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An epic novel of jazz, race and the effects of war on an American family
This sweeping drama of intimately connected families --black, white, and Latino-- boldly conjures up the ever-shifting cultural mosaic that is America. At its heart is Vidamía Farrell, half Puerto Rican, half Irish, who sets out in search of the father she has never known. Her journey takes her from her affluent home to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where her father Billy Farrell now lives with his second family. Once a gifted jazz pianist, Billy lost two fingers in the Vietnam War and has since shut himself off from jazz.
In this powerful modern odyssey, Vidamía struggles to bring her father back to the world of jazz. Her quest gives her a new understanding of family, particularly through her half-sisters Fawn, a lonely young poet plagued with a secret, and Cookie, a sassy, streetsmart homegirl who happens to be "white." And when Vidamía becomes involved with a young African-American jazz saxophonist, she is forced to explore her own complex roots, along with the dizzying contradictions of race etched in the American psyche.
Edgardo Vega Yunqué vividly captures the myriad voices of our American idiom like a virtuoso spinning out a series of expanding riffs, by turns lyrical, deadly, flippant, witty, and haunting.
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Edgardo Vega Yunqué, author of The Comeback, Mendoza's Dreams, and Casualty Report, was born in Puerto Rico and lives in Brooklyn. His stories have been adapted for the stage and anthologized internationally.
"Ed Vega . . . has appropriated English, making it imitate Spanish, jazz and street noise. He creates a fantasy community out of the materials of exile."
--The Village Voice
"In a prose that flows like life itself and makes reading an act as natural as singing or crying, Vega Yunqué amalgamates all --accents, skin colors, longings, obsessions, reciprocal mistrust, possibilities of connection, questions of identity. Situating his theme beyond racism, but also beyond its frigid, facile opposite, "political correctness," the author guides us solely by his finely tuned sense of what it is to be human. ‘Let the song sing you, honey’, one character says to another, giving us the key: Let the book read you. With this magnificent novel, that’s all you have to do."
--Laura Restrepo, author of Leopard in the Sun and The Dark Bride
"The 'perpetual war' we find ourselves in—from Sand Creek and the Civil War to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and the streets of New York City—is met head-on here with such unfashionable means as narrative, character, and emotion. Going in turns bitter and sweet against the grain of so much made-to-order fiction, Edgardo Vega Yunqué’s intricate and informed generosity of vision begins to render something like justice to our truncated, abbreviated, and categorized selves."
--Ammiel Alcalay, author of Memories of Our Future and After Jews and Arabs: Remaking Levantine Culture
"Masterfully crafted and complex, this coming of age tale of Vidamia Farrell is irresistible. Puerto Rican culture and its tangential connections to all that is Black and some that is White aims at the vortex of race in America. The many histories of our people are evoked by our music and sing like sinews of the body and leave the reader a bittersweet experience that rivals the strength of our own memories. I couldn't put it down and was saddened to leave the plethora of vital, cruel, loving, and questioning characters who I now feel as part of me. Absolutely amazing."
--Ntozake Shange, author of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf
"Not long ago we would hail Vidamia and her family as a contradiction. Today it dawns on us that it's the incumbent social construction of race, plaster falling like rain, that contradicts itself. I've tried to move minds to the light of this new day; Edgardo Vega Yunqué will move reader's hearts."
--Leon Wynter, author of American Skin
"Big, brave, boisterous and brawling, Edgardo Vega Yunqué comes out swinging from the first sentence and leaves us, by the end, in a perfect heap. What a title, what a family, what a sense of the city: this novel is a mythic embodiment of our times and a wonderful inventory of New York's human music."
--Colum McCann, author of This Side of Brightness and Dancer
"Edgardo Vega Yunqué has written one from the heart, a vivid, poignant book about love, loss, and family."
--Kevin Baker, author of Sometimes You See It Coming and Paradise Alley
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