"They say it came first from Africa, carried in the screams of the enslaved; that it was the death bane of the Tainos, uttered just as one world perished and another began; that it was a demon drawn into Creation through the nightmare door that was cracked open in the Antilles. Fukú Americanus, or more colloquially, fukú --generally a curse or doom of some kind; specifically the Curse and the Doom of the New World. "All it took was the first sentence...of the introduction! Junot Diaz reached up from the page, placed a wizard's spell on my imagination. I devoured the book and lamented when life forced me to put it down. Being a bookworm was so much easier when I was a kid, when I could afford to spend an entire evening or weekend with my nose in a book.
--from the introduction to The brief and wondrous life of Oscar
We hope that you have read the introduction and chapter 1. If you are like me, you probably kept pressing forward. This is definitely a page turner. We plan on taking the book discussions a little slower to help us process the book. We ask for your patience since this is the first time we do this and we are learning as we go along.
Cynthia and I have met a couple of times to discuss our book club goals and timeline. During our meetings every time I say, fukú. Cynthia promptly follows up with a, zafa. This makes us laugh, a little nervously, after all we are Latinas, we can't help superstition. We might be Mexican but we understand Junot's reference, "to extraordinary tolerance for extreme phenomena." We take careful mental notes on antidotes and even begin to avoid saying fukú, instead call it the Dominican "f" word. So, our most pressing question right now is in the title of this blog post, can you even say it?
More food for thought. These questions are regarding language.
Spanish words and phrases appear unaccompanied by their English translations. What is the effect of this seamless blending of Spanish and English? What if Junot had stopped to provide translations at every turn? Why does Junot not italicize the Spanish words (the way foreign words are usually italicized in English-language text)? Are you bilingual? Do you italicize or resist?
We want you to hear from you, chime in via the comments, you can address one thought, or address multiple questions.*
*Cynthia and I are seeking to develop a safe place for honest and open dialogue. Language is powerful, let's exercise some tolerance and be open to opposing views and if debates arise let's do it respectfully.