'Dominicana': A refreshing Summer read with a Latino flavor
Angie Cruz’s most popular novel tells the immigrant experience of a young Dominican woman who gets married and moves to New York City expecting a better life.
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Fifteen-year-old Ana Cancion never dreamed of moving to America, the way the girls she grew up with in the Dominican countryside did. But when Juan Ruiz proposes and promises to take her to New York City, she has to say yes. It doesn’t matter that he is twice her age, that there is no love between them. Their marriage is an opportunity for her entire close-knit family to eventually emigrate. So on New Year’s Day, 1965, Ana leaves behind everything she knows and becomes Ana Ruiz, a wife confined to a cold six-floor walk-up in Washington Heights.
Angie Cruz’s most famous novel, Dominicana (available both in English and Spanish) reflects the immigrant experience of a young woman of color from the Dominican countryside who gets married and moves to New York City expecting a better life.
However, Ana will find herself lonely and miserable, so she hatches a reckless plan to escape. But at the bus terminal, she is stopped by Cesar, Juan’s free-spirited younger brother, who convinces her to stay.
As the Dominican Republic slides into political turmoil, Juan returns to protect his family’s assets, leaving Cesar to take care of Ana. Suddenly, Ana is free to take English lessons at a local church, lie on the beach at Coney Island, see a movie at Radio City Music Hall, go dancing with Cesar, and imagine the possibility of a different kind of life in America. When Juan returns, Ana must decide once again between her heart and her duty to her family.
In bright, musical prose that reflects the energy of New York City, Cruz's Dominicana is a vital portrait of the immigrant experience and the timeless coming-of-age story of a young woman finding her voice in the world.
"One never knows the work a book will do. But to learn and know that readers are reading Dominicana with their families, that difficult conversations inside of the home regarding domestic violence and colorism have been prompted across generations, has renewed my faith in the work books can do," the author said in an interview with LA Times Review of Books. "Novels brought me solace and raised my consciousness, so it’s wonderful to think that Dominicana can create a shift in the heart and offer more compassion or even action toward women who are facing similar challenges as Ana."
Cruz is a New York-born Dominicana who traveled to and from NYC to D.R. for most of her formative years. Her first novel, Soledad (2001) and second novel, Let It Rain Coffee (2005) were both published by Simon & Schuster. Dominicana was published in the Fall of 2019 with Flatiron Books, and was inspired by her mother's arrival story. To research for the novel, Cruz scoured many photo albums and this inspired a digital photo archive on Instagram: @dominicanasnyc.
Her fourth novel, How Not To Drown in A Glass of Water is forthcoming in the Fall of 2022.
The novel tells the story of Cara Romero, a Latino woman who thought she would work at the factory of little lamps for the rest of her life. But when, in her mid-50s, she loses her job in the Great Recession, she is forced back into the job market for the first time in decades. Set up with a job counselor, Cara instead begins to narrate the story of her life. Over the course of 12 sessions, Cara recounts her tempestuous love affairs, her alternately biting and loving relationships with her neighbor Lulu and her sister Angela, her struggles with debt, gentrification and loss, and, eventually, what really happened between her and her estranged son, Fernando. As Cara confronts her darkest secrets and regrets, we see a woman buffeted by life but still full of fight.
Cruz is currently an Associate Professor at University of Pittsburgh. The co-founder and editor of the award winning literary journal, Aster(ix). She divides her time between Pittsburgh, New York and Turin.