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Acculturation pains, predictable but not altogether trite. Except maybe at the beginning, when 14-year-old Luisa Ruiz is damning everything about Cuban ÉmigrÉ life on Bridgeport's East Side (her parents' reupholstery business, the fattening food, the loud music, her parochial school, her parents' old-country strictures on dating) . . . especially now that she's met ""the embodiment of all her dreams, an incredibly good-looking guy who wasn't poor or ethnic or Catholic."" Turns out, in fairly short order, that footballer Travis, from suburban Trumbull, isn't much of anything else either--even when she has a mad crush on him, Luisa doesn't respond to his heavy-going french kisses--but her shame about her family is harder to shake, despite the reproaches of very decent older brother JosÉ/Joey and his great-guy friend Tom. But this being Bridgeport, there's much betting on jai lai; and Luisa's ""smooth, sophisticated, college-educated, English-speaking uncle"" Roberto secretly gets himself into such a jam that he steals his father-in-law's shoebox of life savings to try, vainly, to extricate himself. And when Roberto's disgrace is disclosed, it's Luisa's horrified Papi who comes to his rescue--presenting Luisa with the revelation that Mami and Papi were ""Too loud and too fat and too Cuban, but okay."" Then, helping Papi deliver a reupholstered sofa, she hears herself being told to put it ""Over here,"" by guess who . . . ? Readers might wonder why smarty Luisa, headed for Trumbull, doesn't ask where they're going? They may have some doubts, too, about Travis' subsequent assurances that it wouldn't have mattered from the beginning. And they're almost sure to blink on reading that he has a grandmother, for goodness sakes, on the East Side. But the contretemps does throw Luisa together with Tom, Mr. Right all along, and permits her to see that, social barriers or not, Travis was Mr. Wrong. The Cuban (national) situation is well handled, and so is the dating game. A smooth entry that, if some-times contrived, still isn't slick.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1981
Publisher: Four Winds