Book Club: Read more short stories, like Junot Díaz’s ‘This Is How You Lose Her’
Editor’s note: This monthly-ish column by the Vail Daily’s entertainment editor will discuss what she’s reading currently and how it affects her life.
For the past few weeks, my Sunday self-care routine has consisted of three things:
- Baths with lavender and tea tree oil
After an afternoon in the wilderness (I don’t do mornings), I come home and spend the early evening cleaning up and relishing in the accomplishment of getting in those miles. I put on a face mask, steam up my small bathroom, fill a cup with ice water and grab something to read. For the next hour, I’m completely away from a screen. It’s just me, the silent threat of passing out from heat and a good book. Right now, that book is “This Is How You Lose Her” by Junot Díaz.
In 2008, Díaz won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” He uses his Dominican-American heritage to color his works. He teaches creative writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I promise I like him for other reasons besides the fact that he lives in my home state.
“This Is How You Lose Her” is a collection of short stories about lost love, many of which have autobiographical tendencies. The main character through these stories, Yunior, shares first-person experiences growing up in New Jersey from his teenage years through young adulthood. In the end, his stories and Díaz’s writings make you think.
I picked up my copy of the book from the Thrifty Shoppe in Edwards, on a whim, just like I’ve bought most of my books here. I saw it on the shelf, thought to myself, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ve heard Junot Díaz is legit, I should buy that.’ So I did.
The book itself is slight in stature. Each one of its 213 pages is packed with powerful language and human (dis)connection. Most of the stories, of which there are eight, take 20-ish minutes to read, which is the perfect time span for a bath, if you’re also into them.
Ultimately, Díaz has much more to offer all types of readers besides a tub read. His perspective as a Dominican-American provides cultural insight that’s been informative for me as a white person. His writing style is accessible and modern, if a bit vulgar at times. His voice will keep you engaged, especially if you’re not as into reading as you’d like to be.
And from a broader perspective, the short story format is one that I think is often overlooked by readers. At the same time I’m reading Díaz, I’m also reading “Theft By Finding,” which is David Sedaris’ edited diaries from 1979-2002. I’ve been working on Ernest Hemingway’s full short story catalog for a few years now.
Picking a collection of short stories is like watching a sitcom vs. a drama or a documentary. You get a quick slice of life, one that’s contained to however many words. It’s something you can pick up and enjoy, then put it back down again without wondering what happened in the previous chapter. It’s a low-pressure way to restart a reading habit, and a great way to switch it up if you’ve been plowing through 400-plus page novels. I highly recommend, especially if you plan to bring them in the bath with you after a hike.
Casey Russell is the arts & entertainment editor. She knows some people hate baths, and to them she says the key to a good one is to wash up before you sit in the tub. Don’t come for her, she just really loves hot water. Contact her at email@example.com.