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Book Review

Jose B. Gonzalez

Book Review: Unfinished Portrait

by Luivette Resto


In Unfinished Portrait, newcomer Luivette Resto has put together a poetry collection that recounts the types of experiences that too many Latinos in the U.S. have encountered.  And that is the beauty of this book--its themes, though at times tragic, at times somewhat comical, resonate with any Latino who has ever stepped foot inside a predominantly Anglo classroom, who has ever faced cultural conflict with parents, and who has ever felt what it's like to grow up Brown within a monolingual society that has preset expectations.

This poet has talent and Unfinished Portrait is an ideal example of the purpose of effective poetry.  An example of this is "Translator," in which Resto describes being at the dreaded Registry of Motor Vehicles in Hadley Massachusetts, reading Judith Ortiz Cofer's Latin Deli, when three men walk in, in need of a translator.  She confesses:

I didn't want to help. 
I didn't want to translate.
I didn't want. 

She wishes that someone would help them, despite the fact that she identifies them.  In fact, she goes so far as to compare them to her grandfather.  But like an experienced, crafty writer, Resto tells us just enough and then omits enough details in such a creative way that the poem is strengthened.  Her last stanza reads:

I didn't want to help.
I didn't want to translate.
I didn't want.
As I watched the brothers
ask a stranger "Habla espanol?"

The reader can't help but wonder whether the story ends in a reconciliation of sorts--i.e. she steps up and pays homage to her working-class relatives who had similar language issues--or whether she leaves the men, and the guilt of abandoning them in a time of need becomes a heavy weight that she has to carry.  Within the poem is that implicit message that even the smallest of decisions in a seemingly simple world can be quite complex for a bilingual, bicultural Latina. 

These complexities are further examined in various other poems.  "Response to the Young White Man Who Asked Me If I was Scared of Being Marginalized as a Poet" revisits the concept of marginalization, while "Just Too Much," looks at the question of what it means to be considered, "too Latina." 

Within these poems, Resto both tells stories and leaves us thinking.  This collection has much to offer, and Tia Chucha Press should be proud of itself for giving a stage to this talented poet.




Copyright 2006 design and content by John S. Christie and Jose B. Gonzalez
Copyright 2006 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature, Pearson Education, Inc.
Copyright 2006 Latino Fiction and the Modernist Imagination, John S. Christie


Last Updated: July 06, 2009