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Dominicana by Angie Cruz
Literary fiction

Dominicana

Early Release

This is an early release that's only available to our members—the rest of the world has to wait to read it.

by Angie Cruz

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Quick take

Get in the head of the most resilient girl in 1960s Dominican Republic and NYC—and maybe even the world.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Emotional

    Emotional

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MarriageIssues

    Marriage issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NoQuotationMarks

    No quotation marks

Synopsis

Fifteen-year-old Ana Cancion never dreamed of moving to America, the way the girls she grew up with in the Dominican countryside did. But when Juan Ruiz proposes and promises to take her to New York City, she has to say yes. It doesn’t matter that he is twice her age, that there is no love between them. Their marriage is an opportunity for her entire close-knit family to eventually immigrate. So on New Year’s Day, 1965, Ana leaves behind everything she knows and becomes Ana Ruiz, a wife confined to a cold six-floor walk-up in Washington Heights. Lonely and miserable, Ana hatches a reckless plan to escape. But at the bus terminal, she is stopped by Cesar, Juan’s free-spirited younger brother, who convinces her to stay.

As the Dominican Republic slides into political turmoil, Juan returns to protect his family’s assets, leaving Cesar to take care of Ana. Suddenly, Ana is free to take English lessons at a local church, lie on the beach at Coney Island, see a movie at Radio City Music Hall, go dancing with Cesar, and imagine the possibility of a different kind of life in America. When Juan returns, Ana must decide once again between her heart and her duty to her family.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Dominicana.
Dominicana

Part I

The first time Juan Ruiz proposes, I’m eleven years old, skinny and flat-chested. I’m half asleep, my frizzy hair has busted out from a rubber band, and my dress is on backwards. Every other weekend Juan and three of his brothers show up past midnight all the way from La Capital to serenade the good country girls in the area who’re eligible for marriage. They’re not the first men to stop by and try at me and my older sister, Teresa.

For years, people stare at me, almost against their will. I’m different than other girls. By no means pretty. A curious beauty, people say, as if my green eyes are shinier, more valuable, to be possessed. Because of this, Mamá fears if she doesn’t plan my future, my fate will be worse than Teresa’s, who already has her brown eye on El Guardia, who guards the municipal building in the center of town.

That night, the first out of many, three of the Ruiz brothers park their car on the dirt road and clang on Papá’s colmado’s bell as if they’re herding cows. The roads are dark under the cloudy sky and the absence of the moon. The power outages can last fifteen hours at a time. There’d been some chicken stealing, and our store had been robbed twice in the past year. So we keep everything under lock and key, especially after Trujillo was shot dead. In his own car! After being El Jefe for thirty-one years! This amuses Papá. All his life he had to look at Trujillo’s photograph, along with the slogan: God in Heaven, Trujillo on Earth. No one could help laughing at his mortality. Even God had had enough. But Trujillo didn’t go in peace. La Capital is in chaos. A tremendous mess. No law or order to speak of. Full of crazies. Visitors from the big city tug their lower lids, warning us to remain vigilant. So we’re vigilant.

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Why I love it

The best novels, I find, are books I begin for one reason and end up loving for another. That unpredictability is what makes a novel come alive for me. For many years, I have admired the vitality of Angie Cruz’s writing, and I anticipated that Dominicana would be full of dynamic scenes and fearless candor. What I didn’t expect was how intensely and often I would go on considering the resilience of its mesmerizing protagonist, Ana, after finishing this book.

Dominicana celebrates the tenacity of Ana Cancion, a 15 year old forced to marry a 32 year old as a business arrangement. Raised on a farm in the Dominican Republic, Ana ends up stuck in a hot apartment in New York City with a terrifying husband who obliges her to have sex she doesn’t want to have. Terribly alone in New York living with this oppressive, older husband Juan, Ana forges a bond with Juan’s younger brother, Cesar, and her sense of the possibilities of what her life may hold begin to expand.

Despite being trapped in a terrifying marriage she didn’t choose, Ana does not resign herself to quiet suffering. She remains defiantly open to joy. What fuels a person’s capacity for resilience is an elusive question that fiction is uniquely suited to answering, and Angie Cruz explores it in this novel with such subtlety and insight.

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Member ratings (5,136)

  • JAZMIN C.

    Brentwood, NY

    I love love this book, it will forever be in my heart. It made me laugh, and cry. It was so beautiful, I wish it wasn’t so short, I could not it get enough of it. 100000% recommended❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  • Soraya K.

    Anchorage, AK

    I can’t help but think of the DMB lyric, “I’m coming slow but speeding” when I think about the plot. We were moving, not fast enough, but then yet almost too fast at the end. I loved Ana and her story

  • Sydney Y.

    Paris, TX

    A young Dominican immigrant in the foreign land of NYC and a dead Malcolm X on her doorstep. For her, it’s Malcom Who? for she doesn’t know English, doesn’t get out much. But she’s brave. Go Anna!

  • Ester F.

    Yonkers, NY

    Read this one in less than 5 days - I didn’t want to put it down. Def helped me understand more first generation dominicans in the city. I am second generation and I’m thankful of the sacrifices made

  • Luiz B.

    New York, NY

    It’s a slow burner, it’s intense and heavy, but somehow softened by the heroine’s innocence. The writing is beautiful and the lack of quotation actually works, adding a whimsical touch to the story.

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