The Gangster of Love

The Gangster of Love

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by Jessica Hagedorn, Jessica Tarahata Hagedorn
     
 

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? Nominated for The Irish Times International Fiction Prize? The author's first novel, Dogeaters, was nominated for a National Book Award in 1990 and was voted the best book of the year by the Before Columbus Foundation.Rocky Rivera arrives in the U.S. from the Philippines the day that Jimi Hendrix dies. So begins a blazing coming-of-age story suffused with the

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Overview

? Nominated for The Irish Times International Fiction Prize? The author's first novel, Dogeaters, was nominated for a National Book Award in 1990 and was voted the best book of the year by the Before Columbus Foundation.Rocky Rivera arrives in the U.S. from the Philippines the day that Jimi Hendrix dies. So begins a blazing coming-of-age story suffused with the tensions of immigration which finds Rocky moving from the counter-culture in 1960s San Francisco to the extravagant music scene in Manhattan of the 1980s.The Gangster of Love tells the story of the Rivera family as they make their new life in the States-all the while haunted by the memory of the father and the homeland they left behind. Among its members are Rocky's haughty mother, who has impulsively left her father; Voltaire, her brother, prone to heavy depression and odd friendships with strangers; and Rocky herself, unsure about sex and worshipful of her boyfriend-the guitar-playing Elvis Chang-who must learn to accept reality amidst the myths and lures of American success and idolatry.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hagedorn's long-awaited but ultimately disappointing second novel (her first, Dogeaters, was a finalist for the National Book Award) is the mostly first-person account of Rocky Rivera, who has emigrated from the Philippines to the United States along with her mother and her emotionally disturbed brother, Voltaire. Rocky has a hippyish adolescence in 1970s San Francisco, then moves to New York City with her boyfriend, Elvis Chang, and her best friend, a photographer named Keiko. Rocky and Elvis form a band, while Keiko enjoys huge (and rather improbable) success as an artist. While Hagedorn's first novel utilized multiple perspectives and collage techniques to great effect, here her occasional shifts in point of view seem motivated mainly by an inability to keep her somewhat meandering novel moving along. Offering little in the way of plot, the book's narcissistic characters and bohemian milieu soon begin to wear thin. Hagedorn does remain a sharp observer of cross-cultural identity as her Filipino characters adjust to life in the U.S.; the novel is at its best when dealing head-on with issues of assimilation. But on the whole, this feels like apprentice work in comparison to what Hagedorn achieved in her debut. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Pointed yet meandering, this novel by the author of National Book Award nominee Dogeaters (LJ 4/1/91) follows Rocky (Raquel) through her ragged, strangely glamorous life. Spirited and troubled sisters, Rocky and Voltaire Rivera are almost beyond childhood when they migrate from the Philippines to California with their arch, foxy, difficult mother, Milagros. Rocky moves to New York, leads an almost-big funky rock band, bears a daughter, and gets by on the edge, her mind always shadowed by her heritage and her willful mother. Jumps and flashbacks, fantasias, dreamscapes, and changes of narrator destabilize a basically traditional, linear story. The mood reflects the hectic existence of Rocky's sex and drug-infused musician and artist friends. Graphic, depressing fun; recommended for large fiction collections. [Previewed in LJ 4/15/96.]Janet Ingraham, Worthington P.L., Ohio
Kirkus Reviews
Hagedorn's (The Dogeaters, 1990) episodic second novel seems to wander in a fog, as does the heroine who narrates most of this disjointed tale; she migrates in the 1970s with her mother and brother to the US from the Philippines, where she led a sheltered life as a Catholic schoolgirl.

In the States, Raquel "Rocky" Rivers discovers her rock-and- roll self: She and her depressive brother, Voltaire, idolize Jimi Hendrix. While she scribbles pseudo-Beat poems, he wanders San Francisco's Tenderloin, where he meets aspiring rocker Elvis Chang. Rocky turns 18 and becomes Elvis's lover; they launch a band, The Gangster of Love, with Rocky on vocals. Despite embracing America's pop culture, though, Rocky still feels some loyalty to her overbearing mother Milagros, a spitfire who left her unfaithful husband back in the Philippines and who clings to her old world customs. A sexual prude despite her posturing, Rocky comes under the liberating influence of Keiko von Heller, an artist and free spirit who gradually becomes a pop celebrity. Moving to Los Angeles with the band, Rocky gets to spend time with her uncle Marlon, a gay actor with AIDS, who dreams of going home to die. The band eventually finds some modest success in New York, based on one briefly hot single. Rocky ends up working at a New Age clinic, still obsessing about her family. She eventually replaces the mercurial Elvis with Jake, a solid fellow who works as a recording engineer; they have a daughter, Venus. When Milagros, "the queen of self pity," arrives in New York, she haunts the Imelda Marcos trial and harangues her daughter. Sudden shifts in voice and tense are jarring and ineffective, and the several dream sequences Hagedorn injects are expendable.

A diffuse, sometimes frustrating, narrative of a young woman's coming of age in a strange land, with some compelling, if generic, scenes of cross-cultural misunderstanding.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780140159707
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/28/1997
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
709,128
Product dimensions:
5.14(w) x 7.76(h) x 0.73(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Jessica Hagedorn is the author of the novels Dogeaters and The Gangster of Love, Dream Jungle, and a collection of poetry and short fiction, Danger and Beauty.

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The Gangster of Love 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Being in the same age group as 'Rocky' the main character and also being filipino-american it was easy to relate to her story. The americanized filipino spirit, quirkiness and proudness was captured. Her mother is very flamboyant and vain. Her family members are very typical to many of my relatives. Although knowing the very strong catholic background of most filipinos I was surprised at Rocky's ease in exploring the psychadellic experience. The coverage of the 'Marcos trial' was very funny. The family relationship was a roller coaster ride but yet kept close family ties. Throughout the book I was tickled many times. It was an enjoyable read.