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Fiesta, 1980 by Junot Diaz

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In modern times, however, things are not so simple, and many people around the world are coming to terms with coming of age in multicultural spaces that have vastly different expectations of the transition from childhood to adulthood. Beyond simply representing the Americanness that Junior must simultaneously embrace and separate himself from, the name Junior also functions as a reminder of his divided state. Junior is not, in fact, a name, it is two names: to people who speak are primarily English speakers he is Junior, and to his family and others that speak primarily Spanish he is Yunior (76).

The author’ s choice to use this name consistently, beyond simply representing it as an artifact of accent (which he pays little attention to otherwise) is the genius. It tells the reader that Junior/Yunior does not simply have one identity that is represented or interpreted differently depending on his context, but that he actually has two identities – the Junior that must deal with the massive white, American word around him, and the Yunior that must relate to his family and his original culture.

This is an entirely unique representation of the plight that he faces – it really drives home to the reader that he must contend with a split identity, not just two things pulling on him, and that the quest of his coming of age story is really about trying to unite these two halves of himself into some kind of united whole. Growing up in a split culture, or even two different cultures are far from unique. Countless people all around the world do so consistently. Their situation, however, is not very well understood.

Diaz’ s effort to bridge this gap of understanding in “ Fiesta, 1980” is quite clever. He uses the mixing of Spanish and English to point to the split identity that anyone growing up in such a situation must develop. Beyond that, however, he uses different spellings of the main character’ s name, Junior/Yunior, to emphasize this divide.

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