DOMINICANA by Angie Cruz is a beautifully-written book about the immigrant experience in the 1960s, as seen through the eyes and voice of 15-year-old Ana Cancion.
For the sake of her family, Ana is married off to a man twice her age, who has promised her a lavish life in New York and an escape from the danger of the revolution at home. Ana’s hope – and that of her parents – is that, once established in America, she will be able to get the rest of her family there, too.
Things don’t work as planned. For starters, her husband is not the wealthy and successful new American he portrayed himself to be, but stashes her in a pitiful apartment in a bad part of town and forbids her to leave, dashing her dreams of getting an education. For another, he has a long-time lover. And, for a third, naturally, he abuses her.
And yet Ana survives. She learns how to work with and around her husband, starts English lessons the instant he goes off on business, and finds ways to make her own money. She also falls in love with her brother-in-law, perhaps inevitably, as he is far younger than her husband, slightly irreverent, and often her only companion.
DOMINICANA portrays Ana coming into her own power even while being held back by tradition, language, custom, and the handicap of being an illegal immigrant.
This book, based on the author’s mother’s experience, is about hope. It’s about wanting happiness and security. It’s about what we do in the name of family bonds. In that sense, as well as that of America’s current immigration debacle, we can all relate.