Set in 20th century Spanish Harlem NYC, Bodega Dreams by Ernesto Quinonez is about a boy named Julio (Chino) who meets a guy called Willie Bodega. Willie is the king of Spanish Harlem. Everybody knows him for helping people when they need money or shelter. The fact that many overlook is that he’s a drug dealer. Willie Bodega is a Social Activist.
This book demonstrates the universal themes of history and culture. These themes are the colors of human interaction. They help us to understand our stories.
Social Economic: People living in that area are struggling with money, food and debt.
Religion: Chino’s wife is Pentecostal. She shows a strict moral ethic.
Religion as a motivation for good and bad in human history.
Political: Bodega says his like the mayor of Spanish Harlem.
We may not think of ourselves as political but all people have power and authority in their lives.
“To have a name other than the one your parents had given you meant you had status in school, had status on your block.”
As a junior high student in a tough neighborhood, Julio wants acceptance more than anything else. A new name would give him hood status. Julio has to draw attention to himself, which he does by fighting. Eventually, this earns him the nickname Chino.
A major theme in this novel is the importance in nicknames. Julio is Chino, a name earned by his high cheekbones and his willingness to fight. Enrique becomes Sapo. Because of his large lips. Nancy is Blanca due to her purity and her sister Deborah is known as Negra for being the exact opposite.
Chino and Sapo fly kites on a roof of a tenement building. they have also made it more competitive by attaching razors to their kite strings, so they can bring down kites being flown elsewhere in the city. Symbolically, the kites represent Sapo and Chino’s freedom to fly above their situation and experience a freedom they don’t have in their everyday lives.
I recommend this book for people who like a story with a bit of a twist which keeps you engaged in the story. It is a good book for any type of reading level not to hard but also not to easy. This books shows the struggle that Latino people face in the United States.