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The stories in Drown focus on the teenage narrator's impoverished, fatherless youth in the Dominican Republic and his struggle adapting to his new life in New Jersey.Reviews were generally strong but not without complaints. Díaz also published a Spanish translation of' Drown, entitled Negocios.During an interview conducted in 2010, Díaz reflected on his experience growing up in America and working his way through college: "I can safely say I've seen the US from the bottom up ... But if you adjust the knob and just take it back one setting to the family unit, I would say my family tells a much more complicated story. It tells the story of enormous poverty, of tremendous difficulty." A pervasive theme in his short story collection Drown is the absence of a father, which reflects Diaz's strained relationship with his own father, with whom he no longer keeps in contact.

Diaz himself has described his writing style as "a disobedient child of New Jersey and the Dominican Republic if that can be possibly imagined with way too much education".

The arrival of his novel (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) in 2007 prompted a noticeable re-appraisal of Díaz's earlier work.

Drown became widely recognized as an important landmark in contemporary literature—ten years after its initial publication—even by critics who had either entirely ignored the book a sort of streetwise brand of Spanglish that even the most monolingual reader can easily inhale: lots of flash words and razzle-dazzle talk, lots of body language on the sentences, lots of David Foster Wallace-esque footnotes and asides.

The character would become important to much of his later work including Drown and This Is How You Lose Her.

He earned his MFA from Cornell University in 1995, where he wrote most of his first collection of short stories.

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