cover image The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood

The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood

Richard Blanco. Ecco, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-0623-1376-8

Growing up in the 1970s in a Cuban-American community in Miami, poet Blanco was besieged by his exiled relatives’ nostalgia for the life they had left behind in Cuba in the 1960s; yet he also yearned for a American identity free from the immigrant experience. In seven chapters Blanco moves through the milestones of his adolescence living with his mother, father, older brother, Carlos (“Caco”), and grandparents, specifically his overbearing abuela, who had saved enough money working as a bookie in New York City for the family to move to a new house with a terra-cotta roof and lawn in the Westchester suburb of Miami—pronounced “Guechesta.” In the first chapter, “The First Real San Giving Day,” young Ricardo accompanied his abuela to help buy the chicken specials at the Winn-Dixie, a gringo store she highly suspected (“We don’t belong here”); yet her grandson gradually won her over to the American selections such as Easy Cheese and even engineered a Thanksgiving feast for the family that was as foreign as it was instructive. Being chosen as the companion for lovely Deycita’s quinceañera ball made Blanco, however, begin to wonder whether he liked girls at all, confirmed by his first dreamy crush on the former Cuban prisoner and new hire at the bodega where he worked for many summers, El Cocuyito (“The Firefly”). Blanco has a natural, unforced style that allows his characters’ vibrancy and humor to shine through. (Oct.)