The Prince of Los Cocuyos by Richard Blanco. ★★★★
Recently I had the chance to attend a reading by Richard Blanco, who was the inaugural poet for President Obama in 2012. He was the first Latino, gay person, and immigrant to ever hold this position. I loved his reading so much, that I immediately rushed off to get two books of his poetry and his memoir on his childhood, The Prince of Los Cocuyos.
Richard Blanco was born in Cuban exiled parents and entered the United States of America when he was only forty-five days old. Most of his childhood was spent in a Cuban neighborhood in Miami, in a house his parents shared with his paternal grandparents.
Always beautifully written, The Prince of Los Cocuyos veers in tone from amusing family antecedents to more serious incidents, often relating to the very homophobic environment he grew up in. In a large part, the memoir is a reflection on cultural identity and being between cultures. As a child, he never could figure out if he was American and Cuban, and he didn’t know if it was possible to be both.
For instance, the first chapter is one of the more humorous. In it, his elementary school aged self is trying to convince his largely dubious family to have an American style Thanksgiving (or Sans Giving as they called it) through the means of the local Winn Dixie grocery store. The chapter starts with him using the low prices of chicken to try and convince his frugal abuela to venture into the horrors of the Winn Dixie.
Overall, The Prince of Los Cocuyos is a book I highly enjoyed. I also recommend trying some of his poetry. His inaugural poem, “One Today” is available online.