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Check It Out: Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez

This is Kelsey Patterson with the Sioux City Public Library and you’re listening to Check It Out.

Today, I’m recommending Olga Dies Dreaming, the multilayered debut from Xochitl Gonzalez.

It’s 2017, and Olga and her brother, Pedro Acevedo, are boldfaced names in their hometown of New York City. Pedro is a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn, while Olga is the stylish, sought-after wedding planner for Manhattan’s power brokers. Despite their alluring public lives, behind closed doors things are far less rosy.

Sure, Olga can orchestrate the love stories of the 1 percent, but she can’t seem to find her own...until she meets Matteo, who forces her to confront the effects of long-held family secrets. And then there’s Pedro, who gets it done in both D.C. and Puerto Rico where their family is from yet finds himself being blackmailed by property developers. Home base is their grandmother’s house, where she raised them when their activist mother abandoned them for her radical political pursuits, along with their father, who died young. Now, with the winds of hurricane season upon them, their mother comes barreling back into their lives.

I can honestly say this book doesn’t fit into any one genre and it would be a great disservice to this book to simply call it a genre-bending novel. It seems an insane task, but Xochitl Gonzalez has crafted a story that’s a rom-com, political thriller, family drama, and an unflinching look at Puerto Ricanness that tackles gentrification, colonialism, capitalism, corruption, machismo, ambition, and queerness. But she does it, and when she’s asked what the book is about, Gonzalez answers, “resilience.”

Check out Olga Dies Dreaming and other multilayered works of fiction like it at the Sioux City Public Library.

Support for Check It Out on Siouxland Public Media comes from Verde Outdoor Media.

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