Book Review: Bodega Dreams


Emiliano Medina

Bodega Dreams, published on March 14, 2000, and written by Ernesto Quinonez was raved upon by readers and authors alike, despite not winning any awards. Author to the novel, Ernesto Quinonez was an Ecuador born- Spanish Harlem raised citizen that wrote an urban fiction novel to accurately represent the neighborhood that not only raised him, but as well as entire generations as it continues to do so. Bodega Dreams was seen as an extremely well written novel about the diverse neighborhoods that were Spanish Harlem in the early 2000 in the time the novel was written and explored a story about the ghettos and corruption, that as Ernesto Quinonez put it, as a way to help the people.

The novel follows the path of a young man by the name of Chino and his friend Sapo, who Chino continues to hold his friendship close to him. Sapo’s character, while can be incredibly grim and violent, is seen as the friendly and lovable character, as Chino puts it “I loved Sapo. I loved Sapo because he loved himself. And I wanted to be able to do that, to rely on myself for my own happiness.” Chino and Sapo find their lives at a crossroad with Willie Bodega, a Harlem legend.

Bodega is seen as part of history for Spanish Harlem, being the one person that everybody in the neighborhood could go to for any needs, desires, and troubles they needed solved with the exchange of always being there for Bodega when he needed. Bodega is seen as the story’s anti-hero as his motives aren’t truly shown, however as he is equal parts dreamer, activist, and while he asks for Chino and his friend Sapo’s help to reconnect with a lost lover. Although Sapo is already involved with violence and crime, Chino is more hesitant to join Bodega as he does not want to get involved in anything illegal that would put his future at stake. However after being promised nothing would happen to him and that Bodega would assist him, Chino accepted his offer and joined.

The story dives into what would happen when corruption and power was put into an aged activist that still set out on the goal to help his community but tragically got blinded by a false love. Ernesto Quinonez elaborates on the story with his beautiful storytelling, his ability to describe emotions and attention to scenery details help elaborate the accurate and captivating novel that is Bodega Dreams.