The author is pursuing a difficult subject, one where people's humanity is often denied, where their existence is at times ignored, orThis is tough.
The author is pursuing a difficult subject, one where people's humanity is often denied, where their existence is at times ignored, or at worst, outright threatened. The premise of these braided narratives is strong, tracking the interwoven lives of immigrants and children of immigrants from Central and South America.
I wish that Henriquez had pushed the discussion further.
Perhaps part of the fault lies with her editors wanting the narrative to be more accessible to English-speaking readers, but it was difficult to imagine the dialogue and idioms of these characters coming originally from these characters' consciences. The characters' lives and stories although ostensibly from a panoply of Latin nations, all felt like they were ladled from the same long-simmering crock pot, making it hard to differentiate the real and meaningful differences that exist among these culturally and linguistically diverse people. It felt like a superimposition of white American perspective (or maybe, a regard for a white point of view?) on top of an immigrant narrative, and this struck me as false. I wanted, I guess, to feel the texture of the Spanish in the dialogue, or even to have the dialogue itself in Spanish, even if that sacrificed sales prospects and readability. But perhaps this is too selfish a thing for me to ask for.
There are times when Henriquez soars with real pathos when she relates the struggles that these characters face. There are other times when these people felt unnecessarily cliché, hackneyed, or one-dimensional servants to the plot and/or the greater political objectives of the book.
I had a hard time with the romance between the fourteen year old boy and the girl with brain damage. Of course, people with disabilities can have romantic relationships, that’s not what I mean. It felt uncomfortably predatory.
I was a little disappointed. Again, maybe the kind of book I'm hoping for could never make it through to publication or would never make any sales if it got printed. I just want to see writers of Central and South American heritage dive deep into their own language and culture and write unapologetically from there, instead of catering to the delicate literary appetites of a broader white American reading public. Write the dialogue in Spanish. Reference life desde la patria without concerning yourself with how or even if it's understood. Be unapologetic with your representation.
This is not for me to say, of course. I'm a white guy. It's not my business to tell anyone else how to tell their story. Just, don't be afraid. Please. Don't bend down to cater to us. Make us catch up to you.
Let me know what you think in the comments....more