THE TASTE OF SUGAR
An enthralling saga written in the tradition of great Latin American storytelling, THE TASTE OF SUGAR transports readers to the fragrant fincas of Puerto Rico, where, beneath the shade of the banana and the guava trees, coffee berries ripen. It is 1898, and starving people, los hambrientos, roam the parched countryside. Under the yoke of Spanish oppression, the Caribbean island is forced to prepare to wage war with the United States.
Up in the mountainous coffee region of Utuado, Vicente Vega and Valentina Sánchez struggle to save their coffee farm from creditors. They’re helped by Vicente’s parents: Raúl, whose intentions toward Valentina are anything but fatherly; and cigar-smoking Angelina, who can’t refuse a meal to any hambriento. Just as the harvest finally picks up, the San Ciriaco hurricane of 1899 devastates the island, killing 3,369 people and leaving thousands more homeless. Weeks go by without aid from the Americans, victors of the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico’s supposed liberators, but now oppressors: “Where was the help . . . from the great Republic to the North, the country of Washington and Hamilton and Lincoln?”
Along with thousands of other puertorriqueños, Vicente and Valentina are lured to the sugar plantations of Hawaii―another US territory—by the prospect of having a roof over their children’s heads, a neighborhood school, plenty of food, and real beds where they can ease into sweet dreams. Segregated from other cane workers in a Puerto Rican–only camp, the family is confronted by the hollowness of the United States’ promises of prosperity and the question of whether they will ever see their homeland again.
An unforgettable novel of love and endurance and a timeless portrait of the reasons we leave home, THE TASTE OF SUGAR “is a real contribution to the literature about the immigrant experience of yesterday—and today” (María Amparo Escandón). With her lush prose and stylistic verve, Marisel Vera emerges as a critical voice for a history too long overlooked
IF I BRING YOU ROSES
After a childhood of deprivation and heartbreak in 1940s Puerto Rico, Felicidad Hildago believes herself unloved and forgotten—even by God. Then one afternoon she meets Aníbal Acevedo. Aníbal, visiting his family on the island, is not in need of a wife, but how can an ordinary man resist a beautiful woman in distress? Soon, they are married and living in 1952 Chicago.
Yet, IF I BRING YOU ROSES is more than a love story, it is also a story about how class and ethnic discrimination impact relationships between men and women. The reader is immersed in the Puerto Rican culture both on the island and in the Chicago neighborhood where Felicidad moves to be with Anibal. The two young people must learn to navigate not only the cold, unknown terrain of Chicago but a frighteningly unfamiliar and constantly changing future.
“IF I BRING YOU ROSES is a stunning novel of love and longing between deeply affecting characters who struggle for intimacy despite the constraints of their time and milieu. Marisel Vera immerses readers in mid-twentieth century Puerto Rico and then Chicago with the same eloquent ease that she draws us into the richness of her characters’ lives. This is a moving story, an amazing debut by a gifted author, and a book to keep for reading again and again.”
— Lorraine M. López, PEN/Faulkner finalist for Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories
IF I BRING YOU ROSES was a Las Comadres Book Club pick.
Read “Two Latinas Talking Immigration: An Interview with Marisel Vera” on Thenervousbreakdown.com. PEN/Faulkner Finalist Lorraine M. Lopez interviews Marisel Vera. Click here to check it out.