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A Dominican-American family fighting against gentrification

Cleyvis Natera’s debut novel, ‘Neruda on the Park’ is a portrait of family, friendship, and ambition

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Cleyvis Natera was born in the Dominican Republic, migrated to the United States at 10 years old, and grew up in New York City. Inspired by her own personal experience, she wrote Neruda on the Park, about a Latino family fighting against gentrification. 

The Guerreros have lived in Nothar Park, a predominantly Dominican part of New York City, for 20 years. When demolition begins on a neighboring tenement, Eusebia, an elder of the community, takes matters into her own hands by devising an increasingly dangerous series of schemes to stop construction of the luxury condos. Meanwhile, Eusebia’s daughter, Luz, a rising associate at a top Manhattan law firm who strives to live the bougie lifestyle her parents worked hard to give her, becomes distracted by a sweltering romance with the handsome white developer at the company her mother so vehemently opposes.

As Luz’s father, Vladimir, secretly designs their retirement home in the Dominican Republic, mother and daughter collide, ramping up tensions in Nothar Park, racing toward a near-fatal climax.

“I hope to reveal the anguish and rage that exists in a community that occupies a vulnerable place in our society. As immigrants, we’re often presumed to be yearning for our birthplaces, to be temporary fixtures and that is a dangerous presumption. It justifies the horrifying treatment of people,” she told Baristanet.

In the same interview, the author admitted that she understands the need of urban progress and modern architecture, but her experience living in New York City over three decades is that it isn’t burnt out tenements that are demolished.

“It is bodegas and other mom-and-pop businesses, family homes, brownstones, three and four family buildings that are torn in service of modernity — here, meaning stacking more and more people in smaller and smaller spaces that reached up into the sky," she said.

A beautifully layered portrait of family, friendship, and ambition, Neruda on the Park “weaves a rich and vivid tapestry of community as well as the sacrifices we make to protect what we love most, announcing Cleyvis Natera as an electrifying new voice,” as reported by the publisher.

Natera teaches undergraduates creative writing at Fordham University. She holds a BA from Skidmore College and an MFA from New York University.

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