Post number eighteen is for Judith Ortiz Cofer’s An Island Like You, which was another required reading assignment for my YA Lit course. This book is made up of some interconnecting short stories featuring teens growing up in New Jersey. They are all of Puerto Rican decent, some with Grandparents still living on “the island” and others whose parents immigrated from Puerto Rico. The neighborhood they live in is called “the Barrio”.
Slight spoilerish thoughts below.
I think the story I enjoyed the most was the one about Teresa, who rather than attending the public high school goes to a private school. She gets a summer job working at a pool about 45 minutes from the Barrio, mostly because she wants to spend her days ogling Bob Dylan, a senior from her school who – yep! – is named after the singer of the same name. The other one I enjoyed was the last story in the book, told from Doris’ pov (who we meet in an earlier story), about the Barrio’s feelings on outsiders and people who don’t fit in to their “norm”. That one had a few passages that I felt were really done, so I’m going to share a couple of them.
I tried to imagine what it must’ve been like for him at the end. Without his family to comfort him. Someone should’ve said I love you in Spanish to him, to remind him that he had been born a Puerto Rican, a barrio kid like us. (pg. 234)
But he looked like he was drowning or something, and he seemed to think I could help him. I’ve never even learned to swim, is what I wanted to tell him. But he had tears in his eyes. So I just let him talk. (pg. 225)
And Doris, now that you have decided not to be invisible all the time, maybe you can keep the others from fading away, too… (pg. 211)
This wasn’t the best book ever or anything, but I felt that the description was probably some of the best I’ve read in a long time. There were some truly touching moments throughout, and I really liked how you’d be introduced to someone initially from someone else’s pov, and then get to see inside their own heads when you read the short story from their pov. It really helped you get to know everyone in a way that you wouldn’t if you were only reading from one person’s pov the entire time. Anyway, not a bad way to spend a couple of hours!