Campus Book Club Discusses Prize-Winning ‘Oscar Wao’

Fabiola Prieto

It is a common mistake to judge people and things when one knows little about them. Such mentality is no problem when one opens up to learn and understand. But this is not always the case, and as we’ve seen in history, hostility and even racism can grow from mere ignorance.

To fight against this problem, a campus book club, coordinated by English professor Rosemary Kwa, has meetings twice a semester to “increase awareness of minority experiences and possible ways to address discrimination of many kinds.”

Last Thursday, this organization met at noon to discuss “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” a novel by Junot Diaz.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning book is about a young Dominican-American man who struggles with being an outsider, as well as his cultural identity as a Dominican. The group discussed his motives to being the way he is, as well as all the other characters and events that influenced him throughout his life.

“I did know something about that period [that the book alludes to], but when you see it through these characters, that’s when you begin to really take interest in that is a whole different picture… I was terrified!” said Janet Langon about the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, which is a prominent topic of the book.

They also discussed the language the author uses and his methods of writing. Kwa commented on how, though interesting, the amount of footnotes became tiresome to the point that she didn’t read all of them. As they all agreed, the discussion became on whether the author might have done it in purpose to make yet another point.

Members of the club include, Alice Adams, Emily Fernandez, Yoselyn Heaney, Dana Marterella and Francien Rohrbacher, from the English division; and Langon from the credit ESL division. They where all present at this meeting.

According to Kwa, this meeting had low turnout due to its proximity to finals and the Christmas party happening during the same time it was conducted. Although only faculty attended it, classified workers and students are encouraged to participate in the discussions.

The usual gathering is of about 30 people, Kwa said.

The number of attendees didn’t affect the impact of the meeting. There were no silent moments and Fernandez even mentioned the possibility of using the book in her classes.

In this meeting, Kwa made two announcements. The first announcement was that this book club attendance value was reduced from 12 to six FLEX hours (staff development time paid by the district). The second announcement regarded the creation of a film club that, just like the book club, will focus on the topic of minority experience.

Kwa will not be teaching during the spring semester due to her pregnancy, but the book club will continue tentatively under Rohrbacher’s direction.

The book discussion for the spring will be on “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. For information on meetings contact Rosemary Kwa at [email protected]