In his prizewinning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Dominican American author Junot Díaz negotiates what it means to be Caribbean not only via cultural references from the Dominican Republic and the United States but also through sources from St. Lucia and Martinique. Díaz opens his novel with an epigraph from Derek Walcott's poem “The Schooner Flight”, and he brings the story to a close with an allusion to Aimé Césaire's poem Cahier d'un retour au pays natal (Notebook of a Return to the Native Land). At the same time that Díaz draws upon the tradition of epic black male figures in Caribbean literature, he also writes a new chapter in this history by building the novel's central quest around two protagonists—endearing misfit Oscar and his suave friend/narrator Yunior—who trouble normative Dominican masculinities. In this article, I examine how reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and its intertextual references, in particular Walcott and Césaire, is, in a sense, to read the Caribbean, to negotiate its various cultures, genres, and languages as Yunior and Oscar negotiate questions of ethnic, gender, and racial identity during the latter's brief, remarkable life.

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