PAPI by Rita Indiana


by Rita Indiana ; translated by Achy Obejas
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Most children believe their parents are perfect, and the realization that they aren’t typically comes as something of a shock.

But the 8-year-old unnamed protagonist of Dominican writer Indiana’s English-language debut is not typical. In fact, she’s always had mixed feelings about Papi, the father who can bring her from agony to exultation in the course of an afternoon. On one hand, Papi is larger than life, presenting himself as if he owns the world and everything in it. Cocky and brash, he drips wealth and conspicuous consumption. Is he really important, she wonders? If so, why? The answers to these basic questions are far more elusive than the little girl would like, but as she bounces between Papi’s U.S. and Dominican mansions, clues about his less-than-legal vocation come to the fore. She notices, for example, that people fawn all over her dad and hang on to his every word as they beg for handouts and favors. It’s unsettling. Worse, there's another side to Papi. And although the child clearly loves her dad and is thrilled to be part of his entourage, she has also had to reckon with the fact that Papi can be irresponsible, conniving, and cutthroat. Furthermore, she knows that he treats women badly and has herself been on the receiving end of his broken promises and blatant lies. Not surprisingly, the child is perplexed, and as she struggles to make sense of the dysfunction, images gleaned from horror movies, science fiction, telenovelas, and fantasy collide with her lived experience. Throughout, long run-on sentences force readers to sort through a dizzying array of words, emotions, and images. Palpable pain spills forth, as do the girl’s confusion, angst, and tumultuous inner life.

A masterfully drawn, if sad, work of experimental coming-of-age fiction.

Pub Date: March 22nd, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-226-24489-1
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2016


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