Junot Diaz’s “Fiesta, 1980” presents a story of a teenage Latin boy named Yunior, who re-counts the stories of his dysfunctional family of immigrants from the Dominican Republic who are all attending a private party in the Bronx, New York City. Yunior is the middle teenage son of Papi and Mami, second to his brother Rafa and older than his sister Madai, who suffers from recurring motion sickness during road trips in his father’s brand new, lime green, Volkswagen van. At the very beginning, as Papi arrives home from “work” (later assumed to be his second girlfriend’s house, the Puerto Rican) to leave for their party, Yunior states “If Papi had walked in and caught us lounging around in our underwear, man, he would have kicked our asses or something serious.” (Diaz, 1996).
The evidence to confirm some sort of anxiety disorder in Yunior in response to this type of negative treatment from his father is prevalent from the start, as we are exposed to Papi’s commanding personality. Parental psychological and physical abuse leads to a multitude of anxiety disorders in children and affects an estimated “8-10 of every 100 children and adolescents.” (Rizvi, Najma, 2014). In this short story, the author first presents us with a complex main character who, at a rather young age, is already displaying a wide variety of psychological disorders due to parental (primarily father) abuse. In a closer analysis of this main character, the most prevalent of disorders would include phobia (of his father as well as their family road trips in the van), generalized anxiety disorder related to fear, and the initial stages of an eating disorder after Papi attributes Yunior’s motion sickness to poorly timed meals.
Phobia can be generally defined as an unrealistic and overwhelming fear of a specific object, person or situation; in this case it is a combined fear of Papi and family road trips. To be exact, a fear of road trips to the Puerto Rican’s home in Papi’s new lime green van never fail to put Yunior over the edge. Yunior irrationally fears that he is always the only one in trouble with his dad and though he does admit that he occasionally likes the attention, he clearly does not enjoy the physical pain. Each of Papi’s three children display a fear of him in a considerably different manner, presumably due to their ranking birth order.
Rafa the oldest, having most likely been the first to have endured such physical force from their father, does his best to avoid these violent situations as they arise: “Rafa had already started inching away from me… moving out of the way every time Papi was going to smack me.” (Diaz, 1996). While Yunior’s much younger sister Madai, who most likely will never suffer this type of physical abuse from their father but still hears the verbal cruelty, is also avoidant and usually “too scared to open her eyes.” (Diaz, 1996). It is evident that Yunior strives to gain recognition from his father and though he fears the physical force that will undoubtedly follow, Yunior takes each moment of acknowledgment that he can and runs with it, so to speak.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (typically just referred to as simply “GAD”) is a disruption in how someone’s brain “controls the signals used to identify danger and initiate action to help avoid it.” (Kutcher, 2015). However, in GAD, this signaling mechanism does not function as planned and a person will experience the danger signal when there is no existing danger. This overwhelming anxiety will cause serious emotional distress and will negatively impact school as well as relationships, usually presenting itself physically in the form of headaches or often uncontrollable nausea. Yunior’s internal anxiety is revealed once his father stops at the Puerto Rican’s and Yunior finally realizes what his father has been doing after work. In this story, Yunior is continuously torn between the fear of his father’s wrath and his love for his Mami, that he drives himself physically ill. This leads the reader to believe that perhaps it is a combination of factors causing Yunior’s motion sickness in the van: indecision on revealing his father’s adulterations, or perhaps a general nervousness of falling short of his father’s expectations that is making him ill.
Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder has become increasingly common among children and adolescents since the time of the 1980’s, and it is not one associated with weight control or body shape. Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, also known as “ARFID”, is what some people might refer to as “picky eating” but is technically a food aversion due to the sensory qualities of food triggering a physiological response. In this case, Papi is convinced that Yunior’s motion sickness is made exponentially worse by his eating before road trips and will not allow Yunior to eat before they travel. Out of control binge eating (also an eating disorder) then predictably follows Yunior’s episodes of vomiting and starvation as “those pastelitos didn’t stand a chance.” (Diaz, 1996). Yunior is beginning to develop the association that eating is an undisclosed activity to be done behind his father’s back, quickly, secretively, and in surplus whenever you have the chance (the exact definition of an emerging binge eating disorder), rather than one to be enjoyed with family and friends.
In conclusion, by way of analyzing Yunior’s actions and thoughts, it can be determined that he is a young and impressionable main character, currently exhibiting the symptoms of severe phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, and a rising eating disorder in part due to his father’s psychological and occasionally physical abuse. Diaz immediately connects the reader to his main character using a first person point of view, granting admittance into Yunior’s most secluded thoughts and actions, making him easily relatable. By seeing the repercussions of Papi’s actions unfold within Yunior, the author has successfully evoked the emotion of empathy and unison as the reader silently encourages and supports his main character within this dysfunctional family of five.
Diaz, Junot. “Fiesta, 1980.” Drown. New York: Riverhead Books, 1996. Urhalpool. 31 January, 2015. Web. Kutcher, Dr. Stan. “Mental Disorders” Teen Mental Health. 30 January, 2015. Web.
Rizvi, Syeda Fariha Iram and Najma, Najma. “Parental Psychological Abuse
Toward Children and Mental Health Problems in Adolescence.” Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences. Volume.30 (2014): 256-260. Web. www.nationaleatingdisorders.org