Eldorado in East Harlem

Victor Rodriguez, Author Arte Publico Press $9.5 (156p) ISBN 978-1-55885-054-5
Rene Gomez is 17 and poor in East Harlem during the summer and fall of 1960. Confronted with a dead-end life, he follows various chimeras in search of success and escape, much the way the early conquistadors searched for Eldorado, the mythic City of Gold. Unfortunately, as promising as the premise is, first-novelist Rodriguez's execution is flawed. After surviving as a basically good kid for 17 years, Rene suddenly, in a few weeks, loses his virginity, tries marijuana, and becomes a drug runner and a petty thief while retaining his appealing naivete. Moreover, the series of coincidences--Rene's first burglary is a mile away from his house but the victim later meets his mother and becomes the first serious suitor she has had in years--requires an impossible suspension of disbelief, as even the author seems to realize when he has Fernando, the suitor, show up at a propitious moment only to ask, ``Surprised to see me here?'' Finally, there are broad narrative gaps: Fernando, for instance, is supposedly a broke sailor when he first appears, yet is later revealed as a drug lord who sends Rene to collect thousands in cash. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
Genre: Fiction
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