From the acclaimed author of Bodega Dreams comes a stunning novel about the changing face of the American city.
Julio Santana is an arsonist. For a fee, Julio burns down buildings looked upon as unseemly by investors trying to transform the very face of the Spanish Harlem neighborhood he calls home. Julio has pocketed thousands of dollars from people who want to profit from the forced gentrification of his neighborhood, money he has used to make his parents proud by purchasing them a place of their own.
By controlling the flow of those streaming into the neighborhood, the true power players behind this insurance scam have made a fortune. So when Julio falls in love with Helen, a white woman who just moved into the neighborhood, he makes it his priority to stop setting his own neighborhood ablaze and enter into a life of clean, honest living. Little does he realize that his change for the good has angered his employers and promises to threaten Julio's life, along with the lives of everyone he loves.
As Julio struggles to live up to his decision, he is surrounded by characters who both complicate and enlighten his life. From the well-intentioned neighborhood pastor who sells illegal American citizenship papers to undocumented workers, to the Santero priest who is wise sage to all who know him, to Julio's doting, streetwise parents, the characters here are given life by Qui#241;onez in a novel whose themes are both current and timelessly universal.
In the end, Chango's Fire is a work about what every city in America is currently undergoing. Using his signature prose, Qui#241;onez paints the face of a neighborhood we can all identify with, helping to solidify his status as one of the preeminent literary chroniclers of our time.
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Ernesto Qui#241;onez is the author of Bodega Dreams, which was chosen as a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers title as well as a Borders Bookstore Original New Voice selection. He lives in Harlem.From Publishers Weekly:
With the money he makes burning down houses as part of an insurance scam, Julio Santana, 29, a reluctant professional arsonist in Spanish Harlem, strives to make a better life for himself and his parents in this heart-on-its-sleeve novel of urban Latino life by Quiñonez, author of the critically acclaimed Bodega Dreams (2000). Despite his ambitions to make good—he's also in night school and working an above-board demolition job—Julio is wary of the gradual gentrification of his beloved neighborhood, which takes a personal turn when white girl Helen moves in downstairs. Her swings from condescension to belligerence are rather jarring (and not entirely credible), but Julio falls for her and embarks on a doomed relationship. Meanwhile, his old friend Maritza is running a church on the ground floor of his building, which she uses as a front for anti-AIDS crusading and shady immigration dealings. Erratic plotting jolts the reader from one neighborhood drama to the next, as Julio wrestles with questions of identity and ethics. But when he's blackmailed by his boss into doing one last arson job, a plot twist lets him (and Quiñonez) take the easy way out. Quiñonez has a comfortable familiarity with his turf and the catchy Spanglish most of his characters speak, but he tackles too much in this sometimes preachy, sketchy novel.
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