cover image Esperanza Street

Esperanza Street

Niyati Keni. Other Stories (, $15.95 trade paper (326p) ISBN 978-1-908276-48-3

The pungent smells, sounds, and flavors of Esperanza Street stand out from the spare and slow-to-unfold plot in Keni’s debut. Set in Puerto, a bustling mercantile port town in the Philippines on the cusp of upheaval, the novel shadows a meek, motherless houseboy, Joseph, as he evolves from running errands for others at his once-wealthy Aunt Mary’s boarding house into an independent young man with a home of his own. Aunt Mary’s handsome son, Dub, undergoes a different sort of transformation when he falls in too deep with a flush and untouchable real estate developer’s mistress, who soon becomes pregnant (though the identity of the baby’s father remains a mystery). What takes readers’ attention beyond each characters’ mundane particulars is Keni’s vivid portrayal of a crumbling yet vibrant barrio: her setting is defenseless against inevitable progress, wherein moneyed landowners win out and lowly merchants, fishmongers, and jetty laborers are displaced to make way for a luxury shopping mall and sprawling parking garage. It’s the fight between those who support the town’s revitalization and those who rally against it despite the risks that turns pages. [em](Feb.) [/em]