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Growing up in Spanish Harlem, Chino knew he needed three things to survive: a solid friend (his pana), a decent nickname--not some lame thing his parents had called him, like Tito or Googie--and a reputation that he would rather lose a tooth or get his ribs broken than back out of a fight. With the help of Sapo, "the meanest and ugliest kid on the block," Chino manages to make it as far as college before his life is endangered. He even attracts the attention of Nancy Saldivia, a beautiful Pentecostal girl so genuinely devout that she has earned the high school nickname "Blanca." In a typically vivid passage at the start of his debut novel, Bodega Dreams, Ernesto Quiñonez writes:
Blanca wasn't allowed to wear jeans but she made up for it by wearing tight, short skirts. She always carried a Bible with her and never talked bad about anybody and at school she only hung around with her Pentecostal friend, Lucy. Lucy was a hairy girl who never shaved her legs because it was against her religion. Blanca had hairy legs as well, but Lucy's legs were so hairy that everyone called her Chewbacca.... When the cruelty toward Lucy became too much for Blanca, she'd punish the boys by being the coldest, most serious person in school. Only Blanca could get away with this because she had an angelic face that almost made you want to sing Alleluia. Made you want to pick up a tambourine and join her one night in her church. Make a joyful noise to the Lord so she would begin to jump up and down to all that religious salsa. And maybe you'd be lucky enough to cop a cheap feel as the Holy Ghost took over her body.Our narrator's luck is running out, though, and when Sapo introduces him to the mysterious, powerful Willie Bodega, Chino finds himself helplessly drawn into a criminal network. Even if Chino and Sapo's world is far from your own, you can't help but succumb to Quiñonez's funny, rapid-fire prose and his uncanny gift for dialect. The author's dead-on renderings of verbal tics and rhythms fit seamlessly into his depiction of the vibrant culture of East Harlem. Bodega Dreams is an unusually accomplished debut with all the right ingredients: distinctive characters, a troubling plot, and a seductive voice. --Regina Marler
Praise the lord and pass the hooch: this galvanizing debut is the novel East Harlem has been waiting for since the days of the Young Lords. Quinonez has a poet's ear for the barrio's Spanglish rhythms and idioms, a brujo's gift for describing its alma, and an intense, unrelenting streetwise energy. The book features a cast of memorable characters, including dim-witted Neno, who can't complete a sentence without quoting a song lyric; the nefarious barrio lawyer Nazario; the drug runner and possible hitman Sapo, who would rather be flying a kite from the top of a tenement; and cameo appearances by many real artists and poets. But at the heart of everything is Willie Bodega, a former Young Lord who has become the biggest drug lord of them all. Bodega is also one of the most visionary and magnanimous characters in contemporary fiction. He hands out money for tuition, rent, whatever anyone needs--asking only loyalty in return. Bodega has a dream of what Spanish Harlem could become, and no scruples at all about how the money to fuel his dream is acquired. "We were all insignificant," says Chino, the narrator, "dwarfed by what his dream meant." Chino is an artist who can wax positively lyrical when he is not trading hilarious banter. The plot is basic noir--the fall of an anti-hero--but it is wrapped with a glittering array of scams and schemes that keep it all hopping. Both dreams and realities are compellingly and coolly styled by this exciting new author, and the very few first novel faux pas don't much distract from his insightful and significant achievement. Agent, Gloria Loomis. Author tour. (Mar.) FYI: Quinonez was named one of the Village Voice's 1999 Writers on the Verge.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
An amazing read, kept me captivated every step of the way! Love can be deceiving but dreams, dreams will always live on!!!Published 1 month ago by Mel
I liked the book. It was very interesting. I knew the places that were mentioned in the story. I would recommend this book for someone who lives in Spanish Harlem.Published 2 months ago by Briana Rivera
Keep your friends close and enemies even closer. Willie Bodega was a criminal and a dreamer. He wanted the best for his people and tried to get the best way he knew how. Nice read. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Dean
I enjoyed this book very much. The characters are well-developed and (mostly) likeable; they're not one-dimensional. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Tom Wilson
This is a really good book. I may go as far as saying that it was one of the best books that I have read in English. As soon as I picked it up, I could not put it down. Read morePublished 5 months ago by K. Small