Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Try to Remember

6/13/10 Try to Remember by Iris Gomez (Grand Central, $13.99) is an intriguing paperback debut that focuses on the coming-of-age and stressful family life of Gabriela de la Paz (Gabi).

It's set primarily in Miami during the late 1960s and early 1970s, showcasing 13-year-old Gabi and her increasing challenges.

The novel is told by Gabi, the daughter of Colombian immigrants. Her unemployed father wants her to help type up letters to businesses as he seeks a job. Unfortunately, his missives are disjointed and make little sense. Soon he changes to writing letters involving moneymaking schemes.

Roberto, her father, loses his temper and is arrested, and then the family's problems intensify. Gabi worries about deportation.

Her mother, Evangelina, takes a menial job in a struggle for survival, but her pride won't allow her to tell her husband. Her father's mental condition deteriorates further, with more violent results.

Evangelina resorts to unusual methods in her valiant attempts to calm her husband down, but his refusal to see a doctor only make matters worse.
As Gabi assists Roberto in his futile letter writing, she becomes more frustrated. She's trying to figure out what to do with her life, getting insights from her friends, the daughters of Cuban immigrants.

Her mother's strict attitudes add to the stress. Gabi's doing well at school but takes part-time jobs to minimize confrontations at home.
Her two brothers have issues at school and turn to drugs, while boys are becoming interested in Gabi and making advances.

Gomez, who graduated from MSU, combines all these elements and adds more plot twists, creating a memorable and innovative semi-autobiographical tale.

The author of two volumes of poetry, Gomez is an award-winning, nationally known immigrants' rights attorney and advocate. She's the director of the Immigrants' Protection Project of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.

Ray Walsh
This article also appeared in the
Lansing State Journal on June 13, 2010

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