Drown, a series of short stories by Junot Diaz, explores the effects on families and particularly boys and young men when absent fathers and therefore a lack of suitable role models, poverty and the potential for an apparent better life in the US, pervade their very existence. The stories are based either in The Dominican Republic or the US with Yunior as the main character. Although not present in all the stories, he provides the flow from one story to the next.
In Aguantando, Yunior, although he does not remember his father, expects that his father will send for the family soon so that they can settle in America and secure their future. In the meantime, the family is almost destitute:"We didn’t eat rocks but we didn’t eat meat or beans either." Yunior's mother is harsh in her attempts to make her sons understand the realities of life.
Yunior and his brother Rafa are fascinated by Ysrael, a boy whose face was torn off by a pig when he was a baby and he now has to wear a mask at all times to hide his disfigurement. Yunior and Ysrael feel an instant bond despite Yunior's brother Rafa having violently attacked Ysrael with a glass bottle. Both boys have an avid interest in wrestling. In comparing their circumstances, the reader is aware that Yunior is the younger brother in his family whereas Ysrael has a younger brother who looks up to him. The reader has also learnt that both boys have absent fathers, although it will be revealed later, in No Face, that Ysrael's stories of his father living in the US are, in fact, a lie.
In No Face, the reader is told that Ysrael must hide from his father because "he knows what happens when his father comes out." He copes with his lack of a relationship with his father by, not only lying about his whereabouts, pretending that he is in the US, but by creating a superhero in his imagination where he can right wrongs and is always "fighting evil." He also has a friendship with Pastor Lou who helps to educate him and who gives him hope for an operation to reduce his mutilated face, although this thought scares him.
In coping with his father's absence, Yunior, imagines what he may be like and pictures him in familiar and romanticized terms which allow him to conceptualize the reality of a father-figure:
...he was the soldier in the photo. He was a cloud of cigar smoke, the traces of which could still be found on the uniforms he'd left behind. He was pieces of my friends' fathers, of the domino players on the corner, pieces of Mami and Abuelo...
Just as Yunior waits for his father to transform his life so Ysrael waits for his operation to change his. In reality, Yunior comes to realize, "That this waiting for him was all a sham."Ysrael wonders if the operations by the Canadian doctors will actually change anything.