Monday, July 29, 2019

Kat's Review: American Dreamer

American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera
Publisher: Carina Press (March 4, 2019)
Series: Dreamers, 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance -- Queer, M/M

No one ever said big dreams come easy

For Nesto Vasquez, moving his Afro-Caribbean food truck from New York City to the wilds of Upstate New York is a huge gamble. If it works? He’ll be a big fish in a little pond. If it doesn’t? He’ll have to give up the hustle and return to the day job he hates. He’s got six months to make it happen—the last thing he needs is a distraction.

Jude Fuller is proud of the life he’s built on the banks of Cayuga Lake. He has a job he loves and good friends. It’s safe. It’s quiet. And it’s damn lonely. Until he tries Ithaca’s most-talked-about new lunch spot and works up the courage to flirt with the handsome owner. Soon he can’t get enough—of Nesto’s food or of Nesto. For the first time in his life, Jude can finally taste the kind of happiness that’s always been just out of reach.

An opportunity too good to pass up could mean a way to stay together and an incredible future for them both…if Nesto can remember happiness isn’t always measured by business success. And if Jude can overcome his past and trust his man will never let him down.

Where to Buy*:
More Info:

Content Warnings: Anti-queer religious ideology, racist anti-immigrant rhetoric

Kat's Review:

I am white and I was raised in the midwest U.S. There was, like, one Black family in my school, and one Jewish family. Prior to college, the most “ethnic” food I was exposed to was Taco Bell and Olive Garden.

I position myself like this so I can say that reading American Dreamer, which is situated lovingly in a Dominican immigrant experience was wonderful to read.  In light of all the BS rhetoric that Republicans are spewing about how diversity pollutes our country and how immigrants should “go back,” the story of Nesto (and the stories of his friends in later books) is amazing and I’m sad that younger me wasn’t able to hear experiences like this growing up. My point is: everyone should read this book.

Ernesto Vasquez is a Dominican immigrant whose culture is embedded in his life and personality, not in a way that feels two-dimensional, but in a way that feels really authentic. His speech is peppered with Spanish (there are enough context clues throughout to help those of us who are not so proficient) and since his business is food, specifically Afro-Caribbean food, the DR is present in a variety of ways. He’s not perfect, though. Nesto comes with the (over)drive to succeed in the face of adversity, a drive instilled in him by his mother and also being an immigrant in New York City.

Our other MC is Jude Fuller, a white guy with an appreciation for Latinx cultures, a fluency in Spanish, and a definite affinity for Nesto’s food. Jude also feels like an authentic person - not like a “woke” white guy, but someone who genuinely values and respects Nesto’s background and how it’s a part of his life. Jude’s got baggage, too, of course. His past includes a horrible homophobic church life and the fallout from his family’s reaction to his coming out.

When Nesto and Jude meet, they’re both not really in a good position to be in a relationship. Nesto has just moved to Ithaca, NY (home to Cornell University) to try to open a new market for his food truck, OuNYe (based on the Yoruba word ounje); Jude is trying to keep his head down at the library so he can start a new bookmobile project for rural youth. The overarching source of conflict for both Nesto and Jude is a white lady who intersects with both of their professional lives. She is a full BBQ Becky and she also, unfortunately, feels 100% authentic.

In usual romance form, they fall in love relatively quickly. There are a lot of sweet moments, and a lot of hot ones. Their sexual relationship is another place that feels genuine. Often in M/M sex scenes, women writers jump right to the butt stuff. But not every gay dude likes butt stuff, and definitely not every relationship has a clear top/bottom dynamic. Herrera’s portrayal of Nesto’s and Jude’s personalities and masculinities feels both like the way men could be (wouldn’t it be so nice if men were just comfortable in both vulnerability and strength?) and the way men are (surely there are men out there with healthy relationships with their mothers).

Minor spoilers

There were a couple parts of the book I struggled to get through. Jude reconnects with his sister Mary, who’s going through some heavy stuff. She’s still sipping the anti-queer koolaid, though, and some of the conversations with her and memories that Jude recounts for Nesto hit pretty close to home for me. Mary also does something that’s super not cool at the end of the book and Jude is a bigger man than I am about forgiving her.

End of spoilers

Overall, I’m so glad I got to read this book, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.  Herrera’s writing is excellent and she’s also got a knack for dialogue. All of her characters feel like full humans (even if they’re assholes). The story universe she’s building is one that I want to see more of. It’s frustrating to me to know that for every story published that features an immigrant experience (to say nothing of the queer aspect here), there is a whole pile of generic whiteness published. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Carina Press in the future, but I’m really hoping that they continue to publish voices like Herrera’s. We desperately need them.


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Source: Bought

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Thanks for the review, Kat! I loved this one as well, such an amazing read and I cannot wait for more from Adriana!


Until Next Time,

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