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The Prince of Los Cocuyos: June 2015 Book of the Month

June 2015 Book of the Month:

The Prince of Los Cocuyos by Richard Blanco

June 2015: Richard Blanco, author of The Prince of Los Cocuyos published by Ecco Press

June 2015: Richard Blanco, author of The Prince of Los Cocuyos published by Ecco Press

Book of the Month Outside Links: Book Author Publisher

About the Book:

The Prince of Los Cocuyos

The Prince of Los Cocuyos

By Richard Blanco
Published by Ecco Press
ISBN-13: 9780062313775

Richard Blanco’s childhood and adolescence were experienced between two imaginary worlds: the nostalgic world of 1950s Cuba that lived in the hearts and minds of his parents, an island paradise temporarily lost, to which they would all return someday, and Blanco’s imagined America, which he believed was exactly like the America he saw on reruns of “The Brady Bunch” and “Leave it to Beaver,” an “exotic” life he yearned for as much as he yearned to finally see “la patria.”

Navigating these worlds eventually led Blanco to questions about his cultural identity, which led him to writing as a means to investigate them; in turn, his vision as a writer–as an artist–prompted the courage to accept himself as a gay man. In Los Cucuyos, the 2013 inaugural poet traces his poignant, often hilarious, and quintessentially American coming-of-age story. From his conflicted feelings for his grandmother, who loved him fiercely but whose homophobia drove Blanco deep into the closet from an early age, crushing his ability to write, to his childhood pilgrimage to “the promised land”–Disneyworld–a trip for which his mother packed six rolls of toilet paper; from his relationship with his grandfather and their make-shift “farm” in suburban Miami to his interactions with the Cuban exiles during the years he worked at his uncle’s grocery store, Blanco explores his Miami adolescence.

A prismatic and lyrical narrative rich with the colors, sounds, smells and textures of Miami, Los Cucuyos is a resonant account of how Blanco came into his own sense of an authentic self, one that incorporated his Cubanness, his queerness, and his artistic drive; and ultimately, a deeper understanding of what it means to be American beyond the myths and ideals to which we subscribe. A singular and yet universal story, Los Cucuyos illuminates the experience of “becoming;” how we are perpetually shaped by experiences, memories, and stories worth examining and honoring for all their complexities: the humor, love, yearning, and tenderness that make a life alive in any context imaginable.

About the Author:

Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco was born in Madrid in 1968, immigrating as an infant with his Cuban-exile family to the United States. He was raised and educated in Miami, earning a B.S. in civil engineering and a M.F.A. in creative writing from Florida International University. Blanco has been a practicing engineer, writer and poet since 1991. He has traveled extensively in his adult life, living and working throughout Europe and South America. He has taught at Georgetown University, American University, Writer’s Center and Central Connecticut State University. Blanco currently resides in the tranquil mountains of Bethel, Maine.

His books, in order of publication, are: City of a Hundred Fires (1998), Directions to the Beach of the Dead (2005), Looking for the Gulf Motel (2012), One Today (2013), Boston Strong (2013), and For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey (2013).

In 2013, Blanco was chosen to serve as the fifth inaugural poet of the United States, following in the footsteps as such great writers as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. Blanco performed One Today, an original poem he wrote for the occasion, becoming the youngest, first Latino, immigrant and openly gay writer to hold the honor.

Following the inauguration, he continued connecting communities through occasional poetry. He has written and performed occasional poems for such organizations as Freedom to Marry, the Tech Awards and the Fragrance Awards. In May of 2013, Blanco wrote Boston Strong, an occasional poem he performed at the TD Boston Garden Benefit Concert and at a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. Following his performances, he released a limited edition Boston Strong chapbook, with all proceeds going to those most affected by the Boston Marathon bombings.

Blanco has received numerous honors for his writings and performances, including an honorary doctorate from Macalester College and being named a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow. His first book, City of a Hundred Fires received the prestigious Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize. His second book, Directions to the Beach of the Dead won the PEN / American Beyond Margins Award. His third book, Looking for The Gulf Motel received various accolades, including the Tom Gunn Award, the Maine Literary Award and the Paterson Prize. His poems have appeared in countless literary journals and anthologies, including Best American Prose Poems and Ploughshares.

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