From Publishers Weekly
"Here in America, I may be a short, insignificant mutt, but in Cuba I was a German shepherd," M ximo explains in the first of these 11 short stories. His words are the punch line to one of countless jokes he tells to his cronies at Miami's Domino Park. The group of Cuban and Dominican immigrants gathers regularly, mostly ignoring the tourists who come to gape at the colorful old men playing dominos only M ximo feels victimized, as if the onlookers are trivializing his life and culture, treating him like an animal in a zoo. The mixed sentiments of pride and frustration that come with adjustment to American society are common threads in this moving collection by a Cuban-American, Pushcart Prize-winning author. Many of the tales have related themes and characters, and while some are more abstract than others, all speak of the attempts of immigrants to create new lives in the U.S. In "The Perfect Fruit," Menndez portrays Matilde's despair and jealousy when, as she contemplates what has become her own loveless marriage, her son Anselmo announces his engagement to his American girlfriend Meegan Matilde deals with her dejection by throwing herself into a cooking frenzy. But like M ximo's jokes in the first tale, her culinary storms are merely a thin mask covering a dark reality: that even in the safe haven of America, ethnic ties are strong and assimilation is something that is not necessarily easy or even desired. These stories are perhaps best not consumed all at once; read separately, they offer a telling yet bittersweet perspective on immigrant life. Agent, Amy Williams, the Gernert Company. (May)Forecast: Menndez's voice, falling somewhere in between the slangy eloquence of Junot D¡az and Dagoberto Gilb and the lyrical exuberance of Sandra Cisneros and Esmeralda Santiago, is a welcome addition to the chorus of Latino fiction writers. A 10-city author tour and 30,000 first printing will give her debut collection a boost.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
This delightfully rich collection of interrelated short stories focuses on Cuban immigrants in Miami. The title story, also featured in the 2001 Pushcart Prize anthology, tells of four elderly men playing dominoes and talking about their past mostly apocryphal glories, while an Anglo tourist, dressed in pink, snaps photographs. In "The Perfect Fruit," the reader almost inhales the overripe bananas a middle-aged woman cooks night and day in her battle to conquer the fruits she sees inundating her home and her sanity. The 11 stories in this author's first collection focus on family relationships and immigrants' nostalgia for a past beyond recovery; the moods proceed from light, playful, and humorous to dark, passionate, and frantic. Menendez, the daughter of Cuban immigrants, grew up in Miami and has worked as a journalist there and in southern California. Highly recommended for all libraries.- Mary Margaret Benson, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville, OR
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.