Dominicana by Angie Cruz is a hauntingly realistic coming-of-age story about the immigrant experience. I read this one after recently finishing Infinite Country by Patricia Engel and found that both depict the immigrant experience in very different ways. I highly recommend reading both of them and, if you want to read some nonfiction, check out The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio. I cannot rave enough about these books and how important it is to understand from their perspective. In my opinion, if you are going to take a stance on immigration laws, you better have an understanding of what it is like being the person immigrating to the US.
At the young age of fifteen, Ana finds herself set to wed a much older man and move from her home country of Dominican Republic to New York City. Her marriage comes as an obligation with promises of a better life to her and her family. While living in the US, Ana discovers that the American Dream isn't all it's cracked up to be and neither is her marriage. She finds herself falling for her husband's younger brother and must decide between pursuing the chance at love or staying and upholding her familial obligations. Dominicana is a coming-of-age story about the immigrant experience that will have you rooting for Ana from the first page.
I love a good coming-of-age story and this one quickly found a way into my heart. Ana grapples with an unbearable hard choice: put herself first or put her family first. With her pre-arranged marriage and move to the US, her life is already plotted out for her. In exchange for her marriage, her family will secure land that will help with their future. So much is riding on young Ana's shoulders, the weight of it all must have been unbearable.
Dominicana is set in the 1960's and paints a landscape of New York City that is a sign of the times. She uses a false identity to enter the US and has to keep a low profile as to avoid deportation. I loved that Cruz wrapped actual moments of history into Ana's story, as to pull together the themes. Ana lives across the street from where Malcolm X is murdered. Each day, she is told not to leave their apartment, so she stares out the window at the people and buildings below. She sees the mourners and the protestors and relates to their pain. After becoming pregnant, her entire perspective changes and Ana will do anything to give her daughter the life she dreamt of.
Overall, Dominicana is a good read with flavors of the Dominican Republic and 1960's New York City (minus all the glamour.) It is a realistic story of the American Dream that so many set out to achieve. There's heartbreak, love, romance, pain, and much more. Ana is a beautiful character who you cannot help but root for. I highly recommend this one for fans of The Girl with the Longing Voice by Abi Dare.
"As God is my witness, my daughter will have choices."
"Like all men who don't want to see a woman cry, Cesar lies. But hearing it does bring me comfort."
"Their anger makes me nervous, but I understand it. To be angry and not have the power to control your life. To not feel safe. To depend on a person who reminds you how they can hurt you, even kill you, at their whim. I understood."
Other books to check out about the immigrant experience:
*click the title links to read my reviews
The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
Content warnings: domestic abuse, child marriage