A slender collection of six stories from Cuban-born SuÃ¡rez (The Cutter, Latin Jazz), though infused with a sense of quiet alienation and existential despair, vividly evokes Hispanic-American life. Whether the character is a young Cuban exile working as a painter; a boy helping his immigrant father sell ice-cream; a son forced to condone his father's illegal gambling; or a Hispanic-American college student trying to forget his unhappy family--all share a sense of being outsiders caught up in situations not of their choosing. In ""Welcome to the Oasis,"" the longest and most accomplished piece here, the young man employed to paint the apartment block discovers that in its own way the place is as riddled with fears and tensions as Cuba was. With fatal results, he's reluctantly drawn into the lives of the other Cuban exiles who live in the block. In another notable story, ""A Perfect Hotspot,"" a high-school student who'd prefer to be working as a life-guard must help his immigrant father sell ice-cream from a shabby truck. Ashamed of the truck, and of his father's treatment of the customers, the boy daydreams about swimming; but though his father eventually lets him go--""Dreamers like you learn the hard way""--he knows he will have to pay and braces himself for the ensuring violence. When a college student returns home (""Headshots"") and learns that his younger brother has been arrested for drug possession, he's reminded by his father that ""what had happened to my brother could never happen to me."" But he recalls a drug and drinking spree in New Orleans in which he tried to forget his unhappy parents ""who hated one another, not because of what they had become, but because of what each had depleted in the other."" A tightly controlled but affecting exploration of fundamental tensions in a community for whom SuÃ¡rez is becoming an eloquent and promising voice.