When I started reading Sergio Monteiro’s thriller based in Cape Verde, I thought, “This is going to be cool because I’m going to be immersed into Cape Verdean culture through an action packed plot.” Much the same way I enjoy learning British history through Bernard Cornwall’s books, or art history from Dan Brown. And you know what, that was definitely part of Other American Dreams because it is sprinkled with Cape Verdean history from Colonial times to the Cold War. But I was surprised that when the “Repartido” gangsters were introduced or when the main character had a flash back to Boston, that I found a part of myself represented in the book, the inner city Boston part, in a way that I have not yet seen in print or on the screen.
I went to a wealthy prep school on scholarship and somehow “Good Will Hunting” was playing in the common room one day and all these kids from Newton were trying to fake the accent and suddenly I became a go to guy for questions. Until I explained that I was from the South End and that was different from Southie. Of course now all the neighborhoods are so changed you wouldn’t recognize any of them. The point is with the success of that movie and many others by Ben Affleck and his brother based on books by Dennis Lehane, all of which I love, that a certain accent has been played up in Hollywood. Would you believe that I did not even really hear this accent until I went to College and was around people from outer Massachusetts? The first time I read a book or saw a movie that brought me right back to inner city Boston, was reading about two guys about to commit a crime in Achada.
But it isn’t just the accent.
Monteiro is able to talk about things in his book, race, and politics, that other writers like Lehane might not dare to touch. Monteiro touches on these subjects both in high language as the author, and in the street language through the characters. I’ve never seen it done in quite this way. And given the current political climate, it was interesting to see the problem of Boston’s inner city violence affecting a small country off the coast of Africa.
If you have any ties to Boston, whether you went to prep school or College in New England, I think it should be required to read this book because it gives you a peak into the real inner city Boston world, even though it plays such a small part in the novel.
Students at my boarding school who were from Hong Kong would ask me, “Why do you always look at race? Why can’t you ever look at a situation and not think about that?”
Maybe because I grew up in Boston at a certain time period. I know that my son will not have to think of these things as much. But this book really touches on some these subjects in a way that you won’t see in the mainstream movies and books, and which again I have yet to see.
In fact, in some ways, racial tensions in the United States would only dare to be discussed in this way by a Cape Verdean author living in Asia. I think it is worth everyone reading it just to get that unique perspective.
But you might not even pick up on all of these details because the action and the plot is so riveting. In fact the main take away from it all is that I really want to see the movie. Strange rituals, gun fights, beautiful women, martial arts, a detective mystery to piece together, taking place in Cape Verde…and with all the talk of Hollywood being whitewashed all the time… yeah we need to turn this book into a movie.
Which means everyone needs to read it first to create a buzz.