The things we didn't know

Elba Iris Pérez

Book - 2024

In the 1950s, 9-year-old Andrea Rodriguez and her brother leave Woronoco, Massachusetts, for the mountain villages of Puerto Rico and then, months later, are brought back to the tiny factory town where everything has changed and must navigate the rifts between their family's values and all-American culture as they journey into adulthood.

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FICTION/Perez Elba
0 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
1st Floor New Shelf FICTION/Perez Elba (NEW SHELF) Due Jun 4, 2024
New York : Gallery Books 2024.
Main Author
Elba Iris Pérez (author)
First Gallery Books hardcover edition
Physical Description
307 pages ; 24 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Andrea Rodríguez has had a tough life. She tells her story in Pérez's debut novel, starting with the moment her mother tries to escape their company town by very nearly driving Andrea's dad's car off a cliff. Luis moved his family to the small town of Woronoco, Massachusetts, following the 1950s promise of prosperity. At that time and in that place, Mr. Rodríguez's pursuit of the American dream signifies an alienating pesadilla (nightmare) for Mrs. Rodríguez, making her a desperate woman. Her escape to Puerto Rico with Andrea and her brother, Pablo, will simmer throughout the rest of their childhood. Andrea's frank, unfiltered voice marches in a straightforward, chronological progression as steadily through neglect and victimization as through triumph and joy. Her clear-eyed point of view observes the sexism, racism, and homophobia of the era in an engaging tale that dances with family and neighborhood drama. Frustrated with the unfairness of her treatment, Andrea soldiers on until her father's prejudices jeopardize her chance at marital bliss when she declares, "enough!"

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Perez's rich English-language debut novel (after the nonfiction title El teatro como bandera) chronicles a girl's 1960s upbringing in an isolated Massachusetts suburb with her strict Puerto Rican parents: Luis, a factory worker, and Raquel, a housewife who feels homesick and trapped. When Andrea Rodriguez is almost nine and her brother seven, their mother kidnaps them and takes them to Puerto Rico, where she abandons them with an aunt they've never met. Titi Machi unapologetically wears men's clothing despite transphobic relatives back in Massachusetts, and she nurtures the love-starved siblings by tenderly braiding Andrea's hair, ironing their school uniforms, and comforting them over their mother's neglect. Almost a year later, Luis retrieves them. As a teen back in Massachusetts, Andrea's forced to stay after school with an abusive aunt who guards her chastity. Perez viscerally portrays the children's longing for their mother, which makes their resilience all the more affecting as Andrea draws on the example of Machi and others to break out of a cloistered life like her mother's and make her own path. Perez proves to be a natural storyteller. Agent: Laurie Liss, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Feb.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Caught between two worlds, a girl born in Puerto Rico struggles to find her place in 1950s and '60s America. Though Andrea Rodríguez and her little brother, Pablo, were born in Puerto Rico, all they know is the company town of Woronoco, Massachusetts, their home since they were babies. In 1954, their father, Luis José, sent for the family after finding work at a paper mill. Over the years, their mother, Raquel, comes to regret the move, resenting Woronoco's remoteness and mourning her alienation from her sisters, cultural traditions, and mother tongue. On the first day of summer vacation after Andrea finishes third grade, Raquel flees to Puerto Rico with the children, her second escape attempt. (The first was foiled by her inability to drive.) Andrea and Pablo are forced to adapt to a new climate, new status quo, and new prejudices. Once again, they're considered strangers in a strange land. Meanwhile, their mother seems to lose interest in them, failing to enroll them in school and ditching them with their aunts to pal around with an old flame. Whiplash results when their father shows up out of the blue and whisks them back to Massachusetts. Upon returning to Woronoco, Andrea and Pablo must simultaneously readjust to American culture and the English language and navigate the standard growing pains of tween- and teendom. Their father's casual racism and conservative opinions cause increasing friction, culminating in a moment that overshadows Andrea's life for eight years. Author Pérez does an exceptional job of telling a story from a child's perspective, especially in the first half of the book; Andrea's gradual loss of trust in her mother strikes a particularly poignant note. As the siblings' time in Puerto Rico recedes and they hurtle toward adolescence and then adulthood, the narrative falters somewhat, feeling more rushed and containing less of the rich background that made the initial chapters so compelling. A coming-of-age tale that beautifully evokes the contrasting environments of Puerto Rico and Massachusetts. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.