of soften up on my stance.
Like Catcher in the Rye, Drown at first appears to be a bunch of random stories with little to no point. With Catcher, a person has to read the beginning very closely or the reader will realize at the very end that Holden, the main character, is telling the story from a mental institution. The first time that I read the book, I missed that he was in a mental institution, and after I finished it, I felt the need to go back and read it again with that fact in mind. Drown, like Catcher, appears to be just a bunch of random stories, but Diaz completely ties these stories together in the last chapter, and I feel compelled to read this book again with the ending in mind.
This is another one of those coming of age stories that we can add to the other coming of age stories already out there.
I enjoyed this book and will definitely reread it and suggest it to my students, and I am also suggesting it to you, My Dear Readers.