Xochitl Gonzalez | Puerto Rico
This book taught me a valuable lesson about the power of patience and the necessity as a reader to allow myself to meet authors where they are and not try to get their creativity to conform to my comfort. Although as an avid reader I loathe to have my time wasted on books that don’t grab me in the first few chapters, this time I really needed to just keep reading. That was the case with Olga Dies Dreaming.
A business-savvy wedding planner and her Congressman brother are the main protagonists in a heavily gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood of Puerto Rican immigrants. Olga and Prieto are individually striving to live the American dream, but they collectively have a main emotional obstacle: their mother abandoned them as children to be a freedom-fighter in Puerto Rico. Her twenty-plus year absence has deeply affected them, during which time she periodically writes them letters expressing her support or disdain of their life decisions that she always ties to the greed of America. It’s always political for Blanca!
Wade deeper into this narrative and you’ll unveil not just the complex relationship they have with their mother, but the more identity-defining search that begins with questioning: how does one prioritize loyalty? Whose dreams take precedence when you’re standing on the backs of people who are continuously exploited? When is it ok to declare: I will not entertain this manipulation, especially not from my mother.
Gonzalez skillfully balances political corruption, romantic exploration, sexual revelation, gentrification, historical narration and more into this book. She coves many topics that at times can feel like a bit of a rabbit hole effect, but I feel the story telling is engaging enough for this to not be much of a hindrance. But the strongest aspects are her complex main characters and the way she delves into the history, culture, and exploitation of the Puerto Rican people.
Although the beginning felt slow for me, I loved this book and the themes it covers and the characters who are so complicated and human. I highly recommend this one.
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