A celebration of friendship on the margins is the theme of Cuban-born Mu§oz's first novel in English. Back home in Cuba, when they and the revolution were young, tomboy Rosita and effeminate Marito shared ``a stereotypical biography: macho-father, puppet-mother. The Works. We help and comfort each other. You have a secret; it's similar to mine; we're accomplices.'' And before Rosita's family leaves Cuba, the two put on, just for themselves, a theatrical performance--``our spectacular debut''--in which Rosita plays the leading man, and Marito the Carnival Queen. Their voices alternate in the book, though Rosita is the more unusual narrator, as they describe their experiences: Marito still in Cuba and fearing arrest as a homosexual; Rosita in California. At first Rosita is homesick for Cuba, refusing to speak English unless it is absolutely necessary, but then one day she decides that ``I need to stop living off my memories. I began to see nostalgia as my enemy.'' She graduates from college, teaches, has an affair with Joan from the Midwest; meanwhile, Marito, now also in exile, is an artist and part of the gay culture of San Francisco. The two meet again, and renew their friendship; having searched ``Heaven and Earth for a true love, for a generous homeland, for a family who wouldn't abuse us or condemn us, for a body who wouldn't betray our truest secrets, we found each other.'' When Marito dies from AIDS, Rosita resolves to keep his memory alive--``I will let myself dream as I invent your dream.'' The pain of cultural and sexual alienation is vividly described, and Rosita, in particular, is an engaging protagonist, but the novel itself is too bitty, too brief, for the really big themes it suggests.