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AN ISLAND LIKE YOU by Judith Ortiz Cofer


Stories of the Barrio

by Judith Ortiz Cofer

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-531-06897-8
Publisher: Orchard

 A pastiche of 12 short stories about Puerto RicanAmerican teenagers growing up in a New Jersey barrio. The first and longest story in the book--about a 15-year-old girl who is sent to stay with her grandparents in Puerto Rico for the summer--is a fine, self-contained achievement. The rest of the book revolves around a loosely linked group of youths; the central framework of the plotting is conflict--teenagers in conflict with their parents or grandparents, with their community, with themselves--and partial resolution. The first-person narrators--six girls and one boy--are slightly different people in slightly different situations, all of them participants in the tragedy of adolescence. They are the Holden Caulfields of the barrio. If they aren't all that sharply defined and tend to blend into one another, it is because they have not yet defined their own social personalities; unlike the heroes in the other stories, narrated in the third person, they are all still defining their perceived inferiorities. But the portrait of the common mentality that emerges--the spiritual tissue that connects a real-life setting, a way of thought, and a voice--is stunningly vivid and deep. And what characterizes this mentality above all else is its irony, which passes unscathed through even the most humbling experiences. Simultaneously serious, funny, and extremely lyrical, Cofer's intonation is authentic and her book has real worth. (Fiction. 12+)