this other “forbidden book.” In that last line, she lets her reader know that she wistfully recalls when the biggest issue at bedtime was contraband books held secretly under the covers till all hours, and maybe with a flashlight, and not the pain of an emerging adulthood, with all its promise of happiness . . . and pain and responsibility.
The happiness, responsibility, and sorrows of adulthood are written large in Cofer’s short story, “Corazón’s Café,” which tells of a new widow’s struggle to face a future without her beloved husband of ten years. When I read this work aloud to my students, the writing explodes in my mouth like my Grandmother Acevedo’s chicken fricasee or arroz con pollo or frijoles y negros or sweet fried plantains. One reason is Cofer’s evocative use of the Spanish language. She does not overload her writing with it, but she provides touches of Spanish diction, like spices to a pot. The San Juan de la Cruz quotation given bilingually at the beginning of this paper is a fine example of the way Cofer never lets her reader forget we are dealing with two very different worlds, and the essence of “Corazón’s Café” is presented through skillfully bilingualism.
This tale begins after closing time, in the café itself, where Corazón, wife of the dead Manuel, finds herself uncustomarily alone. She is stunned by her husband’s death that day, and memories rivet her to her high stool behind the counter. The chronicling of Corazón’s life with Manuel unfolds in the short story through her memories. As is obvious even in the title, Corazón’s name (the Spanish word for “heart”) contains the point of this story, and this bilingual chronicling of a Latin-American, human heart is a splendid example of Cofer’s ability to immerse her reader pleasantly in a strange location. Cofer’s insertion of Spanish diction here and there in the narrative, sometimes translated, sometimes not, takes the reader ever deeper into the, well, heart of this love story.