Richard Blanco’s new book, The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood, explores similar ideas that were evoked in his poem “One Today,” read at President Obama’s 2013 inauguration. America is united through dreaming, finding our way, and finding ourselves. And in this book, the author applies it to his own childhood. These truths are universal, yet unique, to whoever is telling his or her story.
Through vivid anecdotes, Mr. Blanco offers the sights and smells of the 1970-80 Miami’s exile community. His eloquent and poetic writing has the ability to induce laughter, tears, and anger, sometimes on the same page. As a boy, Blanco spoke Spanish and English and felt American since he arrived in America as an infant. However, being immersed in his Cuban heritage, both nurturing and smothering, as well as having certain expectations and prejudices, induced pride in an unknown homeland. It also created an identity crisis for little “Riqui.”
What this reader realized from reading “The Prince of Los Cocuyos” (the fireflies) is that we are all “immigrants” in a way. The questions Blanco struggled with as a youth — Where do I belong and who am I? — are universal. Growing up is about finding your own answers to these queries, while often hearing something different from those closest to you. In Blanco’s case, conflicting demands come in the form of his overbearing and homophobic grandmother, who repeatedly humiliates her grandson. Richard discovers early on that he is not like other boys. Rather than being outgoing and athletic, he’s academic, artistic, and sensitive, eventually inching closer and closer to manifesting his abuela’s greatest fear that he is gay.
The Prince of Los Cocuyos is about a young man’s need for belonging, and the disappointments and joy that stem from his search. Highly recommended, Richard Blanco’s coming-of-age story is told with humor and humility and is a pleasure to read.
Originally appeared on edgemedianetwork.com on Nov.5, 2014.