cover image Dispatches from Puerto Nowhere: An American Story of Assimilation and Erasure

Dispatches from Puerto Nowhere: An American Story of Assimilation and Erasure

Robert Lopez. Two Dollar Radio, $24.95 (280p) ISBN 978-1-953387-24-0

In this inventive memoir, Lopez (Kamby Bolongo Mean River) examines his blurry lineage in short, episodic bursts. When Lopez’s grandfather left Puerto Rico for Brooklyn in the 1920s, he and his young family assimilated to American culture, leaving Lopez with little information about their history when he was born five decades later: “What I don’t know about my family is almost everything. A permanent amnesia, local and global.” Instead, Lopez built a community among a diverse group of fellow tennis players, making his way across the tennis courts of a Brooklyn that would have been unrecognizable to his grandfather. To fill in the gaps of his history, Lopez muses about how his family might have turned out had they resisted assimilation and imagines his grandfather’s life in the early 20th century, populating a fictional “Puerto Nowhere” with his conclusions (“Puerto Nowhere is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and extends as far north as Canada and south to Chile. The eastern and western borders are boundless”). He also uses that imaginary setting to dissect the ways immigration, gentrification, and policy have transformed real-life Brooklyn over the last century. Throughout, Lopez is candid and funny, a winning guide through his individual history and a thoughtful examiner of more complicated diasporas. This will resonate with anyone who’s ever had to dig through their own past. (Mar.)