This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz (New York: Riverhead Books, 2012. 224 pp)

Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey, Junot Díaz is a graduate of Rutgers College and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, PEN/Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and PEN/O. Henry Award, Díaz won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

The Philosophy of Art

The philosophy of art is a fascinating subject. Perhaps the most popular philosophy of art surrounds the idea of relationship. Tolstoy—I believe; I’m too lazy to look it up so take this nugget with a larger grain of salt—believed that art was a medium of communication. It suggests a deeper meaning behind art, the notion that an artist entertains a dialogue with the viewer through art itself.

Art, then, is not merely something created; it is a manifestation of an individual

Given this conversation, Junot Díaz’s This Is How You Lose Her offers intriguing questions on the meaning of art and communication with the artist.

Of Ruined Relationships

This Is How You Lose Her is seemingly autobiographical. A book somewhere between memoir, short story collection, and a novel, Díaz writes about the many nefarious ways in which his protagonist, Yunior, breaks his love life.

No matter Yunior’s creativity, his infidelity ruins relationships. Speaking of a journal mentioning lovers on the side, Díaz notes:

“Instead of lowering your head and copping to it like a man, you pick up the journal as one might hold a baby’s beshatted diaper, as one might pinch a recently benutted condom. You glance at the offending passages. Then you look at her and smile a smile your dissembling face will remember until the day you die. Baby, you say, baby, this is part of my novel.
This is how you lose her” (48).

Even though Díaz includes heartbreaking sections on Yunior’s family situation which gives the reader reason for pity, Yunior’s desire for a plural love life continues to leave him in tetchy situations.

Where Author Ends and Character Begins

While Yunior is an intriguing character, the resemblance between Junot Díaz and Yunior interests me most. Both hail from the Dominican Republic; both grew up in New Jersey; both move to Boston to become professors; both write.

So is Junot Díaz Yunior? I don’t think we have enough evidence to conclude one way or the other. But the similarities between reality and fiction cause the reader to question the relationship. What is Junot Díaz trying to communicate through Yunior? We certainly recognize the struggles of Dominican-Americans. We also get a glimpse into a hyper-sexualized mind. While we shouldn’t assume the many coital circumstances exist as a history of Junot Díaz, perhaps the art of this book occurs in asking the very question.

If art represents the artist, then This Is How You Lose Her is autobiographical and the many problematic facets of Yunior become problematic facets of Junot Díaz.

But, we don’t know where Yunior ends and Junot Díaz begins and that is fascinating. We’ll never know—unless Junot Díaz wants to tell us— the true intent behind this novel. But isn’t it fun to ponder?

Verdict: 3.5 out of 5

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