Gates writes of Díaz's characters: "Mainstream American literature from William Bradford to Toni Morrison has always been obsessed with outsiders; its Hucks and Holdens are forever duking it out with the King's English, and writers as different as Ezra Pound, Zora Neale Hurston and Donald Barthelme have delighted in defiling the pure well with highbrow imports, nonstandard vernacular and Rube Goldberg coinages. Despite his professed discomfort, Mr. Díaz is smart enough to play his hand for all it's worth." He also compares Díaz to Raymond Carver, writing: "Mr. Diaz transfigures disorder and disorientation with a rigorous sense of form. He whips story after story into shape by setting up parallel scenes."
The San Francisco Chronicle described Drown: "This stunning collection of stories offers an unsentimental glimpse of life among the immigrants from the Dominican Republic—and other front-line reports on the ambivalent promise of the American dream—by an eloquent and original writer who describes more than physical dislocation in conveying the price that is paid for leaving culture and homeland behind."