Bodega Dreams: A Novel by Ernesto QuinonezBodega Dreams: A Novel by Ernesto Quinonez

Bodega Dreams: A Novel

byErnesto Quinonez

Paperback | March 14, 2000

Pricing and Purchase Info

$16.45 online 
$21.95 list price save 25%
Earn 82 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store

Quantity:

Ships within 1-2 weeks

Ships free on orders over $25

Available in stores

about

In a stunning narrative combining the gritty rhythms of Junot Diaz with the noir genius of Walter Mosley, Bodega Dreams pulls us into Spanish Harlem, where the word is out: Willie Bodega is king.  Need college tuition for your daughter?  Start-up funds for your fruit stand?  Bodega can help.  He gives everyone a leg up, in exchange only for loyalty—and a steady income from the drugs he pushes.

Lyrical, inspired, and darkly funny, this powerful debut novel brilliantly evokes the trial of Chino, a smart, promising young man to whom Bodega turns for a favor.  Chino is drawn to Bodega's street-smart idealism, but soon finds himself over his head, navigating an underworld of switchblade tempers, turncoat morality, and murder.
Ernesto Quiñonez is the author of two novels, Chango’s Fire and Bodega Dreams. He is on the faculty at Cornell University.

interview with the author

Q: You are part Puerto Rican, part Ecuadorian. You were raised in El Barrio by a communist father and a Jehovah’s Witness mother. How have issues of ethnicity and religion informed Bodega Dreams?

A: Ethnicity and religion are central to the Latino community’s that’s reflected in my book in a way that allows me to explore how they coexist in Spanish Harlem. In my family, my mother was the religious one, my father more political and existential. In Bodega Dreams you can see this in some of the characters: Blanca and Chino, for instance, play those roles, respectively.

Q: So, how much of your novel is autobiographical?

A: The first chapter, which explores the school years and early friendships of Chino growing up on the streets in Spanish Harlem, is very autobiographical. Chino paints "R.I.P."s--a kind of graffiti meant to memorialize people in the neighborhood who’ve died; I did that too when I was a kid. Growing up in Spanish Harlem, you learn that in order to not take a beating everyday, you have to fight sometimes. It’s better to hit back and get beaten up once or twice, then get picked on for the rest of your teens.

"Should I fight? How do I fight? Is there ever a just cause for violence?" These are some of the themes I wanted to explore in my book. But Chino isn’t really me, and the book is fiction, cut and paste stories, parts of me that are changed, diluted, built up, scattered all around, and--I hope--scenes that were true in the sense that novels are true.

Q: The character of Willie Bodega is your fictional creation, but some of the actual Young Lords make an appearance in the book, too. What first attracted you to write about the Young Lords?

A: As a little kid I remember seeing the Young Lords everywhere. They took it upon themselves to become school crossing guards. I remember being about five years old, and being led by the hand across the street by some of them. They seemed so strong and good to me then.

In the last chapter several of the Young Lords--Juan Gonzalez, Pablo Guzman, and Denise Oliver--make cameos. I wanted to write about the Young Lords not only because of how important they were to me ? but also to make sure that they will not be forgotten outside of the Latino community. They are part of our national lore, just like American cowboys.

Q: Willie Bodega is in many ways the heart of Bodega Dreams. At the start of the book, we discover that this drug dealer is a former Young Lord. Are you concerned that readers might find the portrayal of Bodega too sympathetic? Or that the book itself glorifies a drug lord?

A: I’m not, actually. I wanted to take on that question--of heroism, and the dark side of heroism, head on, and the way that seemed most relevant was though a figure like this.

There were two models for Willie Bodega, Jay Gatsby and Kurtz of Heart of Darkness. But that was what was in my head only and I hope I hid this well in the book.

Readers who say I’m glorifying a drug dealer may be the same readers who overlook how much Gatsby was romanticized by Fitzgerald. Like Gatsby, Bodega has broken the law; the difference is that Bodega is also renovating buildings, helping the community. I wanted to invoke some ambivalence in the figure of a street hero, a hero who isn’t just a hero, a villain who isn’t a villain, to look at both side of the coin, in the figure of one particular street lord, a guy who’s getting older and is seeing his dreams starting to tarnish.

Q: When you were writing this novel, did you have a specific audience in mind?

A: Yes, I did: the thousands of Latinos like me, who either grew up in the United States or were born here. I thought of the kids in my neighborhood, and the families there, too, and across the United States. There are many who still say: "Latinos don’t read." I don’t believe that for a minute. What happened is that, for a very long time, publishing didn’t do enough to create the market for them. The more mainstream houses didn’t bring out enough novels or nonfiction books that Latinos could relate to. Only now has the industry started to take notice that there is an audience--a diverse and eager market--for books that appeal to Latinos

Q: You have taught 4th grade in the South Bronx and you grew up in Spanish Harlem. How did your work in public schools inform Bodega Dreams? Has the Latino community changed since you were a child?

A: Teaching did help me in the form of what I didn’t want to write. I didn’t want to write a coming of age novel. I didn’t want to exploit my poverty either. But I did want to write a book from the place I knew. So as both a teacher and a writer, the questions I began to ask myself were, "I had to go through all this, why do these kids still have to go through it? Why aren’t their situations better? Why is it that we keep failing the residents of inner city ghettos? Have we made large strides in public housing, education and health?" Someone has to have a vision and try to change things. In Bodega Dreams it’s up to ordinary people to bring change because politicians won’t.

I taught for two years and my bilingual 4th graders were always getting Gym and not computer class; computer class was always reserved for the so-called "Gifted and Talented" classes. Third year, I had to see the Principal. "I let this happen for two years," I said, "now I want my kids to learn computers." He said that it was my job to teach them English. I had to fight tooth and nail for them to get a computer, period.

The inner city public schools are a constant battleground where small wars are waged daily just to get kids the tools they need to see past their circumstances. Change is going to come only if we make it happen. Frederick Douglass said, "Power will never be given to you. It will always have to be fought for and demanded." I think that now the Latin community is more aware of this, but it is still an uphill battle. Though we’ve made some progress, you are basically still talking about a population with very little wealth, one that’s outnumbered and outgunned.

Q: What writers have inspired you to write?

A: There are so many writers that I couldn’t name them all. Bodega Dreams is an homage to the Nuyorican poets of the 70’s: Lucky Cienfuegos with his rhythmic, "Rockefeller, Rockefeller, Genocide Genocide"; Miguel Pinero’s plays; Pedro Pietri’s "Puerto Rican Obituary"; Sandra Maria Estevez’ "My People Are All About Jam"; Shorty
Bon Bon, "Junky’s Heaven".

In high school I read Miguel Algarin’s Mongo Affair, (the 1975 Anthology) and was blown away. I did not realize we could say the things that Algarin had to say. In Bodega Dreams when you hear Sapo say, "like are you goin’ somewhere with this or just swimmin’’ laps?" you see the influence of the 70’s poets. In the last chapter, many of these poets even make cameos.

Q: Sandra Cisneros, Cristina Garcia, Abraham Rodriguez, Junot Diaz--Latino authors have gained a lot of attention within the last decade. What, in your view, needs to happen for that to continue in the future?

A: I think publishing has a golden opportunity to do what it did in the post war years of the 50’s and 60’s with Jewish literature, when you had Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Joseph Heller, Barnard Malamud, I. B. Singer, Henry Roth, all those heavyweights. No one in their right mind would think now of teaching American Literature without mentioning those writers, yet once they were considered the outcast. Now they are no longer classified as Jewish literature; instead they are "literature"--part of the canon.

Now Latino literature is poised to achieve the same recognition. The publishing world needs to continue to recognize our writers and the audience that exists for our stories, both in the Latino community and within the mainstream. Each time the industry gives another Latino writer exposure, they help open an entirely new market. Junot Diaz and Sandra Cisneros may prove to be our equivalent of Singer and Bellow; they are two heavyweights about to be permanently crowned. And they are just the beginning.

Q: What is your next project?

A: I’m working on another novel. The same way the word Bodega is now woven into the vernacular, I’d like the word Botanica to be as well. The Botanica is a place to seek advice and buy oils, healing balms, religious artifacts, things like that.

My next book explores AIDS in Spanish Harlem. AIDS is one of the leading killers in the community. We have one of the highest infection rates in the nation, like one out of twenty-five. And increasingly, many of the people dying are women. Why? Sexism. Latin men don’t like to wear condoms and they need to get beyond that. But that’s only part of the solution. Women have to be given more power, and some laws and cultural customs will have to change, machismo will have to be obliterated.

La Botanica is central to my next book, because it is a meeting point of getting well, seeking comfort and support. I try to make everyone understand that to reach our full potential as a people, men and women alike will have to come together for freedom, rights and equality.

When I was writing Bodega Dreams, I concentrated on the idea of bettering yourself within bleak circumstances. That’s where I hope the true romance of the book will be for most readers. And that’s a feeling I want to return to, but in a different way, in my next book. I hope I can pull it off and still tell a good story.

Loading
Title:Bodega Dreams: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 8.01 × 5.15 × 0.66 inPublished:March 14, 2000Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0375705899

ISBN - 13:9780375705892

Reviews

Read from the Book

ROUND 1 Spanish for “Toad”   Sapo was different.   Sapo was always Sapo, and no one messed with him because he had a reputation for biting. "When I'm in a fight," Sapo would spit, "whass close to my mouth is mine by right and my teeth ain't no fucken pawnshop."   I loved Sapo. I loved Sapo because he loved himself. And I wanted to be able to do that, to rely on myself for my own happiness.   Sapo, he relied on himself. He'd been this way since we met back in the fourth grade when he threw a book at Lisa Rivera's face because she had started to make fun of his looks by calling out, "ribbit, ribbit." But in truth, Sapo did look like a toad. He was strong, squatty, with a huge mouth framed by fat lips, freaking bembas that could almost swallow you. His eyes bulged in their sockets and when he laughed there was no denying the resemblance. It was like one huge, happy toad laughing right in front of you.   As far back as I could remember Sapo had always been called Sapo and no one called him by his real name, Enrique. Usually Enriques are nicknamed Kiko or Kique. But Sapo didn't look like an Enrique anyway, whatever an Enrique is supposed to look like. Sapo could only be Sapo. And that's what everyone called him. It was rumored around the neighborhood that when Sapo came out, the nurses cleaned him up and brought him over to his father. His father saw the baby and said, "Coño, he looks like a frog," and quickly handed the baby to the mother. "Here, you take him." I think this story is true. But Sapo never bitched, as if he had said, "Fuck that shit. I'll love myself." And that's how I wanted to be.   To have a name other than the one your parents had given you meant you had status in school, had status on your block. You were somebody. If anyone called you by your real name you were un mamao, a useless, meaningless thing. It meant that you hadn't proved yourself, it was open season for anybody who wanted to kick your ass. It was Sapo who taught me that it didn't matter if you lost the fight, only that you never backed down. The more guys that saw you lose fights without ever backing down, the better. This didn't mean you were home free, it simply meant bigger guys would think twice before starting something with you.   Getting a name meant I had to fight. There was no way out of it. I got beat up a few times, but I never backed down. "You back down once," Sapo had told me, "and you'll be backin' down f’ the res' of your life. It's a Timex world, everyone takes a lickin' but you got to keep on tickin', Know what I'm sayin', papi?" Sapo was one of those guys who went around beating other kids up, but Sapo was different. Sapo loved himself. He didn't need teachers or anyone else telling him this. The meanest and ugliest kid on the block loved himself and not only that, he was my pana, my friend. This gave me hope, and getting a name seemed possible. So I decided that I no longer wanted to be called by the name my parents had given me, Julio. I wanted a name like Sapo had and so I looked for fights.   It was always easy to get into fights if you hated yourself. So what if you fought a guy bigger than you who would kick your ass? So what if you got stabbed with a 007 in the back and never walked again? So what if someone broke your nose in a fight? You were ugly anyway. Your life meant shit from the start. It was as if you had given up on the war and decided to charge the tanks with your bare fists. Nothing brave in it, you just didn't give a shit anymore. It was easy to be big and bad when you hated your life and felt meaningless. You lived in projects with pissed-up elevators, junkies on the stairs, posters of the rapist of the month, and whores you never knew were whores until you saw men go in and out of their apartments like through revolving doors. You lived in a place where vacant lots grew like wild grass does in Kansas. Kansas? What does a kid from Spanish Harlem know about Kansas? All you knew was that one day a block would have people, the next day it would be erased by a fire. The burned-down buildings would then house junkies who made them into shooting galleries or become playgrounds for kids like me and Sapo to explore. After a few months, the City of New York would send a crane with a ball and chain to wreck the gutted tenements. A few weeks later a bulldozer would arrive and tum the block into a vacant lot. The vacant lot would now become a graveyard for stolen cars. Sapo and I played in those cars with no doors, tires, windows, or steering wheels, where mice had made their nests inside the slashed seats. Sapo loved killing the little mice in different ways. I liked to take a big piece of glass and tear open what was left of the seat. I always hoped to find something the car thieves had hidden inside but had forgotten to take when they ditched the car. But I never found anything except foam and sometimes more mice.   Fires, junkies dying, shootouts, holdups, babies falling out of windows were things you took as part of life. If you were a graffiti artist and people knew you were a good one, death meant an opportunity to make a few bucks. Someone close to the deceased, usually a woman, would knock on your door. "Mira, my cousin Freddy just passed away. Can you do him a R.I.P.?" You would bemoan Freddy's death whether you knew him or not, say you were sorry and ask what had happened, like you really cared. "Freddy? Freddy was shot by mistake. He wasn't stealin' not' en." You'd nod and then ask the person on what wall she wanted the R.I.P. and what to paint on it. "On the wall of P.S. 101's schoolyard. The back wall. The one that faces 111th Street. Freddy would hang there all night. I want it to say, 'Freddy the best of 109th Street, R.I.P.' And then I want the flag of Borinquen and a big conga with Freddy's face on it, can you paint that?" You would say, "Yeah, I can paint that" and never ask for the money up front, because then you wouldn't get tipped.   I painted dozens of R.I.P.s for guys in El Barrio who felt small and needed something violent to jump-start their lives and at the same time end them. It was guys like these who on any given day were looking to beat someone up, so it was up to me to either become like them or get the shit kicked out of me.   Junior High School 99 (aka Jailhouse 99), on 100th Street and First Avenue, became the outlet I needed. It was violently perfect and in constant turmoil within itself. It was a school that was divided by two powers, the white teachers and the Hispanic teachers. The white teachers had most of the power because they had seniority. They had been teaching before the chancellor of the Board of Education finally realized that the school was located in Spanish Harlem and practically all of the students were Latinos, and so changed the school's name from Margaret Knox to Julia de Burgos.   To the white teachers we were all going to end up delinquents. "I get paid whether you learn or not," they would tell us. So we figured, hey, I ain't stealing food from your kid's mouth, why should I do my work? The whole time I was at Julia de Burgos, I had no idea the school was named after Puerto Rico's greatest poet, had no idea Julia de Burgos had emigrated to New York City and lived in poverty while she wrote beautiful verses. She lived in EI Barrio and had died on the street. But we weren't taught about her or any other Latin American poets, for that matter. As for history, we knew more about Italy than our own Latin American countries. To Mr. Varatollo, the social studies teacher, everything was Italy this, Italy that, Italy, Italy, Italy. Didn't he know the history of the neighborhood? Hadn't he ever seen West Side Story? We hated Italians. At least that part of West Side Story was correct. Some Italians from the old days of the fifties and sixties were still around. They lived on Pleasant Avenue off 116th Street, and if you were caught around there at night you'd better have been a light-skinned Latino so you could pass yourself off as Italian.   So, since we were almost convinced that our race had no culture, no smart people, we behaved even worse. It made us fight and throw books at one another, sell loose joints on the stairways, talk back to teachers, and leave classrooms whenever we wanted to. We hated the white teachers because we knew they hated their jobs. The only white teacher who actually taught us something, actually went through the hassle of making us respect her by never taking shit from us, was the math teacher, Ms. Boorstein. She once went toe-to-toe with Sapo. He was about to walk out of her classroom because he was bored, and she said to him, "Enrique, sit back down!" Sapo kept walking and she ran toward the door and blocked his path. She dared him to push her. She said to him, "I'll get your mother. I bet she hits harder." And Sapo had no choice but to go back to his seat. From that day on, no one messed with her. She might have been Jewish, but to us she was still white. Ms. Boorstein could yell like a Latin woman. To us she was always "that bitch." But we knew she cared, for the simple reason that she never called us names; she would yell but never call us names. She only wanted us to listen, and when we did well on her math tests she was all smiles.   The Hispanic teachers, on the other hand, saw themselves in our eyes and made us work hard. Most of them were young, the sons and daughters of the first wave of Puerto Ricans who immigrated to EI Barrio in the late forties and the fifties. These teachers never took shit from us (especially Sapo), and they were not afraid to curse in class: "Mira, sit down or I'll kick your ass down." At times they spoke to us harshly, as if they were our parents. This somehow made us fear and listen to them. They were not Puerto Ricans who danced in empty streets, snapping their fingers and twirling their bodies. Nor were they violent, with switchblade tempers. None of them were named Maria, Bernardo, or Anita. These teachers simply taught us that our complexion was made up of many continents, Africa, Europe, and Asia. To them our self-respect was more important than passing some test, because you can't pass a test if you already feel defeated. But the Hispanic teachers had very little say in how things were run in that school. Most of them had just graduated from a city university and couldn't rock the boat. Any boat.

Bookclub Guide

Q: You are part Puerto Rican, part Ecuadorian. You were raised in El Barrio by a communist father and a Jehovah’s Witness mother. How have issues of ethnicity and religion informed Bodega Dreams?A: Ethnicity and religion are central to the Latino community’s that’s reflected in my book in a way that allows me to explore how they coexist in Spanish Harlem. In my family, my mother was the religious one, my father more political and existential. In Bodega Dreams you can see this in some of the characters: Blanca and Chino, for instance, play those roles, respectively.Q: So, how much of your novel is autobiographical?A: The first chapter, which explores the school years and early friendships of Chino growing up on the streets in Spanish Harlem, is very autobiographical. Chino paints "R.I.P."s--a kind of graffiti meant to memorialize people in the neighborhood who’ve died; I did that too when I was a kid. Growing up in Spanish Harlem, you learn that in order to not take a beating everyday, you have to fight sometimes. It’s better to hit back and get beaten up once or twice, then get picked on for the rest of your teens. "Should I fight? How do I fight? Is there ever a just cause for violence?" These are some of the themes I wanted to explore in my book. But Chino isn’t really me, and the book is fiction, cut and paste stories, parts of me that are changed, diluted, built up, scattered all around, and--I hope--scenes that were true in the sense that novels are true.Q: The character of Willie Bodega is your fictional creation, but some of the actual Young Lords make an appearance in the book, too. What first attracted you to write about the Young Lords?A: As a little kid I remember seeing the Young Lords everywhere. They took it upon themselves to become school crossing guards. I remember being about five years old, and being led by the hand across the street by some of them. They seemed so strong and good to me then. In the last chapter several of the Young Lords--Juan Gonzalez, Pablo Guzman, and Denise Oliver--make cameos. I wanted to write about the Young Lords not only because of how important they were to me ? but also to make sure that they will not be forgotten outside of the Latino community. They are part of our national lore, just like American cowboys.Q: Willie Bodega is in many ways the heart of Bodega Dreams. At the start of the book, we discover that this drug dealer is a former Young Lord. Are you concerned that readers might find the portrayal of Bodega too sympathetic? Or that the book itself glorifies a drug lord?A: I’m not, actually. I wanted to take on that question--of heroism, and the dark side of heroism, head on, and the way that seemed most relevant was though a figure like this. There were two models for Willie Bodega, Jay Gatsby and Kurtz of Heart of Darkness. But that was what was in my head only and I hope I hid this well in the book. Readers who say I’m glorifying a drug dealer may be the same readers who overlook how much Gatsby was romanticized by Fitzgerald. Like Gatsby, Bodega has broken the law; the difference is that Bodega is also renovating buildings, helping the community. I wanted to invoke some ambivalence in the figure of a street hero, a hero who isn’t just a hero, a villain who isn’t a villain, to look at both side of the coin, in the figure of one particular street lord, a guy who’s getting older and is seeing his dreams starting to tarnish.Q: When you were writing this novel, did you have a specific audience in mind?A: Yes, I did: the thousands of Latinos like me, who either grew up in the United States or were born here. I thought of the kids in my neighborhood, and the families there, too, and across the United States. There are many who still say: "Latinos don’t read." I don’t believe that for a minute. What happened is that, for a very long time, publishing didn’t do enough to create the market for them. The more mainstream houses didn’t bring out enough novels or nonfiction books that Latinos could relate to. Only now has the industry started to take notice that there is an audience--a diverse and eager market--for books that appeal to LatinosQ: You have taught 4th grade in the South Bronx and you grew up in Spanish Harlem. How did your work in public schools inform Bodega Dreams? Has the Latino community changed since you were a child?A: Teaching did help me in the form of what I didn’t want to write. I didn’t want to write a coming of age novel. I didn’t want to exploit my poverty either. But I did want to write a book from the place I knew. So as both a teacher and a writer, the questions I began to ask myself were, "I had to go through all this, why do these kids still have to go through it? Why aren’t their situations better? Why is it that we keep failing the residents of inner city ghettos? Have we made large strides in public housing, education and health?" Someone has to have a vision and try to change things. In Bodega Dreams it’s up to ordinary people to bring change because politicians won’t. I taught for two years and my bilingual 4th graders were always getting Gym and not computer class; computer class was always reserved for the so-called "Gifted and Talented" classes. Third year, I had to see the Principal. "I let this happen for two years," I said, "now I want my kids to learn computers." He said that it was my job to teach them English. I had to fight tooth and nail for them to get a computer, period.The inner city public schools are a constant battleground where small wars are waged daily just to get kids the tools they need to see past their circumstances. Change is going to come only if we make it happen. Frederick Douglass said, "Power will never be given to you. It will always have to be fought for and demanded." I think that now the Latin community is more aware of this, but it is still an uphill battle. Though we’ve made some progress, you are basically still talking about a population with very little wealth, one that’s outnumbered and outgunned.Q: What writers have inspired you to write?A: There are so many writers that I couldn’t name them all. Bodega Dreams is an homage to the Nuyorican poets of the 70’s: Lucky Cienfuegos with his rhythmic, "Rockefeller, Rockefeller, Genocide Genocide"; Miguel Pinero’s plays; Pedro Pietri’s "Puerto Rican Obituary"; Sandra Maria Estevez’ "My People Are All About Jam"; ShortyBon Bon, "Junky’s Heaven".In high school I read Miguel Algarin’s Mongo Affair, (the 1975 Anthology) and was blown away. I did not realize we could say the things that Algarin had to say. In Bodega Dreams when you hear Sapo say, "like are you goin’ somewhere with this or just swimmin’’ laps?" you see the influence of the 70’s poets. In the last chapter, many of these poets even make cameos.Q: Sandra Cisneros, Cristina Garcia, Abraham Rodriguez, Junot Diaz--Latino authors have gained a lot of attention within the last decade. What, in your view, needs to happen for that to continue in the future?A: I think publishing has a golden opportunity to do what it did in the post war years of the 50’s and 60’s with Jewish literature, when you had Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Joseph Heller, Barnard Malamud, I. B. Singer, Henry Roth, all those heavyweights. No one in their right mind would think now of teaching American Literature without mentioning those writers, yet once they were considered the outcast. Now they are no longer classified as Jewish literature; instead they are "literature"--part of the canon. Now Latino literature is poised to achieve the same recognition. The publishing world needs to continue to recognize our writers and the audience that exists for our stories, both in the Latino community and within the mainstream. Each time the industry gives another Latino writer exposure, they help open an entirely new market. Junot Diaz and Sandra Cisneros may prove to be our equivalent of Singer and Bellow; they are two heavyweights about to be permanently crowned. And they are just the beginning.Q: What is your next project?A: I’m working on another novel. The same way the word Bodega is now woven into the vernacular, I’d like the word Botanica to be as well. The Botanica is a place to seek advice and buy oils, healing balms, religious artifacts, things like that. My next book explores AIDS in Spanish Harlem. AIDS is one of the leading killers in the community. We have one of the highest infection rates in the nation, like one out of twenty-five. And increasingly, many of the people dying are women. Why? Sexism. Latin men don’t like to wear condoms and they need to get beyond that. But that’s only part of the solution. Women have to be given more power, and some laws and cultural customs will have to change, machismo will have to be obliterated. La Botanica is central to my next book, because it is a meeting point of getting well, seeking comfort and support. I try to make everyone understand that to reach our full potential as a people, men and women alike will have to come together for freedom, rights and equality. When I was writing Bodega Dreams, I concentrated on the idea of bettering yourself within bleak circumstances. That’s where I hope the true romance of the book will be for most readers. And that’s a feeling I want to return to, but in a different way, in my next book. I hope I can pull it off and still tell a good story.

From Our Editors

In Spanish Harlem, Willy Bodega is king. He`s a man with money, willing to help you make your dreams come true whether you need college tuition for your daughter or start-up funds for your fruit stand. Just offer him your loyalty... and buy the drugs he pushes. Chino is a smart young man with a bright future. Bodega turns to him for a favour. Drawn to Bodega`s street-smart philosophy, Chino soon finds himself in too deep in a murderous underworld. Ernesto Quinonez makes his stunning debut in the lyrical, darkly amusing and powerful Bodega Dreams.  

Editorial Reviews

"Bodega is a fascinating character. . . . The story [Quiñonez] tells has energy and verve." —The New York Times Book Review"Rich with eye-opening detail, [this is] a lively and entertaining work by a young writer whose talents are deserving of a wide readership."  —Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love"A new and authentic voice of the urban Latino experience." —Esmeralda Santiago, author of When I Was Puerto Rican"[Quiñonez's] ideas for using fiction to galvanize the city into confronting poverty are invigorating. . . . Blend[s] street-smart dialogue, culturally relevant prose, and progressive politics into a noir thriller with literary merit." —Time Out New York