Techniques/ Elements Tracked:
- Second person point of view using “you”
- Actions of characters to portray stereotypes and social classes
- Thoughts of narrator that subtly reveal a fact
“How to Date a Brown Girl (Black girl, White Girl, or Halfie)” by Junot Díaz is a how-to manual on dating and creating sexual relations with stereotypical girls. It starts by the narrator convincing his mother to let him stay at home; after being left alone, he hides any signs or evidence that would embarrass him in front of girls. Then after cleaning up, he waits for the girl to show up; depending on where she’s from and what race she is, she may arrive at a different time. This is the beginning of a stereotype-filled piece. Next, they run into a neighborhood bully, in which different types of girls would react to the nuisance. At dinner, the narrator will treat or perform differently based on her ethnicity. They make their way back to his house, where he again has “choices.” The two drink from an old bottle of alcohol. The night will play out different if the girl is white (remember, stereotypically) than if she is a halfie. The narrator, in the end, after the decline or acceptance of sexual relations, is left alone. In the empty house, by himself, ready to put the house back together so his mother will not get mad. All of this is hypothetical.
One thing that initially drew me in when I was looking for a short story was the title, but besides that the second-person point of view. So rarely do we read a narrative like that, it was almost like a simulation. For example,
You have choices. If the girl’s from around the way, take her to El Cibao for dinner. Order everything in your busted-up Spanish.
The use of second-person point of view gives the narrator a peek into the mind of a “common” teenage boy and his thoughts, while also making the reader the teenage boy. These thoughts in the piece may not reflect the beliefs of the audience, which intrigue the reader to read on.
If she’s a whitegirl you know you’ll at least get a hand job.
Lines like this definitely contradict my feelings, and we all know it depends on the actual person. Using a different point of view in fiction can change the whole aspect of the story.
Another element that draws the reader in is the actual actions, or hypothetical actions, of each of the different characters throughout the piece. These actions show the actual stereotypes that are/were presumed to be believed. The narrator doesn’t outright say that a “halfie” is a bit more outgoing, but shows this by their actions, the show don’t tell principle.
In school she is known for her attention-grabbing laugh, as high and far-ranging as a gull, but here she will worry you.
Using actions to convey information about the characters make the writing a bit more to the reader’s experience.
The inner emotion and thoughts of the character also is another technique that made this story so intriguing. The narrator hints at their ethnicity by showing their thoughts and actions.
Don’t tell her that your moms knew right away what it was, that she recognized its smell from the year the United States invaded your island.
And another example,
Hide the pictures of yourself with an Afro.
These sentences give the reader hints about the narrator’s ethnicity, which you think would be mentioned since he is judging all of these girls based on their race.
The author does not scream at us that the narrator himself was a minority race that is always picked on. He left a bunch of little Easter eggs for the reader to pick up on and this does not really distract the reader from the point the author is trying to get across.
Make sure the bathroom is presentable. Put the basket with all the crapped-on toilet paper under the sink. Spray the bucket with Lysol, then close the cabinet.
One thing I would also like to mention about the main character is that like other males, he comes across as confident, but underneath there are some self-esteem problems. And in the end, he was alone anyway. And that he only really wanted physical intimacy and didn’t care for emotional intimacy.
(1) I would like to incorporate this into my future writing, planting little hints that do not stray from the major plot to reveal a little bit more about a character. I feel that it is important to give your reader something to think about in the back of their minds, something that they can connect to the main story and have an OH moment. I have always wanted to use second person, but never really understood the concept. In the piece second person is like a simulator. And it actually is all hypothetical, there is not even an actual date. (2) Another thing I will be using in my future writing, is dropping a subtle subplot to make the readers think and connect the dots. Whenever there is something else to dig up in a story, the reader becomes more interested and it adds another layer of meaning to the piece. (3) Show don’t tell is also always important in writing. (4) One last thing I would like to mention is that adding a bit of race or social class to a story adds a bit to the characterization to the characters and their surroundings. When there is not race mentioned, some people’s brain automatically goes to the default race (normally their own, or the people they grew up around). It is important to add things like this to give the reader a better picture; I will definitely add this to my writing.
- Though it might be a bit tricky to pick out, what did you interpret as the theme of this piece?
- What is the significance of Howie? Was the bully important to the story?
- Why would the narrator think to take the date to Wendy’s if they were from out of town? Why not to El Cibao? Do restaurants make different impressions?