Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Books To Look For: Chulito by Charles Rice-Gonzalez

Chulito is a hoodrat. Born and raised in the South Bronx. A beautiful 16 year old boy who grew up in the streets of his neighborhood and lives by the rules of that small world.

Carlos, was Chulito's best friend while they were boys, and later when they got a little older Chulito realized that he maybe felt more than just friendly towards Carlos.

But Carlos is an outsider now. He has left the Hood, and gone to Long Island for college. He is also openly gay. Those two things put Chulito and Carlos in two worlds so distant they might as well be in different planets.

Chulito's life revolves around hanging out on the corner with the Fellas, running drugs for his best friend Kamikaze, the local TOP DOG, and being the hardest thug he can be. He dropped out of high school, and all his ambitions pretty much lie within whatever is confined to his block and the people in it.

The only thing that Chulito can't do is not be friends with Carlos, he misses him. Wants to reconnect with his boy, so he makes a move to get in touch with Carlos, and ends up being surprised by his friend coming back to the Hood for the whole summer.

This book was SET SO PERFECTLY. The author captured the sub-culture so well, and not just of the ghetto in NYC, but of the Latin communities, especially Neuyoricans and Dominican Yorks. It's such an insular world. Comes from immigrant generations that preferred staying up there in Washington Heights, Harlem or The Bronx where everyone spoke their language, ate their foods, listened to their music, knew their history, their culture, and most importantly UNDERSTOOD why it was preferable to come to the United States to the ghetto than remain in a homeland that had nothing to offer. Even if the memory of that homeland is something so large and painful that it's present in everything the do.

He captured, The Hood and its cycles of poverty, and outdated views on gender roles, who men and women should be or act like. These attitudes can entrap many kids, wanting MORE or wanting DIFFERENT, whether it is ambition to move elsewhere, being open about your sexuality, daring to demand respect as a woman, or show vulnerabilities as a man, cannot only make you an outcast it can make you a target. But he also showed the love and support that exists in those neighborhoods, strong loyalty and such a deep understanding of each other.

We understood all the contradictions of that world. Who Chulito was, and his yearning for something more that the Hood, but also his loyalty to the neighborhood that has been his whole world. Carlos' need to leave it, but also feeling pulled back by those he loves that are still there. The women in the neighborhood and how they cope with hard lives, the lack of aspirations and ambitions and posturing of the men. The trials that those who dare to be different have to endure. All SPOT ON.

I know that for some readers Chulito and Carlos will be strange characters, they seem so much more mature than their age. It is strange it's true, but kids like Chulito and Carlos grow up fast and hard. It is rough living with no daddies, hustling to make a living, mothers that care but have to work hard to provide for their kids. There are too many harsh realities at every corner in places like Chulito's world.

THE VERY BEST thing about this book are Chulito and Carlos. What a JOY is was to watch them fall in love. To see Chulito discover a whole world outside of the Bronx. I just loved them. They were so open, so hopeful and brave to be who they were, despite a more than hostile environment.

There were too many things I loved about this book, it's worth reading if only to get a glimpse at a slice of American life that people rarely get to read about, especially from the perspective of young gay men.

Chulito and Carlos were TRAILBLAZERS, I wish that every boy like them could find a way to love and be loved openly like they did.


Chulito can be purchased at


  1. I think I'll be getting this one. It sounds really good plus this is a new author for me.

    I noticed PA Brown just released a new book called Latin Boyz. Thought I might try that one out, too. Her books tend to be more about crimes/suspense.

    1. This was so good Lisa, not just the story but just an amazing look at Latinos in NYC. Loved it.

  2. Thanks for this review. Somebody asked me if I knew who my readers were. I said, "I had a pretty good idea, but it's been confirmed because they have made themselves known to me because they write to me and they write about the book." Thanks for writing about CHULITO. Will add this link to my website.