Indie Next Selection for January 2022
Book of the Month Club Selection
"The sharpest and best written social comedy in a while." —The Los Angeles Times
"Liberation is at the heart of Olga Dies Dreaming. The story’s driving tension derives from questions of how to break free...The book’s title is an allusion to the poem “Puerto Rican Obituary,” by Pedro Pietri, which contains the lines “Olga / dies dreaming of a five dollar raise.” But Gonzalez’s Olga will not go meekly to such a fate. Sometimes we must free ourselves — even from dreams." — New York Times Book Review
"Atmospheric, intelligent, and well informed: an impressive debut." — Kirkus, starred review
"Olga Dies Dreaming is a beautiful force — completely unique in its intricacies yet universal in the characters’ desires to be loved and understood." — Associated Press
"A fantastically engaging story...Rarely does a novel, particularly a debut novel, contend so powerfully and so delightfully with such a vast web of personal, cultural, political and even international imperatives." —The Washington Post
"[An] edifying debut... Gonzalez elevates this family drama with a great deal of insight on the characters’ diaspora and politics." — Publishers Weekly
"A wonderful and thought-provoking story..." — BookRiot
"Olga Dies Dreaming intricately presents its flawed characters working through the meaning of cultural identity, family secrets, grief, and self-preservation. Their stories capture the ways in which we sometimes define ourselves by how others see us — to often painful ends."
— Book of the Month
"Xochitl Gonzalez delivers a healthy dose of tough love with her buzzy debut Olga Dies Dreaming." — TIME
"In her ambitious debut novel, Gonzalez explores such weighty topics as coercion, rape, gentrification, and the colonial exploitation...Shining throughout, however, is the redeeming quality of love in all its iterations: romantic, fraternal, paternal, patriotic, and ultimately, love of self." — Booklist
“In Xochitl Gonzalez’s gripping debut, the shadow of their absent mother, a Puerto Rican independence activist, looms over the political and personal choices of two adult siblings living in Brooklyn.” – Vanity Fair
"Vibrant and raw...Olga Dies Dreaming delivers a roller coaster’s worth of beautiful highs and lows. All told, it’s an experience worth savoring." — BookPage
“Hilarious… A sprawling dramedy of love, politics, blackmail and real estate featuring a Puerto Rican family in Brooklyn." — People
“In this Technicolor novel from an astounding new voice, we meet Olga and Prieto Acevedo… Packed with richly imagined characters and vivacious prose, the novel asks how we can live meaningful lives in a world rife with inequality.” — Esquire
“For lovers of fiction, [OLGA DIES DREAMING] doesn’t simply demand your attention—it seizes your attention by the huevos and doesn’t let go until you turn the last page. For Puerto Rican and Boricua readers, Gonzalez and her characters breathe new life into the age-old adage, Pa’lante.” – Jezebel
"The extraordinary accomplishment of Olga Dies Dreaming is in how a familiar-enough tale—a woman seeking love, happiness, and fulfillment in the big city—slowly reveals itself to be something else altogether. It’s a book about a New York that isn’t always celebrated, the one that belongs to immigrant communities; about money, class, and political power; about one vividly-imagined family and the very idea of the American Dream." — Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind
"In this sparkling debut, Gonzalez digs deep into the damaged heart of a family, ably dissecting the knottiness of conditional love, identity, loyalty, secrets and the very definition of home. That she manages to cover so much ground with wisdom, tenderness and abundant humor makes this book a complete joy, and I will think about its richly drawn, deeply human characters for a very long time." — Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest and Good Company
“Olga Dies Dreaming is the story of an imperfect family shattered by secrets, grief, and abandonment, and of people who rise up, refusing to be broken. Smart, witty, and driven, Gonzalez’s Olga hustles, stumbles, falls, and eventually finds her way. An unflinching examination of capitalism, corruption, gentrification, colonialism, and their effects on marginalized people, Olga Dies Dreaming is a poignant, scalding debut.” — Jaquira Díaz, author of Ordinary Girls
“Olga Dies Dreaming is as funny as it is insightful, as deft as it is original. In this impressive debut, Xochitl Gonzalez displays a gift for capturing the absurdity in the fabric of life. Wit and wisdom rarely combine in such a powerful one-two punch.” — Mat Johnson, author of Pym and Loving Day
“Olga Dies Dreaming is a love letter to Brooklyn brimming with the best music, with dreams and sorrows—the stuff of real life. At turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Gonzalez gives us a gripping novel about community, family, betrayal, and the complicated inheritance of diaspora—a wild and ambitious saga that shows once again how the personal is always deeply political. An unforgettable story about finding and defending home." — Jennine Capó Crucet, author of My Time Among The Whites
Warmhearted but tough-minded story of a sister and brother grappling with identity, family, and life goals in gentrifying Brooklyn.
Olga and Prieto Acevedo grew up in Sunset Park, in one of the first Puerto Rican families to move into a then-White working-class neighborhood. Now Olga lives in a Fort Greene high-rise and is a very high-end wedding planner. Prieto is back in the family house with his grandmother after a divorce; he’s a congressman fighting for his district—except when he’s shifting his vote at the behest of the Selby brothers, sinister real estate developers who have compromising photos of very closeted Prieto having sex with a man. The siblings both have bad consciences about having compromised the ideals of their mother, a radical activist for Puerto Rican independence who abandoned the family when Olga was 12 and is now a fugitive. Vivid portraits of various friends and relatives capture the richness of Nuyorican culture, and sharp-eyed observations of the Brooklyn social and political landscape underpin a busy plot. It climaxes with the catastrophic impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, where their mother has become the leader of a revolutionary group called the Pañuelos Negros. An actual boyfriend for the previously commitment-phobic Olga prompts her to reassess a career focused on making lots of money, while an HIV scare goads Prieto to question the need to hide his true self. Supported by Tía Lola and their cousin Mabel, sister and brother also begin to realize how their mother has manipulated them for years with her chastising letters, which are scattered throughout to offer grim examples of fanatical political commitment. Nonetheless, debut novelist Gonzalez’s stinging and knowledgeable commentary about the American sociopolitical order that keeps Black and brown people poor and powerless suggests that radical remedies are called for, even if she gives the personal dramas of her appealing main characters pleasingly hopeful final acts.
Atmospheric, intelligent, and well informed: an impressive debut.