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Bodega Dreams: A Novel

Bodega Dreams: A Novel

4.4 47
by Ernesto Quinonez, Ernesto Quiinonez

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In a stunning narrative combining the gritty rhythms of Junot Diaz with the noir genius of Walter Mosley, Bodega Dreams pulls us into Spanish Harlem, where the word is out: Willie Bodega is king.  Need college tuition for your daughter?  Start-up funds for your fruit stand?  Bodega can help.  He gives


In a stunning narrative combining the gritty rhythms of Junot Diaz with the noir genius of Walter Mosley, Bodega Dreams pulls us into Spanish Harlem, where the word is out: Willie Bodega is king.  Need college tuition for your daughter?  Start-up funds for your fruit stand?  Bodega can help.  He gives everyone a leg up, in exchange only for loyalty—and a steady income from the drugs he pushes.

Lyrical, inspired, and darkly funny, this powerful debut novel brilliantly evokes the trial of Chino, a smart, promising young man to whom Bodega turns for a favor.  Chino is drawn to Bodega's street-smart idealism, but soon finds himself over his head, navigating an underworld of switchblade tempers, turncoat morality, and murder.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Bodega is a fascinating character. . . . The story [Quiñonez] tells has energy and verve." —The New York Times Book Review

"Rich with eye-opening detail, [this is] a lively and entertaining work by a young writer whose talents are deserving of a wide readership."  —Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

"A new and authentic voice of the urban Latino experience." —Esmeralda Santiago, author of When I Was Puerto Rican

"[Quiñonez's] ideas for using fiction to galvanize the city into confronting poverty are invigorating. . . . Blend[s] street-smart dialogue, culturally relevant prose, and progressive politics into a noir thriller with literary merit." —Time Out New York 

Although most of his friends succumb to the vices of street life in the ghetto, like William Bodega, Chino dreams of a better future. Therefore, Chino goes to college, while Bodega becomes the most successful slumlord in East Harlem. Their paths cross when Nazaro, Bodega's lawyer, needs Chino's help finding Bodega's lost love, the one he built his success to impress. Chino is so mesmerized by Bodega's dream of building a professional Latino class and a real estate empire that his vision gets clouded. Instead of remaining true to himself, he succumbs to Nazaro's schemes, only to end up his pawn. Chino discovers that although Bodega's crooked plan for political, social, and economic changes fails, the purity of his dream lives on. Quinonez captures more than just the loss of innocence in this novel, he captures the true flavor of the Latin world in Spanish Harlem. From ethnic food, colloquialisms and crude street-talk, to "Spanglish," evangelical religion, and salsa music, this story pulses with the rhythm of a Latin people dancing on Anglo soil. Furthermore, Quinonez's gripping story sparkles with metaphors so brilliant and tangible that the reader will be absorbed from beginning to end. KLIATT Codes: SA*—Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, Random House/Vintage, 212p, 21cm, 99-33380, $12.00. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Claire M. Dignan; El Centro del Cardenal School, Boston, MA, September 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 5)
Library Journal
Chino, caught in a squeeze play between devotion to his pregnant Pentecostal wife and beholden to the barrio ringleader Bodega, evokes an inner-city scenario of mayhem and murder. Despite his drug-pushing wheeling-dealing, Bodega idealistically wants to improve the living conditions of Spanish Harlem; though his life is truncated, his dream doesn't die. Running throughout the novel is the motif of appearances: characters assume different identities, and the denouement twist catches the reader off guard. Qui onez writes with cinematographic detail of life in the ghetto and very graphically reproduces the rough language of the street. Despite its film noir approach, tinges of humor often offset the bleakness; one character, for example, interjects snippets of popular songs into his speech. Recommended primarily for urban libraries and those with sizable Puerto Rican constituents.--Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
YA-Willie Bodega, a man of middle years, heads a syndicate that organizes the economics, justice system, and politics in Spanish Harlem. He works toward his dream of creating a rising professional class of Puerto Rican citizens with the aid of a tiny cadre of powerful, ultimately traitorous, friends. Using the voice of a barely post-adolescent youth to tell the tale of Willie's undoing, Qui-onez gives readers pitch-perfect characterizations, crisp dialogue, and plenty of action. Chino is newly married to a pregnant Pentecostalist who holds herself above barrio politics. He and his wife attend night school, work, and struggle to pay the rent. Chino's wild boyhood friend introduces him to Bodega, in a roundabout way, and against all of his better instincts, Chino begins to work for Bodega, dreams with him, and, in the end, takes his place. Realism and romantic adventurism are neatly bonded here, making this a book for eager and reluctant readers alike. In a market that is short on Latino novels of literary merit, this one stands out and demands attention from readers from all cultural backgrounds.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Ed Morales
Bodega is a snappy roman à clef in which Chino, the narrator and Quinoñez's alter ego, grapples with the pervasive criminal code of the street and his own attempts to make a family...The most ingenious thing about La Bodega Sold Dreams is the way it codifies much of the East Harlem experience, with its Young Lords legends, Santeria rituals, and bilingual bards. Like Junot Diaz and Abraham Rodriguez, Quinoñez is helping to establish Spanglish as a new-millennium urban language.
The Voice Literary Supplement
Mark Rozzo
In this remarkable debut, Ernesto Quinonez creates a portrait of Spanish Harlem that's as colorful and elegiac as the R.I.P.s that Chino, his straight-talking 20-something narrator, once painted for fallen neighbors as a teenage graffiti artist.
The Los Angeles Times
Maud Casey
No simple morality tale, Bodega Dreams is a stark evocation of life in the projects of El Barrio, the ''mammoth filing cabinets of human lives,'' from the keen perspective of someone who has one foot out the door yet who is homesick already...the story he tells has energy and nerve.
The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Contemporaries Original Series
Edition description:
1 ED
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Rich with eye-opening detail, [this is] a lively and entertaining work by a young writer whose talents are deserving of a wide readership."  -Oscar Hijuelos

Meet the Author

Ernesto Quiñonez is the author of two novels, Chango’s Fire and Bodega Dreams. He is on the faculty at Cornell University.

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Bodega Dreams 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
MyReviewOnBooks More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite authors so I was excited to read this book of fiction. Being Puerto Rican I could identify with the characters and culture. This book is a must read!!! E. Santiago's writing style is siliar to D. L. Blanco's novel, Single Latina Female which is a really good book, too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would recommend Bodega Dreams for any high school student or college student strictly because although it¿s a good book the language is somewhat strong and the overall premise of the book is a little too intense and mature for younger readers. I really liked the major chunk of the book where chino is introduced to Bodega and at first is very reluctant to hook-up with him the only way he stays at their first meeting is because Sapo was there and he hadn¿t smoked in a long time. I also thought the Veronica or Vera angle with Bodega, chino, and Blanca involved was a very good part in the story made the ending good where it was one of those twist types of endings and not concrete which pending you preference is a good one. The only part of the book I did not agree with was the beginning of the book. I like how it started in the beginning with his childhood, but I thought it didn¿t transition well because first he had a crush on Blanca then bam he marries her. Other than that I thought it was a very solid book, that¿s worth a read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bruninha More than 1 year ago
Great book. The ending wasn't expected what so ever. I recommend this book to any high schooler.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is set in East Harlem in the early 1990 and shows an inner city life of crime, underground warlords, and a sense of hope. Ernesto Quiñones depicts the conflict the character named Chino has, choosing between his religious wife Blanca and his friends in crime. The story has some flaws, such as not revealing enough about Chino's friend Sapo, not describing the brutal violence, and leaving us wanting more in the end; but otherwise, the author has written a masterpiece, depicting Hispanic struggles and lifestyle in the United States. I recommend this book 100% to teenagers, especially the Hispanic community; you won't regret it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you have lived in NYC and are of Latino background you will idetify with the story told. Someone knows of someone in the situation the characters are in. The book reads easy and the plot is not exactly what you think it will be. The ending is a lesson to be learned.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a wonder ful book. Im in the 8th grade and so far i love it. You dont know what is going to happen next 'This is the best book I get to read to a class I had to fight to get it. I love it' my teacher said All teens sould read it, but only if you are ready for it because it has a lot of 'bad words'
Guest More than 1 year ago
Most of the books in school are so boring but this one just gets you into it. I hate reading but i was reading this book. This book leaves you guessing, makes you want to read it more to see what happens. And the end will surprise you!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a wonder. Events within the book happen but you never see it coming. In the process of Julio trying to finish college he encounters some characters like Willie and Nazario. Both men are important in Julio's life, but he doesn't know it until it hits him. With this book I spent train rides entertained and anxiously waiting for the next thing to happen. I recomment this book to everyone, even those who dislike reading it will change your mind and you'll want to keep on reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author holds the interest of it¿s reader by the reality of his writing. That what mostly held my interest. The reality of the story as you read you felt that you were in the story. That you were there with the characters experiencing their sadness, grieves, struggles, hard times as well as their good. As they went through their ups you felt happy along with them as they went through their downs you felt a great lack of disappointment and sympathy. Another thing that made the book so intriguing was the language, as you read you felt as if you were in the setting of the book. From the language you could tell the year this book was portraying, the ethic and culture of the people, and most of all, the place. The thing that motivated me to continue reading was the humor of book. These are what held my interest.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best book with a social conscience written about Latinos. This book should've been an automatic bestseller with a powerful message about seeing the bigger picture in life and a wonderful story. The characters in this are unlike any other and the book contains many twists always making you not want to put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was tremendo! from beginning to end, the story line kept me hooked. its like The Great Gatsby goes to el Bronx. everyone should read it. honestly. lo va a encantar!
Guest More than 1 year ago
For someone who despises reading this book was great. The only way that I can get into a book is if it grabs me from the beginning. That was exactly what the author did with bodega dreams. It is filled with betrayal, love, and reality. this is a great read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bodega Dreams enlightens and entertains the reader with experiences of what life is like in El Barrio. The dialect used in the novel gives it the authentic salsa-flavoring it merits. I hope Ernesto Quinonez continues to write more about the 'not so' originally spanish culture that most know little about,yet, so many wish to fully understand. All that was missing was some neighbor woman walking her chihuahua to the tone of Ruben Blades' song, Pedro Navaja: 'La vida te da sorpresas, sorpresas te da la vida. Wonderfully written; a must read by all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is too good that my words wont be able to describe it properly. Ima just tell yall like this...I hate books dont like to read but when I had to read this for a class report I was glad I read it cuz i finished literally in 2-3 days thas how butta it was and ironic too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Harsh language and violence. This may be how someone would describe the book Bodega Dreams if they had failed to get over the potentially offensive material meant to create a mood and background and ignored the true message featured in the book. Bodega Dreams is not about selling drugs, street alliances, or even life in Spanish Harlem. It's about dreams, the true American dream, to live in comfort and happiness, no matter where one happens to live in this nation. Set in the heart of Spanish Harlem during the eighties, the story stars Chino, a young man trying to make his way in the neighborhood without involvement in illegal street gangs. Alongside Chino are his Pentecostal wife, Blanca, and his childhood friend Sapo. Sapo is involved in drug dealings in el Barrio, through which he meets Willie Bodega, the neighborhood¿s major drug lord with big plans and dreams. One evening, at Bodega¿s request, Sapo brings Chino to an apartment where Bodega invites him to be apart of Bodega¿s plans to improve the neighborhood. From that point drama surrounding Bodega and all his activities unfolds as chino is taken on a wild ride through underground Spanish Harlem. The novel, although fairly simple and one dimensional, proves for extremely enjoyable reading with unpredictable twists and turns. Peppered thorough out the story are enhancing Spanish and profane words, giving the book a sense of validity that would have been lost without use of such words. Overall, I thought the book to be very interesting with an ending so unseen, I was put into shock. Bodega Dreams is an excellent book and a great personal read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has been the best book this year so far that i read its worth reading because if u grow up in the geto u can relate to the book. also if u are latin its the best book to read because the author use's alot of spanish words that will make u enjoy the book and laugh. 'ERNESTO IF YOU READ THIS KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK'.!
Guest More than 1 year ago
the most interesting book I have read in a long time. great details and funny