How to Date a Brown Girl (Blackgirl, Whitegirl, Or Halfie): Works of Junot Diaz

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Junot Díaz is a Dominican-American writer whose works have been influential in discussing the life of minorities in America as well as their internal struggles due to race and culture. Some of his most famous works delve into this topic. Specifically, Díaz focused on how male dominance and patriarchal tradition trap and isolate individuals. And through his recurring narrator Yunior, he expounds on these ideas further on. Some of his most famous works are: “Alma,” Fiesta, 1980,” “How to Date a Brown Girl (Blackgirl, Whitegirl or Halfie),” and “Miss Lora.” and each one tells its spin on the idea of male dominance and its effect on the character’s lives.

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The third piece of media produced by Díaz in the same vein as the prior is “How to Date a Brown Girl (Blackgirl, Whitegirl or Halfie).” This story is a young Dominican-American adolescent’s take on what one needs to do if they want to get with women; like “Alma” this story is in the second-person tense which makes it an authoritative look at what it takes to get with women. The narrator is ashamed of their culture as they begin by stating that they will need to erase all of the “Dominican ghetto culture” that may be seen disapprovingly by women. The narrator mentions it as being “government cheese,” a euphemism for food stamps and other social welfare benefits for lower-income groups. He hides the government cheese, which tells us that he is in a low economic class. He even took down the family portraits around the house which he deemed to be too “ethnic” to show off. The narrator also explains that there are a lot of things that white people do that could be imitated to get women to like one. He states that the reader must run their hand through their hair as a white boy does and, humorously, must write directions in the best penmanship possible. Furthermore, when mentioning how white girls like Dominicans he states: You’ll wonder how she feels about Dominicans. Don’t ask.”

The aspect of this story is a very hard ethnocentric one. The narrator’s comments change depending on the race of the girl and his suggestions on approaching them change accordingly. This is a very chauvinistic worldview that does not take into account individuality nor any semblance of the tact involved in meeting new people. The narrator’s self-hatred for being Dominican is also part of the machista aspect as he tries to hide what he considers to be a less macho aspect of himself, namely being of a minority. He does not believe that a white girl, or a “half,” would be with him if he stated outright that he was a minority.

The narrator has most likely never taken his advice to heart. Rather, as an adolescent, these are most likely things that he has picked up from the adults around him and he is reciting them as fact. This is one of the greatest issues that affect both men and women in a culture of machismo, it is passed down through the generations and recited as fact without real introspection. As an impressionable youth, he must feel that to be seen as an adult and respected among his peers he must be well-liked by women and have sex with many of them to be more macho. The narrator shows a deep personal shame: he is ashamed of his culture; ashamed of his family; ashamed of his skin and his looks; and ashamed of his personality. Because in a patriarchal and machista culture both sexes are victims and just as girls are pressured to have sex, boys are pressured into believing that pursuing sex is the most important thing to have social clout. And this is why a young Dominican-American adolescent would be telling these braggadocii stories, to impress his friends.

It would be disingenuous to say that Díaz’s characters were only motivated by sexism and their macho bravado to show off. There are deeper motivations present when the men are analyzed just as much so as when the women are analyzed. Yunior is a good example of this because he is a deeply confused young man who wants to be this tough, flamboyant “alpha male” while also being this very human and sensitive individual on the inside. Indeed, it is obvious that hormones are only the pretense by which Díaz’s characters act.

By the end of Yunior’s adventures we see that he is a penitent machista, he sees the harm that he has caused and he is changed for the better because of it. The best explanation as to why “Alma” is such a brief story is that it is more of a cautionary tale that a father would tell their son going on his first date, it is a story showing that acts that should never be repeated. “Miss Lora” is the story of Yunior’s affair with an older woman and all the things that she taught him despite not having the body that would be most pleasing to him. In the first story, Yunior has a deep conversation with one of his many paramours, Magdalena. He sees the way that he treats the women that love him but he still says he isn’t a bad guy while Magdalena calls him “un socio,” a jerk.

Díaz’s works revolve around the internal and external conflict between men, women, and the machista culture that pervades them. He writes the sexist character in, what is ultimate, feminist literature and he does so very well as evidenced by his many accolades. And Yunior is the perfect conduit for this idea as a young man who acts macho while still being just as much a victim of machismo as women.


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