A compassionate, delicate rendering of Puerto Rican life in America--told in poetry and 15 short stories--as Cofer continues to explore territory first described in her debut novel, The Line of The Sun (1989). In ``El Building,'' a noisy barrio tenement teeming with life in Paterson, New Jersey, the joys and tragedies of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood unfold in separate vignettes. Young love is nipped in the bud by mothers protecting their studious sons from dark-skinned neighbors (``American History'' and ``Advanced Biology''), while the fragile relationship between a girl and her father appears in several variations, as in ``Not for Sale,'' where parental tyranny over a 16-year-old's willfulness is transformed by a disturbing encounter with Middle Eastern traditions. Grandparents and siblings are portrayed from the same forgiving perspective, but in addition to loving family portraits, sharply etched sketches of women in crisis also emerge. In ``Coraz¢n CafÇ,'' the young widow of a deli owner mourns his sudden death by recalling the innocent romance the two of them had on ``the Island,'' finding in the recollection--and realization that she has become a vital member of the Paterson community--the strength to carry on without him. A darker side of immigrant life surfaces in ``Nada,'' however, when a mother's loss of her only son in Vietnam, shortly after the death of her husband, unhinges her: she gives away all she owns, throwing the remainder out the window in a frenzy, before killing herself. With the poetry accenting and enhancing themes revealed in the prose: a remarkably cohesive, moving collection--a tribute both to Cofer's considerable talent and her heritage.