High Spirits

Levine Querido. Apr. 2022. 224p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781646141296.
Gr 10 Up–In this debut collection of 11 interrelated yet stand-alone stories, the Afro-Latino Dominican American experience is center stage, a breath of fresh, saltwater air to all readers and a mirror to island-hopping teenagers in the United States with strong ties to their extended families in the Dominican Republic. The collection starts with a visual family tree spanning four generations. Some stories are set in northeastern U.S., but most are set in Hidalpa, a small, fictional coastal town near the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The first story features Gabriel, who suffers from a fit of memory rather than forgetfulness, remembering spilling the habichuelas at his grandmother Mabel Belen’s house while in therapy in the U.S. Contradictions prevail with cousins partying hard and remembering church, arguments about islander racism and sexism, the cruelty of older generation husbands, and younger brothers in tow on dates. When his mother finds marijuana in his room, Franklyn is sent from NYC to the island to Tía Lupe’s, where he is made a servant but helps his cousin avoid date rape. Memory pervades the collection with all the vicissitudes of global identity-making, including interminable waits on visas. Expect both realism with full phrases of authentic Dominican Spanish, and full-force magic realism with the past ever-present. The last story ties the collection together with La Doña Belen’s recounting of family history, with just a hint of sweet fiction.
VERDICT A must-buy for libraries serving older teens.

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