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Fiesta Summary

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Before Junot Diaz received acclaim for “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” he was better known in fiction circles for his short stories about immigrants and the American dream. In “Fiesta, 1980,” Diaz writes about the struggles of an immigrant family as they wake up from a nightmare in Santo Domingo only to find themselves in another nightmare, except this time it’s in America. Diaz’s characters assimilate to an American way of life with changes in appearance and language. A young Yunior and his family alternate between speaking in English and Spanish, sometimes using both at the same time. The children even begin using new American curse words (“Chickenshit”). They learn new cultural rules, throw away past behavior (“Back in Santo Domingo, he’d be getting laid by now”), and accept change in order to survive. No one in Diaz’s world is one-dimensional. Yunior’s father, Papi, is probably the most complex character in the story. He’s the patriarch of his family; he’s often cold and bitter towards them (“My Father the Torturer”) and breaks them apart with his affair with another woman. But Diaz places in subtle implications that make us think there’s more to him. Diaz gives Papi his moments. When he cleans up his son’s vomit for the first time—that “was a big deal” because “he never cleaned anything himself.” Yunior even notes that in the darkness, he could see his father putting his hand on his mother’s knee—a gesture of love perhaps? We also find out in a later story that it took him years to send money for his family to join him in the States, but this story shows that he eventually did and we have to wonder why he did that if for no other reason than love. By mentioning brief and kind flashes of Papi, Diaz shows us fragments of a man who was perhaps at one point was a better person. The narration is also interesting if you compare this story with Diaz’s “The Sun, the Moon, the Stars.” In “Fiesta, 1980,” we get the voice of a young and innocent-like Yunior,...