The Prince of los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood

The Prince of los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood

4.5 12
by Richard Blanco

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A poignant, hilarious, and inspiring memoir from the first Latino and openly gay inaugural poet, which explores his coming-of-age as the child of Cuban immigrants and his attempts to understand his place in America while grappling with his burgeoning artistic and sexual identities.

Richard Blanco’s childhood and adolescence were experienced between two


A poignant, hilarious, and inspiring memoir from the first Latino and openly gay inaugural poet, which explores his coming-of-age as the child of Cuban immigrants and his attempts to understand his place in America while grappling with his burgeoning artistic and sexual identities.

Richard Blanco’s childhood and adolescence were experienced between two imaginary worlds: his parents’ nostalgic world of 1950s Cuba and his imagined America, the country he saw on reruns of The Brady Bunch and Leave it to Beaver—an “exotic” life he yearned for as much as he yearned to see “la patria.”

Navigating these worlds eventually led Blanco to question his cultural identity through words; in turn, his vision as a writer—as an artist—prompted the courage to accept himself as a gay man. In this moving, contemplative memoir, the 2013 inaugural poet traces his poignant, often hilarious, and quintessentially American coming-of-age and the people who influenced him.

A prismatic and lyrical narrative rich with the colors, sounds, smells, and textures of Miami, Richard Blanco’s personal narrative is a resonant account of how he discovered his authentic self and ultimately, a deeper understanding of what it means to be American. His is a singular yet universal story that beautifully illuminates the experience of “becoming;” how we are shaped by experiences, memories, and our complex stories: the humor, love, yearning, and tenderness that define a life. 

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 08/11/2014
Growing up in the 1970s in a Cuban-American community in Miami, poet Blanco was besieged by his exiled relatives’ nostalgia for the life they had left behind in Cuba in the 1960s; yet he also yearned for a American identity free from the immigrant experience. In seven chapters Blanco moves through the milestones of his adolescence living with his mother, father, older brother, Carlos (“Caco”), and grandparents, specifically his overbearing abuela, who had saved enough money working as a bookie in New York City for the family to move to a new house with a terra-cotta roof and lawn in the Westchester suburb of Miami—pronounced “Guechesta.” In the first chapter, “The First Real San Giving Day,” young Ricardo accompanied his abuela to help buy the chicken specials at the Winn-Dixie, a gringo store she highly suspected (“We don’t belong here”); yet her grandson gradually won her over to the American selections such as Easy Cheese and even engineered a Thanksgiving feast for the family that was as foreign as it was instructive. Being chosen as the companion for lovely Deycita’s quinceañera ball made Blanco, however, begin to wonder whether he liked girls at all, confirmed by his first dreamy crush on the former Cuban prisoner and new hire at the bodega where he worked for many summers, El Cocuyito (“The Firefly”). Blanco has a natural, unforced style that allows his characters’ vibrancy and humor to shine through. (Oct.)
Augusten Burroughs
“Forged from truth and grace, Blanco has crafted a deeply compelling and moving memoir about place, self and family.”
Andrew Solomon
“The Prince of Los Cocuyos had me laughing time and again with its warm, sweetly self-deprecating portrait of an immigrant family attempting to straddle Cuban traditions and American trends.”
Sandra Cisneros
“Thank you, Richard, for this. The Prince of los Cocuyos is revelation and homecoming.”
Monica Wood
“I adored every minute spent with young ‘Riqui’ and his endearing extended family. And at the end-an ending so beautiful and throat-catching-I felt wonderfully drenched in love.”
“Filled with colorful characters, often poignant and sometimes melancholy, Blanco’s episodic memoir is a meditation on belonging, on self-acceptance, and on his family’s almost mystical connection to Cuba.”
“Blanco’s touching reminiscence has a deep emotional truth. . . . [An] alternately hilarious and moving new memoir.”
O Magazine
“In this vibrant memoir, Obama-inaugural poet Richard Blanco tenderly, exhilaratingly chronicles his Miami childhood amid a colorful, if suffocating, family of Cuban exiles, as well as his quest to find his artistic voice and the courage to accept himself as a gay man.”
The Oprah Magazine O
“In this vibrant memoir, Obama-inaugural poet Richard Blanco tenderly, exhilaratingly chronicles his Miami childhood amid a colorful, if suffocating, family of Cuban exiles, as well as his quest to find his artistic voice and the courage to accept himself as a gay man.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“[A] sensual new memoir… Blanco’s ear for poetry comes to light in the memoir’s full-bodied language and knack for description… [evoking] the flavors, fabrics and smells of rundown South Beach hotels, all-night pig roasts, disco-era Quinces debuts.”
The Daily Beast
“The Prince of Los Cocuyos is equal parts touching, heart-ache-inducing, and laugh-out-loud funny.”
Latina Magazine
“Richard Blanco takes us on a thought-provoking, often hilarious ride in ... his coming-of-age memoir. The Cuban and Spanish intellectual, who was the first Latino, openly gay man and immigrant to be commissioned a presidential inaugural poet, illustrates the story of his childhood in the 1970s.”
Orlando Weekly
“... this memoir is an exceptional introduction to the writer and his capabilities. The Prince of los Cocuyos embodies the best of his poetic style, in particular his eye for detail and ability to put the reader right in the place where he is.”
Los Angeles Review of Books
“[The Prince of los Cocuyos] includes portraits and scenes, intimately and lovingly rendered… Having honored our nation as a whole in verse, he honors it again, but this time as witness to the life and fortune of one exceptionally American family.”
Associated Press Staff
“In Richard Blanco’s Miami, memories linger outside coffee windows and in Cuban grocery store aisles… In a series of loosely intertwined stories, Blanco describes a childhood marked by loss, humor and hints of an exotic land called America.”
Huffington Post
“A work that is incredibly poignant at one moment, yet hysterically funny with the turn of the page.”
Los Angeles Campus Circle
“Funny and poignant, Richard Blanco’s The Prince of Los Cocuyos follows the author and his Cuban-American family in Miami. The details of this very American, yet immigrant experience make all the difference.”
Edge Media Network
“His eloquent and poetic writing has the ability to induce laughter, tears, and anger, sometimes on the same page… Highly recommended, Richard Blanco’s coming-of-age story is told with humor and humility and is a pleasure to read.”
The Advocate
“Like many a great bildungsroman, The Prince of Los Cocuyos ... portrays a character who feels torn between several different worlds. . . . His search for identity, belonging, and home is one that any reader, regardless of sexual orientation or ancestry, is one that anyone can identify with.”
“... the anecdotes Blanco shares – such as trying to convince his grandmother to go shopping at the Winn-Dixie supermarket she so feared – are muy cubano and will give readers a sense of Cuban family spirit.:
Library Journal
Widely known as the youngest and the first Latino, immigrant, and openly gay poet to serve as inaugural poet, the multi-award-winning Blanco explores his coming of age as the child of Cuban immigrants and his negotiating his conflicted artistic, cultural, and social identities.
Kirkus Reviews
An award-winning poet's memoir of growing up in Miami as the gay son of Cuban immigrants. Revolution changed Cuba forever. Yet Blanco's (For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet's Journey, 2013, etc.) family seemed determined to hang on to whatever they could of the lives they knew before Fidel Castro's takeover. Once the family settled in Miami, his parents went to work at an uncle's bodega and ate only Cuban food. Meanwhile, Blanco dreamed of becoming like his gringo school friends who ate "Pop-Tarts, Ritz Crackers and Cool Whip." He tried to introduce his family to American customs like Thanksgiving, only to see those traditions transformed into something with a distinctly Cuban twist. At the same time, Blanco was still fascinated by the country his family had left behind. Not only did they re-create it through the food they sold and ate, but also through the garden that his grandfather planted with the loquat, papaya and avocado trees that reminded them of their "lost [Cuban] paradise." Born in Madrid just before his family left Spain for the United States, the author soon realized that he existed in a world that was neither completely Cuban nor American: He was "a little from everywhere." The homosexual desires that surfaced during adolescence and which he kept hidden from his family only added to his feelings of separateness. As a cure for his love of "unmanly" things like his paint-by-number sets and his cousin's Easy-Bake Oven, Blanco's homophobic grandmother sent him to work at the bodega. In this space of working-class machismo, Blanco came into contact with a closeted Cuban homosexual who told him about the forbidden affair he had with another man before fleeing to the U.S. Their friendship started the author on the journey toward accepting not only his own gayness, but also the "ghosts of Cuba" that haunted him. A warm, emotionally intimate memoir.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

An accomplished author, engineer, and educator, Richard blanco has published several volumes of acclaimed poetry. He is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow, a recipient of several honorary doctorates, and a dynamic speaker supporting diversity, marriage equality, immigration, poetry in education, cultural exchange, and other important issues of our day. Currently, he shares his time between Boston and Bethel, Maine.

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The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A really fun read. This book is the story of a boy growing up in Miami. The writing draws you into the life of this first generation Cuban. It will make you laugh at times as you go through this life journey together. Excellent!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a great read! I read it in a day because I just could not put it down. Mr. Blanco brings the soul of a poet to his prose without losing clarity or smothering the reader. I enjoyed every story and could easily picture every character and every setting. Mr. Blanco's story is sure to resonate with almost anyone growing up in the bicultural world of an immigrant family, but it will most definitely have special meaning to those of us who grew up being gay boys in the macho world of cubanazos or, like in my case, boricuazos. There's so much joy, and grief,in that world we grew up in. A world where bugarrones and maricones were always someone else far away that everyone could make jokes about till that day you realized you were the maricon and the macho guy making all the jokes was a bugarron himself. Mr. Blanco tells his story so well that you start feeling his emotions. You can feel his pain whenever Abuela is nearby or his giddiness at getting to know certain men, not fully understanding why he felt that way. I can't recommend this book highly enough. It's been a great help in my own journey of discovery and self-awareness. Thank you Riqui!  -Alejo 
BernieN More than 1 year ago
Blanco does it again...FANTASTIC! Bernie N
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a completely engaging read. It's an honest and entertaining account of the author's childhood that's unique and familiar at the same time. So well written and heartily recommended!
JillKW More than 1 year ago
Richard Blanco's memoir is a funny and poignant account of his growing up in Miami's Cuban community. But like all great coming-of- age tales, the specifics of one life in one place resonate with universal themes. What a joy to read this book, so completely full of heart and soul. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful, multi-faceted and humorous story of a young man's search for his identity. Beautifully written.
ProfMcC More than 1 year ago
A beautifully rendered memoir that shines with truth, humor, love, and what it means to be an American.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Blanco is a master of engaging the universal by reflecting on the specific. Explore the author's experience and reflect on the evolving cultural identity of the US by also reading all three of books of poetry. City of a Hundred Fires should be kept at home. What is home? Directions to the Beach of the Dead must be hidden in the workplace. It will take you other places. Looking for the Gulf Motel must be kept in your car. Self-explanatory.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very interesting and honest read written with warmth and from the author's heart.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Richard Blanco is amazing. You can see, taste and smell his writing. It will make you laugh and cry. Sometimes at the same time. Even if you are not a fan of poetry, you must read this book (and Richard Blanco's other works). They will leave you smiling and happy
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Waste of time please add poem to blurb