CITY OF GOD by Gil Cuadros


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 A typical debut, rife with self-reference and autobiography, that adds another voice, but nothing new, to the rich tapestry of gay life in America. In this slim collection of nine short stories and ten poems, Cuadros explores what it means to be young, gay, and Latino in California in the 1990s--growing up, coming out, dealing with the pressures of the Catholic faith and the expectations of a strict family, losing friends and lovers, and living with AIDS. Some of the best stories are those in which the issue of sexuality sort of takes a back seat: A young boy copes with his great-grandfather's death and the family rivalry that rears its ugly head at the funeral in ``Indulgences''; a man cares for his dying grandmother and discovers family secrets as he sifts through his grandfather's old journal and his own childhood memories of a friendly ghost in ``Reynaldo.'' But even here, the sexual subtext is strong--these rivalries and secrets are generated by suggestions of homosexuality. Still, Cuadros prefers to attack the subject of gay culture head-on: A suicidal nine-year-old fools around with his ``half retarded'' cousin in ``Chivalry''; a man with AIDS has unsafe sex while struggling with the opposing ideas ``This is wrong'' and ``Shut up, you're going to die anyway'' in ``Unprotected''; and another dying man discovers a new way of seeing when AIDS steals his eyesight in ``Sight.'' But what Cuadros hopes to be enlightening and despairing feels merely commonplace and dull. This proves even more true in the tragic but uninspired poetry that addresses everything from a first encounter (``To the First Time'') to testing positive (``At Risk'') to watching a lover die (``The Quilt Series''). What should have been a moving testament to relationships and life in a time of crisis proves agenda-driven and weak.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-87286-295-X
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: City Lights
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1994