"I could still hear my father singing with that raspy voice and trembling lips… memories of Cuba were a wound, and when he sang, he bled."

The product of a marriage between an exiled father of Cuban descent and a mother from the Dominican Republic, author Ellis’ parents met in 1966 New York City at a time when interracial relationships were still quite taboo. Even between Hispanics, depending on one’s national origin, some were deemed “too dark,” while others were viewed as “too light.” Ellis navigates with them their new American experience—along with all the usual trials and terrors of being a young girl from just about anywhere. She takes the reader along her journey from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. In search of herself and where she belongs along the spectrum of self-identification proves to be a balancing act. A daydreamer who finds refuge in stowing away in tight, small places (even the basement, with its addictive musty stink), Ellis would lose herself in writing and reading—particularly works of the great American poets.

Ellis has created in this compelling memoir an intimate, page-turning, coming-of-age narrative set against the backdrop of “the old ways,” wherein her previous generations find America’s freedom and opportunity to be quite literally a Godsend. Here in the States, even the realization that her family can walk into any store and buy anything they want or need seems at first unreal. She tells her tale with style, humor, grace, and wit. This gorgeously rendered memoir may force American readers to contemplate and perhaps reevaluate their own sense of optimism in the country in which they call home. Viewing life through the lenses of young Ellis and her large extended family—all with their delightfully unique idiosyncrasies—tends to put things into a healthy perspective.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Return to USR Home