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The Latin Deli: Prose and Poetry
     

The Latin Deli: Prose and Poetry

5.0 1
by Judith Ortiz Cofer
 

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Reviewing her novel, The Line of the Sun, the New York Times Book Review hailed Judith Ortiz Cofer as "a writer of authentic gifts, with a genuine and important story to tell." Those gifts are on abundant display in The Latin Deli, an evocative collection of poetry, personal essays, and short fiction in which the dominant subject-the lives of

Overview

Reviewing her novel, The Line of the Sun, the New York Times Book Review hailed Judith Ortiz Cofer as "a writer of authentic gifts, with a genuine and important story to tell." Those gifts are on abundant display in The Latin Deli, an evocative collection of poetry, personal essays, and short fiction in which the dominant subject-the lives of Puerto Ricans in a New Jersey barrio-is drawn from the author's own childhood. Following the directive of Emily Dickinson to "tell all the Truth but tell it slant," Cofer approaches her material from a variety of angles.

An acute yearning for a distant homeland is the poignant theme of the title poem, which opens the collection. Cofer's lines introduce us "to a woman of no-age" presiding over a small store whose wares-Bustelo coffee, jamon y queso, "green plantains hanging in stalks like votive offerings"-must satisfy, however imperfectly, the needs and hungers of those who have left the islands for the urban Northeast. Similarly affecting is the short story "Nada," in which a mother's grief over a son killed in Vietnam gradually consumes her. Refusing the medals and flag proferred by the government ("Tell the Mr. President of the United States what I say: No, gracias."), as well as the consolations of her neighbors in El Building, the woman begins to give away all her possessions The narrator, upon hearing the woman say "nada," reflects, "I tell you, that word is like a drain that sucks everything down."

As rooted as they are in a particular immigrant experience, Cofer's writings are also rich in universal themes, especially those involving the pains, confusions, and wonders of growing up. While set in the barrio, the essays "American History," "Not for Sale," and "The Paterson Public Library" deal with concerns that could be those of any sensitive young woman coming of age in America: romantic attachments, relations with parents and peers, the search for knowledge. And in poems such as "The Life of an Echo" and "The Purpose of Nuns," Cofer offers eloquent ruminations on the mystery of desire and the conflict between the flesh and the spirit.

Cofer's ambitions as a writer are perhaps stated most explicitly in the essay "The Myth of the Latin Woman: I Just Met a Girl Named Maria." Recalling one of her early poems, she notes how its message is still her mission: to transcend the limitations of language, to connect "through the human-to-human channel of art."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for its celebration of diversity, Cofer's collection of essays, fiction and poetry depicts the Puerto Rican immigrant experience. (May)
Library Journal
Poet and novelist Ortiz Cofer offers her readers an affecting view of Puerto Rican New York in this autobiographical assortment of essays and poems. Her stories celebrate, mourn, and honor Latinas, collectively and individually, and also consider the influential men in her own life: the author's beloved, unknowable, philandering father; the first boy she loved; her heartbreakingly deteriorating grandfather. The alternating sections of evocative prose and narrative poetry first construct a vision of life in the busy apartments of El Building and the shops of its neighborhood, then comment directly on self, heritage, culture clash, racism, and sexism. A strong, moving set of daughter-poems finishes this slim but substantial volume. Recommended for ethnic, womens', memoir, and larger general collections.
—Janet Ingraham, Worthington P.L., Ohio
Booknews
A collection of poetry, personal essays, and short fiction in which the dominant subject--the lives of Puerto Ricans in a New Jersey barrio--is drawn from the author's own childhood. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Whitney Scott
Ortiz Cofer's collection of her stories, essays, and poems is a delicious smorgasbord of the sights, smells, tastes, and sounds recalled from a cross-cultural girlhood. Whether delineating the yearnings for an island homeland or the frustrations of a first-generation immigrant's struggles to grow up in "el building" in a New Jersey barrio, Ortiz Cofer's work is rich in evocative detail and universal concerns. On the whole, it constitutes a coming-of-age-in-America saga focused on a young Judith baffled by anti-Hispanic prejudice, by Puerto Rican and black hostilities, by the Roman Catholic conflict between flesh and spirit, and by the challenge of an adolescence spent in "cultural compromise." Part of that coming-of-age, Ortiz Cofer shows us, was the quickening of the pulse when entering a library, for books "contained most of the information I needed to survive in two languages and two worlds....Reading books empowered me."
Booklist
“A delicious smorgasbord of the sights, smells, tastes, and sounds recalled from a cross cultural girlhood.”
In These Times - Ilan Stavans

Cofer may well be the most important Hispanic writer in English today, the one who will happily leave behind ethnic writing to insert herself and her successors in a truly universal literature.

Larry Brown
“This powerful collection of stories, essays, and poems shows a remarkable range, and, like a great singer, Judith Ortiz Cofer knows how to hit all the notes.”
From the Publisher

"Cofer may well be the most important Hispanic writer in English today, the one who will happily leave behind ethnic writing to insert herself and her successors in a truly universal literature."—Ilan Stavans, In These Times

"Graceful, generous, and important."—Mary Oliver

"Cofer is a superb storyteller. There is still much to be learned about women’s lives and about multiculturalism, and Cofer offers particular insights in both these areas."—Kathleen Aguero

"A flawless collection."—Seattle Weekly

"A compassionate, delicate rendering of Puerto Rican life in America–told in poetry and fifteen short stories. . . . With the poetry accenting and enhancing themes revealed in the prose: a remarkably cohesive, moving collection."—Kirkus Reviews

"A delicious smorgasbord of the sights, smells, tastes, and sounds recalled from a cross cultural girlhood."—Booklist

"Cofer continues her strongly dramatic and beautifully lyric unfolding of the Puerto Rican immigrant. Pungent, evocative, and warmly sympathetic, The Latin Deli is a continuous delight."—Fred Chappell

Ilan Stavans - In These Times
“[Judith Ortiz Cofer] may well be the most important Hispanic writer in English today, the one who will happily leave behind ethnic writing to insert herself and her successors in a truly universal literature.”
Mary Oliver

Graceful, generous, and important.

Kathleen Aguero

Cofer is a superb storyteller. There is still much to be learned about women’s lives and about multiculturalism, and Cofer offers particular insights in both these areas.

Seattle Weekly

A flawless collection.

Fred Chappell

Cofer continues her strongly dramatic and beautifully lyric unfolding of the Puerto Rican immigrant. Pungent, evocative, and warmly sympathetic, The Latin Deli is a continuous delight.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780820342719
Publisher:
University of Georgia Press
Publication date:
06/01/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Judith Ortiz Cofer is a professor of English at the University of Georgia and the author of The Line of the Sun and Silent Dancing.

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The Latin Deli: Prose and Poetry 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's the best book, where any hispanic woman or girl can relate to. I could not get enough of this book i read it over and over before having to turn back in to my library. It is the best, you should read 'The Story of My Body.' a personal favorite.