Latino Literature in America

By Bridget Kevane | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

The Fiction of Ernesto Quiñonez: Bodega Dreams (2000)

Ernesto Quiñonez was born in Ecuador and moved to New York when he was eighteen months old. His father is from Ecuador, his mother from Puerto Rico. Quiñonez’s parentage represents what reporter Juan Gonzalez terms the new Latino hybrid, that of Latinos in urban environments who intermarry and interact to create an even more complex culture (174). Quiñonez was raised in East Harlem, which is also called Spanish Harlem, or El Barrio, on the upper West Side of Manhattan. He attended the local public school and later studied writing at City College of New York. He published some short stories in Bomb magazine that would later be turned into his highly acclaimed first novel Bodega Dreams (2000). Quiñonez’s novel is a reaction against the concept that Latinos do not read and, thus, literature about them is not necessary. He also wrote this novel for the “thousands of Latinos like me, who either grew up in the United States or were born here” (“Behind the Books” 2). Quiñonez is currently at work on his second novel, while continuing his job as a bilingual fourth-grade teacher in New York.

Quiñonez’s goal in writing Bodega Dreams was to galvanize Latino readers to action. The author believes that “it is up to ordinary people to bring change because politicians won’t” (“Behind the Books” 3). Puerto Ricans on the mainland have been negatively affected by tremendous economic and social forces, racism, poverty, and violence, all of which have taken a toll on them and have stereotyped them as the bottom dwellers of the Latino immigrant hierarchy. Facing these bleak circumstances, Quiñonez wanted to write a novel in which he could demonstrate how young people, in particu-

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