Junot Diaz and his Pulitzer Prize winning book. Upon learning that Diaz recently won the world’s richest award for a single short story, I was thrilled and knew I had to read it.
“Miss Lora” did well live up to its expectations for it was simply a fabulous piece of work, particularly its daring approach to the sensitive topic of underage sex. Here is an interview Diaz had with newspaper The Guardian:
“We tend, as a culture, to think of boys having underage sex quite differently to how we think of girls. I find that quite disturbing, and wanted to question the logic of that,” he said. “If a boy has sex with his teacher, people under their breath are kind of high-fiving the kid. If a 16- or 15-year-old girl has sex with an older teacher – forget about it. No one’s celebrating. That seemed really strange.”
The main character of the story was Yunior, a high school student who felt sexually repressed despite dating a fellow classmate, and his clandestine relationship with his middle-aged, eponymously named neighbor Miss Lora.
She was a teacher, described as a skinny, flat-chested and muscular woman, generally not very exciting or hot, but he was at the age where ‘you could fall in love with a girl over an expression, a gesture.’
“At dawn, you slip out of her apartment and into your basement window. Your mother doesn’t have a fucking clue…You are scared stupid at what you are doing, but it is also exciting and makes you feel less lonely in the world. And you are sixteen, and you have a feeling that, now the Ass Engine has started, no force on the earth will ever stop it.”
The anticipation and fear of the teenage boy coping with his growing lust was dealt in an uncanny and frank approach in the story, as with his bittersweet struggles to stay afloat in a hypermasculine environment .
“Both your father and your brother were sucios. Shit, your father used to take you on his pussy runs, leave you in the car while he ran up into cribs to bone his girlfriends. Your brother was no better, boning girls in the bed next to yours. Sucios of the worst kind, and now it’s official: you are one, too.”
There were certainly parts of the story that unsettled me a bit, where I would pause and bite my lips. Perhaps because we regard youth as a carefree and innocent period of our lives, underage sex, even consenting ones, are generally viewed as scandalous and morally repulsive. Such contradictions will underlie the whole story, making this a wonderful, vivid read.