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The Prince of los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood…
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The Prince of los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood

by Richard Blanco

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Recently I had the chance to attend a reading by Richard Blanco, who was the inaugural poet for President Obama in 2012. He was the first Latino, gay person, and immigrant to ever hold this position. I loved his reading so much, that I immediately rushed off to get two books of his poetry and his memoir on his childhood, The Prince of Los Cocuyos.

Richard Blanco was born in Cuban exiled parents and entered the United States of America when he was only forty-five days old. Most of his childhood was spent in a Cuban neighborhood in Miami, in a house his parents shared with his paternal grandparents.

Always beautifully written, The Prince of Los Cocuyos veers in tone from amusing family antecedents to more serious incidents, often relating to the very homophobic environment he grew up in. In a large part, the memoir is a reflection on cultural identity and being between cultures. As a child, he never could figure out if he was American and Cuban, and he didn’t know if it was possible to be both.

For instance, the first chapter is one of the more humorous. In it, his elementary school aged self is trying to convince his largely dubious family to have an American style Thanksgiving (or Sans Giving as they called it) through the means of the local Winn Dixie grocery store. The chapter starts with him using the low prices of chicken to try and convince his frugal abuela to venture into the horrors of the Winn Dixie.

Overall, The Prince of Los Cocuyos is a book I highly enjoyed. I also recommend trying some of his poetry. His inaugural poem, “One Today” is available online.

Review originally posted on The Illustrated Page. ( )
  pwaites | Apr 23, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062313762, Hardcover)

A poignant, hilarious, and inspiring memoir from the first Latino and openly gay inaugural poet, which explores his coming-of-age as the child of Cuban immigrants and his attempts to understand his place in America while grappling with his burgeoning artistic and sexual identities.

Richard Blanco’s childhood and adolescence were experienced between two imaginary worlds: his parents’ nostalgic world of 1950s Cuba and his imagined America, the country he saw on reruns of The Brady Bunch and Leave it to Beaver—an “exotic” life he yearned for as much as he yearned to see “la patria.”

Navigating these worlds eventually led Blanco to question his cultural identity through words; in turn, his vision as a writer—as an artist—prompted the courage to accept himself as a gay man. In this moving, contemplative memoir, the 2013 inaugural poet traces his poignant, often hilarious, and quintessentially American coming-of-age and the people who influenced him.

A prismatic and lyrical narrative rich with the colors, sounds, smells, and textures of Miami, Richard Blanco’s personal narrative is a resonant account of how he discovered his authentic self and ultimately, a deeper understanding of what it means to be American. His is a singular yet universal story that beautifully illuminates the experience of “becoming;” how we are shaped by experiences, memories, and our complex stories: the humor, love, yearning, and tenderness that define a life. 

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:31 -0400)

"A ... memoir from the first Latino and openly gay inaugural poet, which explores his coming-of-age as the child of Cuban immigrants and his attempts to understand his place in America while grappling with his burgeoning artistic and sexual identities"--Amazon.com.… (more)

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