Dominicana by Angie Cruz
The Cancion family is struggling to survive in the countryside of the Dominican Republic in the 1960s. The matriarch is sure the answer to all their troubles is a marriage between one of her daughters and one of the wealthy Ruiz brothers. Her eldest daughter has already ruined her plans by falling in love with a poor man nearby so all the family’s hopes and dreams fall on the shoulders of fifteen-year-old Ana. Juan Ruiz is in need of a piece of property owned by the Cancion’s for a restaurant he and his brothers want to open so he agrees to marry the young Ana and bring her with him to New York City. Ana’s mother insists that she be a good wife, keeping a good home and making her husband happy so he will give her lots of money to send home to her relatives.
Of course Ana’s life does not match the story her mother told. The apartment in NYC she lives in with Juan and one of his brothers is disgusting but she can fix that. There is never any extra money to send home but she’s working on that. She’s always told to tell strangers she’s eighteen if they ask and she feels lost in a city so different from her home. But Ana is a smart young woman forced to grow up fast, always aware that her family’s happiness is her responsibility.
Ana is a strong person coming of age in a strange place. At once she feels like a child and a woman, a teenager needing and wanting to be an adult but at the same time wanting someone to love and take care of her. Lost in her new place she starts to bend Juan’s rules for her and explore her surroundings and get to know herself and her new city; even enrolling in ESL classes at a local church. She feels the burden of her family acutely and never loses sight of her family and that they are depending on her. While this is by no means the fairy tale of America Ana’s mother predicted Ana is a survivor and a pleasure to get to know in these pages.