Monday, October 6, 2008

Dark Dude Oscar Hijuelos

Dark Dude - Oscar Hijuelos Rico Fuentes is a very light Cuban, so light people think he's white. Both of Rico's parents are Cuban, he gets his color from an Irish ancestor. Going up in Harlem Rico is picked on by Latinos and Blacks, carry money for would be jumpers. Dark Dude is one of the many names Rico got called. He has two close friends Gilberto and Jimmy. The novel opens with Gilberto using his lotto winnings to move to Wisconsin for college. Gilberto looked out for Rico like an older brother. Rico scored very high on a high school intelligence test, though his public school nicknamed "Jo Mamas" by the students was not a great learning environment. Rico skips school on a regular basis. When his parents find out, Rico's father threatens to send him to live with his uncle. Before Rico's father can send him away, he runs away to Wisconsin for a new start. Rico convinces Jimmy to go with him. Jimmy is Rico's best friend, a very talented artist and trying to kick a heroin habit. The two hitchhike all the way to Wisconsin. By the time Rico and Jimmy are hitchhiking I had already figured out that Dark Dude isn't set in the present day thanks to words like jive and converse being the sneakers of choice. Hijuelos setting choice is subtle and of little importance. The author has created a character many teens can relate to , a 15yr old teenager who is trying to figure out where he belongs. One thing Rico is sure of his is love of reading especially comic books. Rico creates some pretty cool superheroes himself including one called the Latin Dagger. Dark Dude is over 400 pages, about one year of Rico's life. I really enjoyed Dark Dude, its hard not to like a novel that begins with the main character cleaning an outhouse.
Time to share

Rico tries to join an after school club
"One afternoon I left school late. I'd just tried to join the ASPIRA club, which was for Latino students, but as soon as I had walked in, it took me about thirty seconds to change my mind. The kid behind the desk gave me an up and down that said, What are you doing here. And so I walked right out, not wanting to explain a single thing about myself. Why should I have to?"

Rico and Jimmy are picked up by an angry black man
"And while I thought about telling our driver that I had cousins in Cuba who were as black as himself, with all shades of color running through the past generations of my family, and that I knew all kinds of nice black folks even if I had my share of hassles, I doubted that he would have believed me. Then, as he went on about white devils, it hit me that the only reason he had picked us up was to torture us with his nasty feelings. Like that was my kind of luck."

Hijuelos was awarded the Pulitzer prize in 1990, Dark Dude is his first novel for teens. In the back of the book there is a note to the reader from Atheneum publishers. It basically says they plan to offer more Latino literature for young adult readers.

The tail end of the note
"We believe that the Latino community - so diverse in tradition , cultural sensibility, historical pacing, race and religion is renewing the American spirit. We invite you to share with us in celebrating our new venture."

I didn't find anything else about this at Atheneum website but I did find this Voices in First Person: Reflections on Latino IdentityEdited by Lori Marie Carlson

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