A poignant, hilarious, and inspiring memoir from the first Latino and openly gay inaugural poet, which explores his coming-of-age as the child of Cuban immigrants and his attempts to understand his place in America while grappling with his burgeoning artistic and sexual identities.
Richard Blanco’s childhood and adolescence were experienced between two imaginary worlds: his parents’ nostalgic world of 1950s Cuba and his imagined America, the country he saw on reruns of The Brady Bunch and Leave it to Beaver—an “exotic” life he yearned for as much as he yearned to see “la patria.”
Navigating these worlds eventually led Blanco to question his cultural identity through words; in turn, his vision as a writer—as an artist—prompted the courage to accept himself as a gay man. In this moving, contemplative memoir, the 2013 inaugural poet traces his poignant, often hilarious, and quintessentially American coming-of-age and the people who influenced him.
A prismatic and lyrical narrative rich with the colors, sounds, smells, and textures of Miami, Richard Blanco’s personal narrative is a resonant account of how he discovered his authentic self and ultimately, a deeper understanding of what it means to be American. His is a singular yet universal story that beautifully illuminates the experience of “becoming;” how we are shaped by experiences, memories, and our complex stories: the humor, love, yearning, and tenderness that define a life.
Growing up in the 1970s in a Cuban-American community in Miami, poet Blanco was besieged by his exiled relatives' nostalgia for the life they had left behind in Cuba in the 1960s; yet he also yearned for a American identity free from the immigrant experience. In seven chapters Blanco moves through the milestones of his adolescence living with his mother, father, older brother, Carlos ("Caco"), and grandparents, specifically his overbearing abuela, who had saved enough money working as a bookie in New York City for the family to move to a new house with a terra-cotta roof and lawn in the Westchester suburb of Miami pronounced "Guechesta." In the first chapter, "The First Real San Giving Day," young Ricardo accompanied his abuela to help buy the chicken specials at the Winn-Dixie, a gringo store she highly suspected ("We don't belong here"); yet her grandson gradually won her over to the American selections such as Easy Cheese and even engineered a Thanksgiving feast for the family that was as foreign as it was instructive. Being chosen as the companion for lovely Deycita's quincea era ball made Blanco, however, begin to wonder whether he liked girls at all, confirmed by his first dreamy crush on the former Cuban prisoner and new hire at the bodega where he worked for many summers, El Cocuyito ("The Firefly"). Blanco has a natural, unforced style that allows his characters' vibrancy and humor to shine through.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I thought, being Cuban myself, the author would delve into coming out to his family, his struggles with being gay and his gay relationships.
The book is mostly an account of assimilation of his Cuban family in Miami, Florida. Some nice writing including fond memories of the family, but I wanted more from the author: especially his challenges growing up as a gay person.