on the Latin-American woman “myth”: Hispanic women who dress well must be unquestionably horny for their dates because they are Latin-American women who are dressed well. Here again, her own story assumes a larger meaning; in its telling, it matures into the fruit of common truth—Guys who assume are just not sexy.
When I first read The Latin Deli, I sampled it in no straightforward fashion, and it is a credit to its non-linear language that it reads as well from back to front to middle as it does from front to back. What I discovered was that sometimes Judith Ortiz Cofer was an outsider even in her own home as she was growing up. Her biculturalism estranged her even there. She could read books in English, but her parents could not. My aunts in Miami, in “little Havana,” still cannot speak English, but their children all graduated from The University of Miami, so I understand this dichotomy. Again, Cofer uses her splendid sense of diction and her poet’s ear to express the peculiar isolation she experienced. In the essay, “Not for Sale,” Cofer describes what it was like to be sixteen with a dictatorial father who said no to everything—no dating, no driver’s license, and no end-of-the-year-school-year weekend trip with her junior class, even with three teachers as chaperones.
She lets her readers hear this “No” as she quotes her father’s saying, “No, no, no, with a short Spanish ‘o.’ Final: no lingering vowels in my father’s pronouncements” (16). These two lines are poetry embedded in a prose piece. Spanish vowels are shorter than those in English, and the curt “Spanish” o’s in her father’s three stern No’s contrast well with their surroundings, standing out all the more. They are followed by the longer o of the English language, found in the no in the second sentence, before lingering, as well as with the long o and the devastatingly assured “ow” sound in pronouncements. In two deft, beautifully memorable sentences, Cofer has summed up the intractable tyranny of the Hispanic male, and how appalling it can be if that male