Posts Tagged ‘dialect’

The Coldest Winter Ever

April 11, 2012

Author:  Sister Souljah

Title:  The Coldest Winter Ever

Genre:  African American Fiction, Urban Fiction

Publication Date:  1999

Number of Pages:  337

Geographical Setting:  New York

Time Period:  1990s

Series:  n/a

Plot Summary:     Winter Santiaga, the teenage daughter of a notorious Brooklyn drug dealer, must struggle to survive on the streets after her father is arrested.  When her family’s estate is confiscated by the police, Winter turns to her father’s associates for support.  When this fails and she is caught by the Department of Children and Family Services, Winter turns to crime in order to return to her lavish lifestyle. The Coldest Winter Ever is a gritty, sobering work of urban fiction with well-developed characters and an authentic feel.

Subject Headings:  Drug dealers, Drug use, City life, Inner city, Street life, African American teenagers, African American women, Imprisonment, Public housing, Violence

Appeal:  Gritty, Hard-edged, Sexually explicit, Sobering, Stark, Well-developed, Authentic, Character-centered, Urban, Dialect, Strong language, Violent

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Gritty, Character-centered, Urban

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Original Gangster:  The Real Life Story of One of America’s Most Notorious Drug Lords by Frank Lucas-  Frank Lucas, former organized crime boss and heroin dealer, describes his experiences in Harlem during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Original Gangster:  The Real Life Story of One of America’s Most Notorious Drug Lords and The Coldest Winter Ever both deal with drug dealers in New York. 

Our America:  Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago by LeAlan Jones- Our America consists of several interviews from tenants of the Ida B. Wells housing project.  Our America:  Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago will appeal to readers that are interested in learning more about public housing projects and inner city life.

A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown- This disturbing autobiography recounts the author’s experiences with gangs and drugs on the streets of Los Angeles and her struggle to rebuild her life.   A Piece of Cake and The Coldest Winter Ever both deal with African American teenage girls who struggle to survive the streets on their own.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors (why they are similar):

Let That be the Reason (Let That be the Reason Novels, 1) by Vickie M. Stringer-  After being abandoned by her drug dealing boyfriend, Pamela becomes the head of a call-girl operation to help her survive the streets.   Like The Coldest Winter Ever, Let That be the Reason is a gritty work of urban fiction that deals with a young African American woman trying to survive on the streets.

Push by Sapphire- After being  abused and raped by her father, sixteen year old Precious works to turn her life around with the help of a teacher.  Like The Coldest Winter Ever, Push is gritty and sobering work of urban fiction that deals with an African American teenage girl facing adversity.

Thieves’ Paradise by Eric Jerome Dickey- With no job and an older woman to impress, Dante turns to crime to make quick money.   Both The Coldest Winter Ever and Thieves’ Paradise are gritty, character-driven novels about young African Americans who take drastic measures during difficult times.



The Boys on the Rock

April 11, 2012

Author: John Fox

Title: The Boys on the Rock

Genre: LGBT

Publication Date: 1984

Number of Pages: 146p.

Geographical Setting: Bronx, N.Y.

Time Period: 1968

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary: It’s 1968 in the Bronx and Catholic High School sophomore, swim team star, and narrator Billy Connor is gay and knows it and likes it.  Unfortunately, he has only been able to explore his sexuality in very frequent, detailed, creative, and enthusiastic masturbation sessions that the reader will come to know very well.  Billy, not wanting to be drafted and sent to Vietnam, is a Gene McCarthy supporter who meets Al, the head of the local McCarthy campaign office.  Canvassing soon leads to lingering dinners at a pizzeria, which leads to making out, which of course leads to the sex that Billy has longed for.  Billy is very talented in graphic and detailed accounts of his and Al’s lovemaking, leaving not a thing to the reader’s imagination.  While Billy feels newly free and empowered by his relationship with Al, is it really love?  And is it a love that will last?  With the tumultuous Democratic presidential primary and a colorful cast of neighborhood friends and eccentrics as a constant backdrop, Billy brings the reader along for the first few baby steps he will take onto the path that will lead him to the man he will become.

Subject Headings: Coming of age stories, Gay teenagers, Eroticism, U.S. history–1968, Presidential elections–1968, First love, Homosexuality, Graphic sex–homosexual, Graphic sex–heterosexual, Political assassination, Gene McCarthy, Bobby Kennedy, Bronx, Competitive swimming, Catholic school, Homophobia, Nostalgia, Masturbation.

Appeal: Quick-paced, bittersweet, candid, passionate, adolescent, horny, dramatic, edgy, sexual, graphic, gritty, impassioned, nostalgic, naive, sensual, romantic, unpretentious, foul-mouthed, colorful, unrelenting, rebellious, melancholy, vivid, sexually explicit, steamy, issue-oriented, introspective, retrospective, political, historical detail, urban, colloquial, dialect, direct, unaffected, hormonal, empowering, gay, sweaty, messy, intimate, personal discovery, sexual discovery.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: adolescent, gritty, sexually explicit.

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Joy of Sex: The Ultimate Revised Edition by Alex Comfort

The Joy of Gay Sex, Revised & Expanded by Charles Silverstein and Felice Picano

The Joy of Lesbian Sex: A Tender and Liberated Guide to the Pleasures and Problems of a Lesbian Lifestyle by Dr. Emily L. Sisley and Bertha Harris

Yes, I know three books are not one book, but I feel I must evoke an “apples and oranges” (and “pears”[?]) exception in this case.  For people that may find appeal in any of these works, two titles will be completely useless (sort of) to them.  And the goal is to be able to satisfy 100% of readers, yes?

There is so much graphic sex and language in Boys that it would seem almost impossible that a reader wouldn’t take some stock of their own romantic life at some point.  These seminal, highly respected, and somewhat clinical works are certainly the “safe” and “tasteful” (yet graphically illustrated) suggestions that could be a stepping off point for a reader who may want to explore better or newer ways in which to get their freak on.

Time 1968: War Abroad, Riots at Home, Fallen Leaders and Lunar Dreams

The United States +1968= CRAZY: MLK shot, RFK shot, protests, race riots, political riots, cities on fire, Vietnam, Tet Offensive, Chicago Democratic Convention (police beatings and rioting and the MC5, for those too young), drugs, sex, rock and roll, men on the moon—and those are just the headlines.

While the rebellion, protest, and awakening of Billy’s 1968 took place mostly in his head and underwear, there is much happening around him that will inform a bevvy of decisions, political and not.  Here is an overview of that year with lots of color pictures.

Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution by David Carter

One year later from Billy’s awakening, the gay community of Greenwich Village rose up against police harassment to spark the beginning of the gay rights movement.  I can vividly picture Billy chanting slogans and punching cops in the face.  Here is a timeline of the events leading up to, and the riots themselves, as well as the aftermath.  This comprehensive account is the result of hundreds of interviews, public and sealed files, and a decade of research.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Forever by Judy Blume

If one took a plot synopsis of Boys and replaced the Bronx with a woodsy, well-to-do suburb, and weekends of beer in the park with ski trips, and animalistic gay sex with meticulously thought-out hetero sex, and Billy with a Katherine, and a cowardly Al with an impossibly sensitive Michael and then washed everyone’s mouths out with soap, one would be left holding a copy of Forever. Had those who have taken the often challenged Forever (ALA 7th all-time) to trial had known that Boys may have been right around the corner, I shudder to think at the number of libraries that may have burned.  While certainly trying to please entirely different audiences, these two books are identical thematically, giving Forever large appeal to the reader who may have picked up Boys hoping for a sentimental tale of teenage sexual awakening, but just not as sticky.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Luckily for the high-school kids that populate Boy Meets Boy, Levithan has created a bizarro-world town where there is no prejudice of any sort, especially sexual.  This bodes well for a school that features a Harley riding cheerleading squad and a cross-dressing star quarterback/Homecoming Queen.  The book centers on Paul, who thinks he finally may have found true love in Noah.  Simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking, Levithan brilliantly illustrates that freed of the burden of prejudice, hatred, and ignorance these are just kids, whatever their sexual orientation, awkwardly trying to find their place in the world and maybe a little happiness, too.

Best Lesbian Erotica 2011 by D.L. King, Giselle Renarde, Kathleen Warnock and Kirsty Logan

Best Gay Erotica 2011 by Johnny Murdoc, Natty Soltesz, and Rob Wolfsham

Sweet Confessions: Erotic Fantasies for Couples by Violet Blue

Again, I must use the “apples and oranges” rule exception.  For any reader of Boys that enjoyed the very detailed and descriptive sex scenes, here you go: a little something for everyone.

Name: Bill S.

The People Could Fly

August 17, 2011

Author: Hamilton, Virginia

Title: The People Could Fly

Genre: Folktale, African-American

Publication Date: 1985 (Hardcover), 1993 (First paper back printing)


Number of Pages: 178 p.

Geographical Setting: A somewhat mythical antebellum Southern United States

Time Period: Prior to 1865, each tale is essential timeless

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: The People Could Fly is a collection of Black American folk tale passed down through oral traditions from the arrival of enslaved Africans in the North America, through slavery, to this very day. The collection can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. There are tales that are somewhat familiar (i.e. “Doc Rabbit, Bruh Fox, and Tar Baby.) and other tales that should be new to the casual reader. A Coretta Scott King Honor Book, its beautiful illustration won the award in 1986. The book divides the tales into 4 thematic sections: animal tales, tales of the Real, Extravagant, and Fanciful, tales of the supernatural, and slave tales of freedom. And after every story the origin cultural and geographic origins of that tale are broken down for the reader. This tome contains humorous yarns, weird stories, and inspirational tales great for all ages.

Subject Headings: Freedom, slavery, folklore, animal tales, Black American culture, oral traditions

Appeal: great read-a-loud book, short chapters, imaginative, weird, inspirational, memorable characters, beautiful illustrations, dialect, funny, Issue-oriented, Relaxed pace, heartwarming, homespun.

3 terms that best describe this book: Witty, humorous, timeless

3 Relevant Non Fiction Works and Authors

1.)  African folktales: traditional stories of the Black world by Roger D. Abrahams – Another collection of folk tales, this time including tales from the nations and people of West Africa.

2.) Italian folktales by Italo Calvino: A collection of 200 Italian folk tales.


3.) Dee Brown’s folktales of the Native American, retold for our times by Dee Alexander Brown: Thirty six stories of various Native American oral traditions retold for the common era

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1.) Best African-American fiction, 2010 edited by Gerald Early & Nikki Giovanni. – A collection of short stories and novel excerpts from the years catalog of black fiction writers.

2.)  Best African-American fiction, 2009 edited by Gerald Early & E. Lynn Harris. – A collection of short stories and novel excerpts from the years catalog of black fiction writers.

3.) The monkey suit: and other short fiction on African Americans and justice by David Dante Troutt – Ten short fictional stories based off of actual case of documenting the African American struggle against segregation and for civil/human rights.


The Bluest Eye

August 17, 2011

Author: Toni Morrison

Title: The Bluest Eye

Genre: Literary Fiction,  African-American

Publication Date: 1970

No. of Pages: 224

Geographical Setting: Lorain, Ohio

Time Period: Years following the Great Depression

Series: NA

Plot Summary: An African-American family, the MacTeers, is struggling out of the Great Depression in Lorain, Ohio when they take in a troubled girl from a rough background, Pecola, when she is forced “outdoors.” All her life Pecola has hid behind the “ugliness” of her dark skin and brown eyes, always wishing and praying for beautiful blue eyes. As she struggles to find her way with a strange new family, her own family fights against their demons of racism, alcoholism and sexual depravity.

While Pecola and her fervent wish for blue eyes may be the focus of The Bluest Eye, her character is rarely developed throughout the story. Rather her struggles and gradual surrender to insanity are documented through the eyes of those closest to her, effectively underscoring the actions of the remaining characters. This is a story of vulnerability and of a young girl unable to overcome her circumstances, even to get blue eyes. Readers should be aware of several disturbing scenes that are sexual in nature.

Subject Headings: African-Americans, Racism – United States, Family Relations

Appeal: unhurried, emotionally-charged, character-centered, vivid, flawed, historical details, timeless, intimate, poignant, dialect, gritty, stark

3 Terms that Best Describe this Book: emotionally-charged, flawed, gritty

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Growing Up Jim Crow: How Black and White Southern Children Learned Race by Jennifer Ritterhouse (Explores the unwritten rules of segregation in the South that guided child development)

Killers of the Dream by Lillian Smith (A Southern white view of the psychological and moral consequences of the Southern mindset on sin, sex and segregation)

In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (The companion book to the PBS series, Gates helps 19 individuals explore their pasts while gaining a better understanding of their own personality)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Uncle Tom’s Children by Richard Wright (A collection of powerful novellas illustrating the racism and oppression African-Americans lived with in the post-slavery era – originally published in 1938, this plays out in the same time period of The Bluest Eye and delves into some of the same issues of race)

Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell (A poor white family of sharecroppers struggles to survive during the Depression and retain their slim social standing among the black community they live – similar backdrop of the Great Depression and familial tensions)

Oral History by Lee Smith (A college student returns to her childhood home in the Appalachians to research the complex and cursed history of her family – a similar story of a doomed family and all their flaws and foibles)

by Denise

No-No Boy

August 17, 2011

Author: John Okada

Title: No-No Boy

Genre: Multi-cultural, Asian-American

Publication Date: 1957

Number of Pages: 260

Geographical Setting: Seattle, WA

Time Period: 1945, just following World War II

Series: n/a

Plot Summary: 25 year old Ichiro grew up in Seattle, but for four years sat captive, experiencing the horrors of internment camps and prisons. The United States punished Ichiro, as they did countless Japanese-Americans, because he resembled the enemy. Ichiro was a no-no boy, a Japanese-American who refused to fight in WWII. Now, the country he loved and viewed as a beacon of hope has turned its back on him because he did not have the heart to fight a war. Following the end of WWII and his release from prison, Ichiro constantly struggles with shame and regret for his decision. Although Ichiro’s parents represent his biggest supporters, home offers little comfort; Ichiro’s mother believes Japan has won the war and awaits the arrival of Japanese ships to bring the family home. Meanwhile, Ichiro’s internal struggles alter his once bright personality and strong ambition. The only chance for Ichiro to regain his lost identity is through friendship and self-acceptance.
Okada, a Japanese-American, respectfully and accurately depicts the struggles of Japanese-Americans following World War II. The author examines key issues related to immigration including profound conflicts of culture and racism. Okada does so in a detailed and accessible manner. The themes and writing style render this book a timeless resource for any one living, or curious about, the immigrant experience in the United States.

Subject Headings: Japanese-Americans; Japanese-Americans—Mass Internment, 1942-1945; Immigrants–United States; Racism–United States; Post World War II; Japanese-Americans–Family Relations; Suicide; Conflicts of Culture–United States

Appeal: Relaxed, Emotionally-charged, Poignant, Sympathetic, Evocative, Introspective, Issue oriented, Thought-provoking, Character-centered, Historical Details, Accurate, Timeless, Accessible, Intimate, Dialect, Detailed, Flashbacks

Three Terms that Best Describe this Book: Character-centered, Emotionally-charged, Timeless

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:
Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of Japanese American Experience During and After the World War II Internment by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
(This memoir offers an emotionally-charged account of Japanese-American internment during WWII and the experience of Japanese-Americans following the war. Like No-No Boy, this book offers the perspective of a young Japanese-American during WWII who experiences racism, imprisonment, and culture conflicts.)

Paper Daughter by Elaine M. Mar
(Although the frame of this book differs slightly from No-No Boy because it involves Chinese immigrants in a more contemporary setting, this autobiography manages to accurately and emotionally convey the immigrant experience in the United States. A distinct similarity between the books involves the account of the struggles between an immigrant mother who denies American values and a child who embraces them,)

Looking like the Enemy: My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese-American Internment Camps by Mary Matsuda Gruenewald
(Gruenewald offers an emotionally-charged and accurate description of life in internment camps during WWII. The Japanese-American author offers numerous historical details in an accessible manner. The result is a timeless book about racism, immigration, overcoming adversity, and self-acceptance.)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
(This novel revolves around the tumultuous life of a Japanese-American who has just returned to the Pacific Northwest after being held captive in an internment camp. The novel appears character-driven, issue oriented, and presented at a relaxed pace. Racism represents one of the most thought-provoking issues tackled in the book.)

Color of the Sea by John Hamamura
(This story details the experiences of a Japanese-American man who is torn away from his loved ones after they are placed in an internment camp. The main character deals with a major conflict of culture as he enlists in the US army to carry out a secret mission upon Japan. This issue-oriented and character-centered book offers a timeless account of prejudice and racism. The writing style accessible and detailed.)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
(This thought-provoking and issue-oriented classic tackles racism, stereotype, and prejudice within a single US community. The plot revolves around the trial of a black man accused of raping a white woman. This is a timeless, coming-of-age story told through the prospective of a young protagonist. The storyline is character-driven.)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

August 8, 2011

Author:  Rebecca Skloot

Title:  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Genre:  Non-Fiction

Publication Date:  2010

Number of Pages:  328

Geographical Setting:  Baltimore, Maryland & Clover, Virginia (plus several other U.S. cities mentioned)

Time Period: 1951-2009 (with historical details included as far back as the 1850s)

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  History is dotted with unsung heroes, and perhaps one of the greatest examples of such is Henrietta Lacks.  In 1951, the 31 year-old black mother of five was suffering from a terminal case of cervical cancer, and during her treatments at Johns Hopkins, doctors removed some of her cancerous tissue without her or her family’s knowledge or consent.  Subsequently, the cells they harvested (HeLa cells) became pivotal to medical research, helping scientists find the cure for Polio, as well as furthering cancer and virus research as well.  In this work, Skloot investigates the life of the woman behind these immortal cells (that are still pivotal to research today), investigating Henrietta’s exploitation and the effects it had on her family. It focuses on the deplorable history of medical treatment and experimentation on African Americans, but also examines the issue of bioethics as well.  This compelling tale reads like a novel, providing an intimate look into the life of the woman behind HeLa cellls, and a family struggling to make sense of their mother’s legacy.

Subject Headings:  Biography, Science writing, African American history, Health, Cancer, Henrietta Lacks, African American women—history, Medical research, Medical ethics

Appeal:  compelling, engrossing, candid, haunting, engaging, multiple points of view, issue-oriented, layered, thought-provoking, accurate, rich historical details, accessible style/language, dialect, direct, informative, well-researched

3 terms that best describe this book:  compelling, issue-oriented, thought-provoking

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present—Harriet A. Washington (History of using African Americans in medical experimentation, science writing, well documented and researched)

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer—Siddhartha Mukherjee (focus on the history and future of cancer research, extensively researched, compelling subject)

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration—Isabel Wilkerson (African American history, thought-provoking storyline, accessible writing style)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Help—Kathryn Stockett (engaging characters and storyline, historical details, multiple points of view)

A Mercy—Toni Morrison (haunting tone, historical frame, compelling storyline)

Passing—Nella Larsen (issue-oriented, thought-provoking, historical context, African American experience)



July 25, 2011


Author: Helen Humphreys

Title: Coventry
Publication Date:  1988

Pages:   177

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Geographical Setting:  Coventry, England

Time Period:  1914, 1940

Subject Headings:   Historical fiction, Coventry (England) bombardment, World War II, Bombings, Resilience in women

Appeal:  builds in intensity, dramatic, descriptive, realistic, vivid, well-developed characters, authentic, cinematic, flashbacks, historical details, dialect, chilling

Plot Summary:   A relentless WWII German air raid targets the industrial town of Coventry, England.   During the bombing, a middle-aged widow who is fire-watching for the beloved cathedral, befriends a young man.  Together, they share the nightmare of survival and witness death and devastation of their beloved town.  This quick read is filled with dramatic and chilling details of the historical event.

Three terms that best describe this book:   dramatic, historical details, cinematic

Similar authors and fiction works:

The Blitz: The BritishUnder Attack by Juliet Gardiner

Compelling, well-researched account of the impact of the ruthless German bombings of London, England during WWII.  Fast-paced, insightful, historical

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

Tales of four lives that are intertwined during the London blitz by the Germans.  well-developed characters, moody, atmospheric

Night of Flames by Douglas W. Jacobson

A harrowing tale of a husband and wife’s escape from the German invasion into Poland.  They become separated, leading to two tales of survival when they join the Belgium and Polish underground resistance.  well-researched, fast-paced, realistic

Similar authors and non-fiction works:

Bombs Away!: The World War II Bombing Campaigns Over Europe by John R. Bruning

Informative details of the strategic bombings  during World War II told with a compelling human element. gritty, detailed, psychological

Domestic Soldiers: Six women’s lives in the second world war by Jennifer Purcell

Diary entries written by six women from different social economic backgrounds describing life during World War II.  moving, character-centered, historical details

Our Longest Days: A people’s history of the second world war by Sandra Koa Wing

Collection of chronologically detailed diaries describing the effect of war on ordinary people.  cinematic, heartwarming, vivid

Name:  Debbie Jancik

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

April 20, 2011

  Author: Junot Diaz

  Title: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

  Genre: Literary Fiction, Latino Fiction

  Publication Date: 2007

  Number of Pages: 335

  Geographical Setting: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and New Jersey

  Time Period: 1940s – early 1990s

Plot Summary:
Focusing primarily on Oscar, an obese Dominican-American sci-fi nerd searching for love and acceptance in New Jersey, Junot Diaz recounts the damage wrought on the de Leon family by the fuku, a supernatural curse that has tormented the family for several generations. Diaz’s narrator traces the fuku from its origins in the Dominican Republic during the dictatorship of Trujillo to its current home in New Jersey where it wreaks havoc on Oscar.

The conversational tone of this family saga leavens the darkness of the tragedy at play. While disaster plagues the de Leons at every turn, they love deeply and fiercely, and the complicated bonds between family members and lovers drive most of the action of novel. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a compelling look at life in the Dominican Republic during the Trujillo era and the Dominican-American experience as an immigrant in New Jersey.

Subject Headings:
Family relationships, Men/women relations, Curses, Dominican-Americans, Latinos, New Jersey, Dominican Republic, Loss, Misfits, Social acceptance, Trujillo, Dictatorship, Ghettos

Tragic, conversational, unpretentious, compelling, episodic, descriptive, introspective, character-centered, flawed characters, multiple points of view, authentic, urban, vivid, dialect, colloquial

3 terms that best describe this book:
Tragic, conversational, Latino

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors
The Invisible Mountain by Carolina de Robertis
Three generations of women search for love and identity in Uruguay during the politically turbulent 20th century.
Similarities: Multigenerational family saga, coming of age under a Hispanic dictator (Uruguay), character Eva becomes a writer

The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
Coming-of-age tale of Dylan and Mingus, two friends growing up in a racially charged area of Brooklyn in the 70s, and the diverging paths their lives take in adulthood.
Similarities: Urban setting, precocious protagonists, fantastic elements

The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat
Ka’s father reveals that he was actually a prison guard – a torturer – under the Haitian dictator Duvalier and not the prison escapee he previously claimed. The narrative jumps between past and present to tell the tales of those he hurt and how his revelation affects his relationship with his daughter.
Similarities: Multiple narrative threads, alternating between past and present, family relationships, atrocities committed during a dictatorship (Haiti)

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors
Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola by Michele Wucker
A social history of Hispaniola and the two island nations that struggle for supremacy over the land. Includes discussion of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo’s genocide of Haitians and the cultural differences that fuel their misunderstandings.
Similarities: Dominican Republic setting, discussion of the Trujillo regime, Diaz mentions the enmity existing between Haiti and the Dominican Republic

Something to Declare by Julia Alvarez
Bestselling author Julia Alvarez muses on her upbringing as an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, trying to assimilate in New York, how she became a writer, and her experiences as a feminist
Similarities: Alvarez immigrated from the Dominican Republic, Oscar is also a writer

Musings and Meditations: Reflections on Science Fiction, Science, and Other Matters by Robert Silverberg
A collection of essays written by the acclaimed science fiction writer provide insight into the craft of writing and the science fiction genre.
Similarities: Oscar is a science fiction writer

Name: Cassie Carbaugh

Bodega Dreams by Ernesto Quiñonez

April 19, 2011

Author: Ernesto Quiñonez

Title: Bodega Dreams

Genre:  Urban fiction

Publication Date: 2000

Number of Pages:  213

Geographical Setting: East Harlem

Time Period: Contemporary

Plot Summary:  Julio Mercado, also known as Chino, lives in the same East Harlem neighborhood that he grew up in.  He is married to his beautiful high school sweetheart, Blanca, who is pregnant, and they both attend community college night classes while also working to save up money for when the baby arrives.  Chino has remained friends with Sapo, a childhood friend that he grew up causing trouble with, and who is still involved with all of the neighborhoods shadiest characters.  Occasionally Chino does small favors for Sapo, such as holding onto packages for him.  Through Sapo, Chino is introduced to Willie Bodega, a real estate developer and drug dealer.  As a younger man, Bodega had been a street activist, but now he has plans to empower the Latinos of East Harlem with money.  He uses his drug money to buy condemned buildings from the city and renovate them, creating better, cheaper housing for the people of his neighborhood.  He also gives money to people of the neighborhood to better their own lives, putting them through school and buying them new clothes to help them find jobs.  His goal is to create a vibrant Latino neighborhood, where the people are wealthy and empowered; he wanted a Latino version of mid-town Manhattan.  However, he is also still in love with Veronica, his childhood sweetheart who had left him for a wealthy Cuban.  In a way, everything he does to build up his wealth and reputation is part of a scheme to get her back.  Veronica happens to be Blanca’s aunt, and so Bodega and his attorney, Nazario, draft Chino into their plans, since, as a married man with a baby on the way who is going to school, he provides a better image for their plans than the other street thugs that they often use, as well as a connection to Veronica.  Chino is hesitant to get involved, but does so for the sake making a better life for him and his family.  He soon realizes he is involved in more than he bargained for, when a reporter investigating Bodega winds up dead, and Chino suspects Sapo’s involvement in the murder.  As a rivalry between Bodega and a Jewish real estate developer intensifies, the risks become greater and the violence increases.  As Bodega’s plan to reunite with Veronica appears to be successful, he loses site of his goals for the neighborhood, and Chino realizes that he is in the middle of a much more complicated plot than he had imagined.

Subject Headings:  New York City – Harlem; Organized Crime; People – Latinos; Marriage

Appeal: Leisurely-paced, dangerous, dramatic, philosophical, well-developed characters, introspective, conclusive, violent, layered plot, urban, accessible language, dialect, gritty

Three terms that describe this book: Urban, Gritty, Cinematic

Relevant non-fiction works:

El Barrio – Spanish Harlem – East Harlem. New York.  by Tanya Ahmed (A documentary collection of photographs of the neighborhood where the novel takes place)

Pioneros: Puerto Ricans in New York City 1892-1948  by Felix V. Matos-Rodriguez (A history of Puerto Ricans in New York City, contextualizing the people of the novel and the history of the neighborhood)

New York City Gangland by Arthur Nash (A history of organized crime in New York City)

Relevant Fiction works:

Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas (A classic novel about growing up in Spanish Harlem as an immigrant in a time of dramatic social change)

Dark Dude by Oscar Hijuelos (The tale of a Cuban boy in 1960s Spanish Harlem, torn between worlds and identities)

The Godfather  by Mario Puzo (The classic novel about New York City organized crime)

Lee R. Sigman


June 23, 2010

Author: Sapphire

Title: Push

Genre: African-American Fiction

Publication Date: 1996

Number of Pages: 140 and 37 unnumbered pages

Geographical Setting: Harlem, New York City, New York

Time Period: 1991

Series: Not applicable

Plot Summary: Sixteen-year-old Claireece Precious Jones, who is pregnant with her second child after being raped by her father, yearns to escape the horrific home she shares with her abusive mother. Her first child, Mongo, born with Down’s Syndrome and other special needs, is in the care of her grandmother. Precious begins attending an alternative school after being asked to leave her previous school for threatening the principal. Although she is extremely low literate, Precious enjoys learning and dreams that she will be able to escape her mother and father through education. Her new teacher, Blue Rain, pushes Precious to write down her feelings and experiences in a journal. As Precious gains confidence in herself through her new friendships with other students and Ms. Rain, as well as her improved reading and writing skills, she is finally able to stand up to her mother and provide for her new son, Abdul. When Precious’ mother reappears with a horrifying secret that will forever change her life, Precious must use her newfound courage to continue her education and reach her goal of independence for Abdul. This book contains graphic language and sexually explicit descriptions that may offend some readers.

Subject Headings: Sixteen-year-old-girls – New York City; Incest; African-American teenage mothers; Incest victims’ mothers; Teacher-student relationships – New York City; African-Americans – New York City; Incest victims’ families; Single African-American mothers; Child abuse victims – New York City; Street life; New York City; African-American fiction – 20th century; Radical fiction; Urban fiction – 20th century

Appeal: steady, engrossing, hard-edged, moody, dramatic, well-drawn characters, strong language, character-centered, accurate setting, urban, dialect, and straightforward

3 Terms That Best Describe This Book: hard-edged, urban, and character-centered

Similar Authors and Works:


  • The Lost Children of Wilder: The Epic Struggle to Change Foster Care by Nina Berstein: An in-depth look at a thirteen-year-old abused child’s struggle against the foster care system that failed to keep her and her son safe; New York City setting
  • Mama’s girl by Veronica Chambers: An African-American girl growing up in an abusive home in New York City; hard-edged; character-centered
  • Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses by Paula McLain: An account of the author’s experiences growing up in foster care with her two sisters; straightforward; character-centered


  • Kendra by Coe Booth: A young African-American girl struggles with her mother’s abandonment as she is raised by her grandmother; hard-edged; urban setting; straightforward
  • Imani All Mine by Connie Porter: A young African-American teenage mother who was the victim of rape works hard to care for her baby while attending school; urban setting and dialect; frank storyline
  • Autobiography of a Family Photo by Jacqueline Woodson: The story of an African-American family living in Brooklyn in the 1970’s; character-centered; steady pacing

Name: Rebecca Dorsey