Week of 10/1: Bodega Dreams

For Tuesday 10/1: Read pages pages 97-146 in Ernesto Quiñonez’s Bodega Dreams.

For Thursday 10/3: Read pages 146-213 (end of book) in Bodega Dreams.

To guide your reading, think about the following things:


  • What are the key themes of the book? Mark specific examples of them in the text.
  • How do characters develop. What changes do you see? Are there any surprising changes? Again, note specific examples in the text.
  • What seem to be key turns of the plot?
  • How does Quiñonez present urban space and the urban experience? How do different characters see the neighborhood that they live in?
  • What is the role of culture?
  • Note: After we finish this book, we move on to Amiri Baraka (then known as LeRoi Jones)’s Dutchman and The Slave. Please make sure that you have the book by then.


    Week of September 23: Bodega Dreams

    ElBarrioBoxSet_HiResFor Tuesday 9/24: Read pages 1-54 in Ernesto Quiñonez’s Bodega Dreams and watch the first 30 minutes (chapters 1-4) of The Salsa Revolution, which is streaming online on PBS. We’ll talk a little about the role of music as an urban cultural form and how Quiñonez uses it to help shape the narrative of the book. Also think about what the PBS documentary says about how Salsa music is a unique product of New York City.

    For Thursday 9/26: Read pages 55-96 in Bodega Dreams.

    A few things to pay attention to in the book are 1) the role of culture and what it means, 2) Quiñonez’s relationship as a writer to Pietri and Piñero (there are numerous references to both and their poetry throughout the book), 3) the “American Dream” and what it means to the characters in the book, 4) how different generations of immigrants/migrants relate to the city and city life, 5) race and gender relations. This isn’t a complete list, but these are a few key things that jump out at me. Begin to look for connections/ similarities / differences in things we’ve read (and other things you’ve read/ watched /studied in other classes, etc).

    Week of September 17: Miguel Piñero and the Nuyorican city

    For Tuesday, September 17th, catch up on the Piñero poems assigned last week and read the poems “Running Scared”, “Seeking the Cause”, and “New York City Hard Times Blues” from Outlaw. Also read “Introduction to the Drama of Miguel Piñero in Outlaw. Again, it’s not a lot of reading, but you need to read the poems slowly and carefully.

    Watch Piñero read “Seeking the Cause”

    Questions to think about to guide your reading:

  • Based on Piñero’s biographical context, how do his stories match the life he’s living?
  • How does Piñero’s work differ from Pietri’s in form or content?
  • What language does he use and what effect does that have on his poetry?
  • What audiences do you think Piñero is writing for?
  • How do the characters in Piñero’s descriptions of “Loisaida” (Lower East Side) differ from Pietri’s characters in El Barrio?

    The-Sun-Always-Shines-for-the-Cool-Midnight-Moon-at-the-Greasy-Spoon-Eulogy-Pinero-Miguel-9780934770255For Thursday, September 19th read Piñero’s play The Sun Always Shines for the Cool (pages 249-91) in Outlaw.
    Questions to think about to guide your reading:

  • What characters does he show in the play?
  • What language does he use and what effect does that have on his poetry?
  • What audiences do you think Piñero is writing for?
  • What’s the setting he chooses and what side of the city does that show?

  • Week of September 10: Nuyorican Poets Pietri and Piñero

    Pedro Pietri reading at the Poetry Project
    Pedro Pietri reading at the Poetry Project

    First, some logistical points:

  • Please sign up for the class text message service if you haven’t yet. Details are on the syllabus or here (PDF):UrbanWrt_Remind101
  • Also, subscribing to the website updates (see box on the right of the page) will get you notifications as soon as I do a new post
  • Next week, we move on to two significant poets and key people in defining the Nuyorican movement: Pedro Pietri and Miguel Piñero.

    For Tuesday 9/10, Read the interview with Pedro Pietri and the section from his book Puerto Rican Obituary, both posted on the Readings page. There are 2 separate PDFs. Read the interview first, then read the poems. Focus on the following poems: “Puerto Rican Obituary”, “The Broken English Dream”, “Suicide Note from a Cockroach”, and “Love Poem for My People”. Note: “Puerto Rican Obituary” is both the title of his most well-known poem and the title of the book it’s from.

    Watch Pietri read “Puerto Rican Obituary” here

    … and here:

    For Thursday 9/12, we move on to Miguel Piñero and read poetry selections from Outlaw: The Collected Works. Start with the “Introduction to the Poetry of Miguel Piñero” at the beginning of the book. Then read “La Bodega Sold Dreams”, “A Lower East Side Poem”, “The Book of Genesis According to San Miguelito”, “This is Not the Place Where I Was Born”, “Black Woman With the Blond Wig On”, and “Kill, Kill, Kill”. (Up to page 17.) It’s not a lot of reading, however, you must read the poems slowly and carefully and choose 2 of them to read more than once. Take notes on key points that you think are significant, funny, interesting, or do a nice job of telling the story of the city.

    Questions to think about as you read:

  • How does each writer uses language in their work, including both the use of Spanglish and how they write in English.
  • What subjects do they write about and how does that reflect a particular urban experience?
  • What audience do you think they are writing to?
  • How do they use humor in their writing?
  • How do the pictures in Piñero’s book complement his writing? What portrait of the city do they paint?
  • As people who live in the city, what themes or stories can you connect to in their writing?