of biculturalism, as she explains:
[B]ooks...contained most of the information I needed to survive in two languages
and in two worlds. When adults were too busy to answer my endless questions, I could always look it up; when I felt unbearably lonely, as I often did during those early
gypsy years traveling with my family, I read to escape and also to connect: you can
come back to a book as you cannot always to a person or place you miss. I read and reread favorite books until the characters seemed like relatives or friends I could see when I wanted or needed to see them. (133)
She still feels this way:
I feel my pulse quicken a little when I approach a library building, when I enter the
stacks and inhale the familiar smell of old leather and paper. . . . [A] visit to the library
recharges the batteries in my brain. Looking through the card catalog reassures
me that there is no subject that I cannot investigate, no world I cannot explore.
Everything that is is mine for the asking. Because I can read about it. (133-34)
The Latin Deli demonstrates that, if the Paterson Public Library is a haven for Cofer’s English-language self, then Cofer’s immediate family is another important place of stability, where her Spanish-language person needs no translation. In the poem, “Anniversary,” she speaks of lying in bed with her husband in an unsettled, and often unsettling world and how his mere presence reassures her: “Sometimes, in the dark, alarmed / by too deep a silence, I will lay my hand on your chest, / for the familiar, steady beat to which I have attuned / my breathing for so many years” (165). Thirty plus years of marriage is a wonderful, long time to sing a song together with someone, as the well-chosen word, attuned, suggests, with slight paronomasia.