The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
This is the long-awaited first novel from one of the most original and memorable writers working today. Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the FukÅ-the curse that has haunted the Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim. D'az immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss. A true literary triumph, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao confirms Junot Diaz as one of the best and most exciting voices of our time.
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In this video, the author, Junot Diaz, explains some of the topics you can expect to learn through the characters in this book including love relationships, identity and family. Watch the video to preview this text! (This annotation contains a video)
According to the text, what is fuku?
According to the narrator, what is zafa?
Did you know that you can look up any word in the book or in the questions and answer choices? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Use this feature to look up the word "cohere."
This section of chapter one is titled "The Golden Age." Different countries have different interpretations of what the Golden Age is. Read this article to get an understanding of the concept. As you read, think about why Oscar refers to this period as the "Golden Age." (This annotation contains a link)
In the beginning of books, authors often introduce the reader to characters and the setting. In 2-3 sentences, describe the most interesting things you have learned about Oscar and his upbringing.
How has Oscar changed?
The references in these lines indicate that Oscar has a interest in sci-fi films. As you read, notice what he says, thinks and does to figure out his personality and interests.
151 is a type of rum that originated in the Caribbean. (This annotation contains a link)
The narrator is drawing a comparison between medieval times and Oscar's experience in high school. Based on this medieval image, think about what high school must be like for him. (This annotation contains a link)
Based on Oscar's actions and his obsession with the end of the world, we can infer that he is feeling
In these lines, the author is describing the internal struggle Oscar feels since he is not able to fulfill his desires. Watch this video to learn more about how characters develop in a story. (This annotation contains a video)
According to his sister Lola, why is Oscar miserable and unsatisfied with his life?
Good readers notice lines that illuminate a character's deepest thoughts and desires. These lines reveal that Oscar has a deep yearning to be a man who is powerful and attracts women with ease. As you read, identify lines that reveal Oscar's deepest desires and motivations.
Santo Domingo is the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic. Being in this environment, away from his usual routine, marks a turning point for Oscar because now he has more freedom. Read to find out how this trip changes his perspective. (This annotation contains a link)
Which line best shows how Oscar is different after returning from Santo Domingo?
What does the phrase "bust out" reveal about the environment Lola grew up in?
Oscar is a complex character. Good readers are able to identify archetypes in literature. Watch this video and see if you can figure out the archetype he is based on what he says, thinks and does. (This annotation contains a video)
This book features characters that have ethnic origins in the Dominican Republic. Based on the descriptions, you should have an idea in your head of what Dominicans look like. Here is a photo. See if this image matches the image you have in your head. (This annotation contains a link)
How would you describe the relationships between men and women that have been portrayed in the book so far?
Themes are beginning to emerge in the story. Watch the following video to figure out how to identify an emerging theme and then respond to the next question. (This annotation contains a video)
Based on what is happening with Manny, Ana and Oscar, the theme that is beginning to emerge in the story is about
Based on Oscar's actions, what is the definition of a "deep nigger"?
This is a picture of Rutgers New Brunswick where Oscar goes to school. (This annotation contains a link)
The author most likely includes this italicized excerpt to explore a theme relating to
In this story, the author employees figurative language. "The. Last. Straw" is an example. Based on this video, see if you can figure out what this figurative language means. (This annotation contains a video)
The narrator in this chapter is Lola. The author most likely switches the narrator in order to
Like Oscar, Lola struggles with her own identity and love for herself. As you continue reading, notice how Lola's ideas about herself change.
The plot events may seem familiar to you. They have already happened but were told from Oscar's perspective. As you read, notice new insights you acquire by reading these events again from Lola's perspective.
In these lines, we see another instance of a theme about unhealthy love developing. As you continue in the chapter, try to identify other lines that develop this theme.
Which line reveals that Lola did not enjoy her time working on the boardwalk in Wildwood?
Foreshadowing is when an author gives an indication that a future event will occur. This line is an example. Based on Lola's thoughts, we can predict that Oscar's mother will go with him to meet Lola.
Based on the way Lola describes her desire to run away, it is clear that she believes her actions in the past were
In these lines, Lola is expressing that she, too, feels the fuku in her life. Which central idea is emerging?
Read the definition of "morena" from Urban Dictionary. (This annotation contains a link)
The author sets each chapter of the book in different time periods. The author most likely structures the text this way to
Belicia is Oscar and Lola's mother. Chapter three is about her. It takes place in Santo Domingo. Read to find out about her life before Oscar and Lola were born.
Use the define feature to learn what "consensus" means.
In 3-4 sentences, explain what you learned about Beli. Use details from the author's descriptions in your response.
The author most likely includes anecdotes from Beli's childhood as well as stories from Oscar and Lola's childhood to create
A barrio is a district of a town in Spain and Spanish-speaking countries. This image gives you an idea of what a typical street looks like. (This annotation contains a link)
This book has an interesting structure. Watch this video and figure out how Diaz structures this story. (This annotation contains a video)
Why does the author include anecdotes about Beli's love life?
Considering the context, "over the moon" most likely means
This is a turning point for Beli. Read to find out how her new body develops her character and changes her life.
Watch this video to learn how great readers connect literature to other art forms. (This annotation contains a video)
This highlighted sentence is a reference to a specific art form: the horror movie. This specific reference alludes to the movie, The Exorcist. (This annotation contains an image)
In each chapter, the author employs the repetition of the words "things to come" which represents the motif of
Given the context, what does the word "mothering" mean?
Consider the way Beli behaves at her job. What word would you use to describe her?
Follow the link and read this political timeline of the Dominican Republic. Think about what life was like there in the 1950s and 1960s during political tension. (This annotation contains a link)
Why does the author include this line?
Which line illuminates a central idea about unhealthy love relationships?
It is popular belief that gangsters make a lot of money and buy their girlfriends luxurious, expensive gifts such as rabbit fur. This is what a rabbit fur coat might look like. (This annotation contains an image)
Diaz chooses to reveal aspects of the setting through political history and discussing the state of the Dominican Republic and its neighboring countries. To give you more context, this is the type of music people listened to in Central America at that time. (This annotation contains a video)
Considering the context, "flesh trade" most likely means
Which line from the text reveals a new reason Beli stays with her Gangster boyfriend?
Play close attention to way in which Diaz formats this text. Every detail is important. For instance, why does he capitalize some words, such as 'the Gangster,' that are not usually capitalized.
This highlighted phrase is an example of Diaz employing
This dialogue contributes to the development of Beli's character. It solidifies that she is both foolish, naive and perhaps in trouble.
Why does the author choose to separate this sentence from the other parts of text?
You are learning about the traditions, food and culture of life in the Caribbean through the lives of these characters. Pescado frito is spanish for "fried fish." (This annotation contains an image)
You are also learning Spanish through this story. Read this definition of 'bochinche.' (This annotation contains a link)
There are multiple examples of figurative language in this paragraph. Identify two of them and explain what they mean.
A Jacaranda is a type of tree. There is a major plot event that occurs in this section which takes place in a park, so the author chose to include Jacaranda in the title for this section. (This annotation contains an image)
Which line from the text foreshadows that Beli will be beaten for carrying Dionisio's baby and for saying she is going to marry him?
Even though Catholicism started in Europe, it is the dominant religion in the Dominican Republic. Watch this video to learn more about this religion. It will help you understand the characters' beliefs. (This annotation contains a video)
Authors choose words and phrases in order to convey a particular mood. Based on the words used in this paragraph, what is the mood?
La Inca's belief indicates that she has more ______ than other members of her family.
Mercurochrome is a topical antiseptic used for minor cuts and scrapes. This medicine is used to help Beli recover. (This annotation contains a link)
Which line from the text best illuminates La Inca's dedication to her religious beliefs?
La Inca is concerned about Beli living in New York City. Watch this video to get an idea of what the city was like at that time. (This annotation contains a video)
Which line from the text shows that the Gangster is not a healthy partner for Beli?
Good readers put themselves in the characters' shoes. Considering the context, Beli must have felt deeply damaged by this joke. It is cruel and emotionally abusive. As you continue reading, consider how you would feel if you were in similar situations.
This line creates a feeling of
Yunior, Oscar's friend, narrates this chapter. We are now back in Oscar's life. He is in college at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
Lola participates in rallies for a cause called "Take Back the Night." Watch this video to learn what the cause is for. (This annotation contains a video)
What does this line imply about Dominican culture?
We are introduced to a new aspect of Yunior's character. He has cheated on his girlfriend. How do his actions shape your view of him?
Examine this image and consider how it represents Yunior's relationship with Oscar. (This annotation contains an image)
What do Yunior's thoughts about Oscar and actions toward Oscar reveal about his personality?
Madame X is the informal title of a portrait painting by John Singer Sargent of a young socialite named Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, wife of Pierre Gautreau. (This annotation contains a link)
What does the phrase "..her eyes caked in eyeliner" reveal about Oscar's new love interest?
Use the define feature to learn what a muse is.
In 2-3 sentences, explain what this paragraph reveals about Oscar's development. Consider what he was like in the beginning of the book.
Which line from the text foreshadows that a dangerous event may occur?
Why didn't Oscar die?
Watch this video and determine whether Oscar is a static character or a dynamic character. (This annotation contains a video)
Watch this video about campus life at Rutgers University. Compare the views in the video to Oscar's view. (This annotation contains a video)
How has Lola's appearance changed?
Based on his thoughts, words and behavior, which type of conflict is Oscar facing for the majority of this story? (This annotation contains a video)
This thought implies that Oscar's behavior continues to be
This highlighted sentence is an idiom. An idiom is a phrase that is figurative in nature. The meanings of the individual words are not related to the larger meaning of the whole phrase.
Based on her behavior, what does Lola reveal to us?
Why did Lola give the money she earned from the peledista to Max's mother?
Los Tres Brazos is a neighborhood in Santo Domingo. (This annotation contains a link)
In this chapter, we learn about Oscar's father, Abelard. Notice the way Diaz describes him.
Based on the descriptions on this page, we learn that Abelard is
Which line from the text best shows that Abelard is a caring father?
Studying in another country is very expensive. Jacquelyn's studies in Paris illustrate Abelard's wealth. (This annotation contains a link)
Watch this video about determining tone and mood. Using the information from the video, respond to the following question. (This annotation contains a video)
Based on Diaz's word choice, which tone is conveyed in these lines?
The description on this page furthers the idea that Abelard
Le Havre is a city in France. (This annotation contains a link)
Which line from the text shows Jackie's excitement for her big party?
This phrase is often used when people are addressing royalty. The author chooses to have Abelard addressed this way to show the reader that he is held in high regard by people around him.
Abelard is canoodling with his mistress. This reveals another side to his personality, which is that he
Watch this video to get an idea of what was occurring in Japan during this time period. (This annotation contains a video)
What motivates Abelard to say he comes from a "very respectable family?"
In addition to the description in the text, this image gives you an idea of what a dirty prison cell looks like. (This annotation contains an image)
What happens to Abelard that changes his life?
Use the define feature to learn what "regime" means.
This highlighted line from the text coupled with the image from the annotation represents
Consider how this image might connect to the story about the disappearance of the baby. (This annotation contains an image)
What most likely motivates Beli to keep her past concealed and undiscussed?
We can reasonably conclude that since Beli "found sanctuary" in La Inca's house, she feels at peace there and will heal.
Junot Diaz wrote this book partially as an ode to Oscar Wilde. Read the following article to learn how Diaz's Oscar Wao got his name. (This annotation contains a link)
The author most likely includes the political situation at the time to
What does the phrase "permanent bachelor" imply about Oscar's current state?
Diaz puts "Fuku" on its own line to emphasize the point that Oscar is considering this curse as a reason for the current state of affairs. Notice similar structural moves the author makes as you continue to read this chapter.
Why did the author include this line?
This comparison is included to emphasize how dressed up Beli is. (This annotation contains a link)
Which line from the text shows that Santo Domingo is a "rough and tumble" city?
This is a typical street in Santo Domingo. Imagine it filled with the characters and commotion described on this page. (This annotation contains an image)
Which line from the text best shows that Oscar is infatuated with Ybon?
Pablo Coelho is a famous writer who has written many award winning books. Check out his website to learn more. (This annotation contains a link)
Madrid is a city in Spain. (This annotation contains an image)
This is the first time the author introduces the title in the story arc. The author most likely does this because
The phrase "even Santo Domingo" further implies that the city is a
The Pathfinder was a popular car at the time. (This annotation contains a link)
This line may perhaps be the most important line in the entire book. Which central ideas does it embody?
Un beso means "a kiss" in Spanish. (This annotation contains an image)
Diaz is using this analogy to show how powerful the elbow is. (This annotation contains an image)
Which line from the text creates a suspenseful mood?
What does this line reveal about Oscar?
The zygomatic arch is the bony arch in vertebrates that extends along the side or front of the skull beneath the eye socket. (This annotation contains an image)
Which central idea does this line expose?
This is a 44. magnum. (This annotation contains an image)
Given the context, what does this line most likely mean?
"Word" is a form of agreement often used in urban slang. (This annotation contains a link)
Oscar is showing new color. His character is developing. Which line from the text best supports this assertion?
We can plausibly infer that this section is titled "Curse of the Caribbean" because fuku is going to reappear. Read to find out what happens.
Why is Oscar going to be beaten?
This is what a canefield looks like. There are not many people around, so it would be easy to commit a crime at this location and get away with it. (This annotation contains an image)
What does the term "dug in" imply about Beli's concern?
Oscar is now dead. What is your reaction to this as a reader? Do you think it is the reaction that Diaz hoped you would have?
The repetition in this sentence implies that Yunior is inspired to be a better person since his good friend died. It is clear that he plans to turn a new leaf and start a new kind of life. Authors often use repetition to emphasize a point and catch the readers attention.
Diaz most likely closes the book in the setting of Patterson, New Jersey in order to
Based on his tone, it is clear that
Use the define feature to learn what "downtrodden" means.