Don’t Let Me Die in Disneyland
By J.A. Marzan
Rating 3 stars ***
Review is written by Louise at Bookmarks and Stages.
About the Author
J.A. Marzán makes his home in Queens, New York.
A picaresque, smart, and smartass memoir of Harvard lawyer Eddie Loperena’s Newyorican life in “the country I was offered.”
Brought to New York from Puerto Rico when he was seven, Eddie Loperena grew up dreaming of returning to his island paradise.
As he approaches forty, the loss of his wife and his business partner have landed Eddie at a crossroads, so he closes his legal practice when he gets a call from his estranged boyhood friend Carlos, now a well-known drug dealer. Carlos extracts a favour from Eddie to hold two suitcases full of “valuable papers.”
Surviving a vindictive D.A.’s threat to prosecute, citywide rumors that he has disappeared with his friend’s illicit money, and a media circus intent to cast the complex situation into a two-dimensional context, Eddie decides to write the third dimension of a tragicomic satire of the seventies, of the island of his birth that cast him adrift, and of his minority membership in “the country I was offered.”
Don’t Let me Die in Disneyland begins with a well written poem of the same title, setting the scene of the story to come in some ways, but not in others. This book is in-fact not Disneyland as we know it, full of all the well-known princesses, prince’s, Mickey Mouse etc. It is however split into 5 sections by the names of Disney areas: Main Street, USA 1987, Adventureland, Fronteerland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.
Our main character – Eddie Loperena worked within a legal practice and is seeking change in many ways. This is far from the lightness and fun of Disneyland. The setting is the Bronx where there is a lot of knife and gun crime. Readers will get a real sense of unlawlessness, with cop killers included.
The book has many political ideals within it, which are still around today, such as equality for all. So, this book is actually relevant today.
The book is very dark and twists and turns, showing much of human life and events, such as the character Soc wanting to leave a will. Not far in and I realise it is a tale of woe, hardship, ill health, political leanings, with an elements of feeling like a social vicitim. There are also elements of other life events too such as school, university, romance.
Readers are taken within The Bronx, with its hard times and also its political leanings and a want for equality within the Hispanic community. It doesn’t all make for comfortable reading either, with a character believing they have to see themselves as a Latin intrusion to feel truly American. This however in someways has to be put into context of the times of when this book is set, in otherways, it is perhaps showing that America still finds it hard to accept people with other ethnicities. There does appear to be a bit of a social commentary running through it. Readers shouldn’t get offended however and would be advised to put it all into context, but also perhaps the story can be used within conversations in what is happening within today’s America as well as learning of something of the not so distant past.
Esteban seems an odd, but intriguing character and one who clearly doesn’t like undercover cops and carries a weapon which he isn’t afraid to show. Did Esteban commit a crime or not?
There’s a political group called The Front with their bombs to plant in key, strategic places, which just adds to the atmosphere of what was going on.
The book itself is well written and works well in its construction. Reading it, you get the sense of a dark, gritty atmosphere as well as setting.
Readers will also get to know a bit about congress and the governor. Theres’ a sense of a desire to improve the Bronx. The writing during these parts of the book, is perhaps at its sharpest.
Find out whether the quest for perfect equality and a perfected democracy comes into being or not and if it was worth all the strife.
It certainly made for very different reading for me. Was it entirely a book for me? Well, not completely, but it is never a bad thing to try something different to see where it leads. I did however appreciate the writing and the points it was making and issues it was highlighting. People who enjoy reading about the US and its politics and all its issues with an air of grittiness will get much enjoyment out of this book.
This review will also feature in online magazine – Book Glow when published there. It is with pleasure that I was asked to write reviews for them. Thanks to Kelly Huddleston from the magazine for writing to me and offering me that opportunity. Thanks to them for sending me an e-copy of this book.
My review is impartial.