After the summer break I am back with the book club that reads the world and the random generator now picked Dominican Republic and I could not be more excited. I don’t recall ever reading any book from Caribbean region to be completely honest so looking through all these authors has been very exciting and educating. At the end I picked these four books to choose from that I hope represent the spectrum of Dominican literature well enough. But first little bit about the history.
As always, I will be very happy if any of you join the book club on its Goodreads page and join the fun of reading literature you may have never heard about before.
Dominican Republic is a country with vast and long history that is rarely talked about and that dates to 650 C.E when indigenous people ruled the area until the, as I am sure you guessed it, colonial era. Dominican republic was first colonised by the Spain and it was Christopher Columbus who arrived first in 1492, on his stumbling upon America. The new found land by Europeans was then named La Española, as it reminded the newcomers of the diverse and wild terrain of Spain. But it was not just the Spanish, Dominican Republic was under the french rule for most of the 17th and 18th century until the year 1821 when Dominican people got the independence from Spain, which led to the war for independence in 1844 when their First republic was established. By far was that not peaceful reign for generations of Dominican people, not even until 20th century when Dominican Republic was ruled by Rafael Trujillo, who was known to rule with “the iron fist” as they say. As it was in many countries throughout the 90s of the 20th century, Dominican Republic seen the new better times during this time as well, in past Trujillo era. And it was also 20th century where the literature growth the most, with the freedom of speech. Now the Dominican republic is the 9th largest economy in Latin America with diverse culture and tourism.
BOOKS FROM DOMINICAN REPUBLIC FOR SEPTEMBER TO OCTOBER
In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
This story for me as a Czech is something that is very familiar and yet it is of course very different. It just reminds you how many stories we have never heard of from the time many countries around the world were under the dictatorship rules, or even still are. “In the Time of the Butterflies” was published in the 1994 and tells novelised version of true events which introduce you to strong Dominican women who were murdered for their part in the underground network that wanted to take down the newly established regime of Rafael Trujillo. It is a book not only of injustice but also the strength of these women to stand up and fight for their freedom. It is also a perfect way to learn more about this dark period of Dominican history from the 1960s.
Julia Alvarez is a Dominican writer who is publishing novels, essays but also poems since the early 90s. She has left the Dominican Republic in the 60s when she was just 10 years old and since then has been living and publishing in the United States. for her unique storytelling that raises awareness for the situation in Dominican republic but also her devotion to literature she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by president Obama.
Dominicana by Angie Cruz
Moving on to the slightly more contemporary fiction we have little different fight for woman, not any less easier though and that is choosing between the duty to the family and ones own heart and freedom. “Dominicana” by Angie Cruz was first published in 2019 and tells a story that takes us back to the political turmoil in Dominican Republic in the 60s. The story follows only 15-year old Ana Cancion who dreams of life in the United Stated and decides to try to get it through marriage which proves to be a different kind of prison. But there is Cesar her husbands cousin who is free spirited and can give her the life she dreams of. The story is one that deals with many emotions, dreams and difficult choices.
Angie Cruz is a Dominican writer living in the United States. She first found passion in fashion industry, which she also studied and worked in for most of her youth until discovering her path towards the literature. She later founded WILL: Women In Literature & Letters which helps to provide stability in the community through literature. Many of her work has been fuelled with activism for the women rights but also human rights, which earned her many awards. Angie Cruz now lives and writes as well as works as an activist in New York.
The Cheater’s Guide to Love by Junot Díaz
Representing the male side of Dominican writers I chose the book “The Cheater’s Guide to Love” to enjoy also a different kind of story. This book was written by Dominican writer and professor Junot Díaz. The book published in 2012 is a stand alone novel that connects to the story of the book “This is How You Lose Her” which writer published in 2010. You do not need to read this book and can easily enjoy the story of love, deception, determination but also decadence and experience in love and what comes or doesn’t come after alone. As it appears citing Neruda does not always help, but you can read more in the book itself.
Junot Díaz is a Dominican writer and professor of creative writing at the university in Boston. His work has been highly praised throughout his career which led to him receiving the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship as well as being finalist for National Book Award for his bestselling novels, also acknowledged by the New York Times which shortlists the most successful and critically acclaimed novels.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
To be unseen and yet on everyone’s eyes for being different is very difficult do deal with and the best way is to always get your ideas, thoughts and everything out. Character in the book written by young writer and poet Elizabeth Acevedo “The Poet X” does just that. Xiomara Batista is from a very strict family that follows the rules of the Church but what can she do when she falls in a love with a boy she knows her family will never accept. She decides to pour all her feelings into the papers of leather book in form of poems. But she is then invited to participate in Slam poetry club and suddenly she can no longer be silent.
“The Poet X” is a first novel of highly praised slam poet writer Elizabeth Acevedo who received many awards for her work, including the Pure Belpré Author Award which is awarded for praising and sharing the Latina culture in literature and creating its history. Acevedo holds BA in Performing Arts and is also the champion of The National Slam Poetry.
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