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Stories of heritage and memory: debut novels, short fiction from a master and other tales take readers on unexpected journeys.

Loosing My Espanish by H.G. Carrillo Pantheon, October 2004 $23, ISBN 0-375-42319-2

In this poignant debut novel, Carrillo gives an incisive look into the lives of a Cuban American family unit. The novel's main character, Oscar Delossantos, is a history teacher who has been dismissed from a Jesuit boys' high school for alleged indiscretions after more than 20 years of service. With one foot out the door, Delossantos throws caution to the wind, taking his students through an extended history lesson that, in part, chronicles his family's flight from a Cuba on the brink of revolution to Miami and then on to Chicago. Each character holds the key to different facets of experience and memory that comprise their common history. He also gives his students a lesson in living, exhorting them to answer the call to life, to freedom.

Carrillo shows his profound literary sensibilities from the very title of his novel. The word "loosing" (often the Spanish speaker's pronunciation for "losing") refers to the immigrants' losing not only a language but also a way of being that does not translate completely into a new culture. Spanish is also loosed within the story--a word here, a phrase there, a few lines here---combining with English as a statement of the dichotomy that is real for those whose lives are governed by a dual culture. Carrillo's prose is lyrical, skillfully descriptive, bold, colorful, magical and vibrant with cultural rhythm and resonance.

In this superbly crafted work, Carrillo---the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards for his fiction, which has appeared in The Kenyon Review and Glimmer Train--appeals to our emotions and our intelligence. The book's opening lines read, "Well you know sometimes you no know you no going to like something until you right in the middle of no liking...." This is not the case with Loosing My Espanish. The novel calls you in Ven, ven, ven aqui, come, come, come here and keeps you riveted.

Denolyn Carroll Denolyn Carroll is the deputy managing editor at Essence magazine.
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Author:Carroll, Denolyn
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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