WINNER OF THE INTERNATIONAL LATINO BOOK AWARD; FINALIST FOR THE WILLIAM SAROYAN INTERNATIONAL PRIZE; WINNER OF A FLORIDA AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION AWARD; SECOND PLACE, ROYAL PALM LITERARY AWARD; WINNER OF A USA BEST BOOK AWARD; WINNER OF A NATIONAL SILVER INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS (“IPPY”) AWARD; WINNER OF AN INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARD; FINALIST FOR A NEXT GENERATION INDIE AWARD; FINALIST FOR A NATIONAL INDIE EXCELLENCE AWARD; ; LONG-LISTED FOR THE FRANK O’CONNOR AWARD; LONG-LISTED FOR THE CHAUTAUQUA PRIZE IN FICTION
Now We Will Be Happy is a prize-winning collection of stories about Afro-Puerto Ricans, U.S.-mainland-born Puerto Ricans, and displaced native Puerto Ricans who are living between spaces while attempting to navigate the unique culture that defines Puerto Rican identity. Amina Gautier’s characters deal with the difficulties of bicultural identities in a world that wants them to choose only one.
“The 11 linked stories in Gautier’s debut collection, which won the 2013 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction, vividly evoke Puerto Rico’s intoxicating, comforting atmosphere—that unbreakable tether binding struggling people in crowded Northeastern U.S. cities to their tropical homeland. ‘Bodega,’ ‘Only Son,’ and ‘Palabras’ feature a couple in search of a better life who move to Brooklyn and run a corner deli, only to have their only son return to his birthplace. ‘Now We Will Be Happy’ and ‘Muñeca,’ meanwhile, depict the abusive marriage of the couple who live next door. Other tales, such as ‘Aguanile’ and ‘How to Make Flan,’ consider multigenerational rifts such as that between a woman and her grandfather, whose only communication with her consists of calling to tell her when one of his favorite musicians—Charlie Palmieri or Héctor Lavoe—has died. Throughout, food and music function as valuable if fragile bridges between otherwise disconnected people. Gautier captures the unique experience, and predicament, of Puerto Ricans living in the mainland U.S. (Sept.)
—Publisher’s Weekly, read more here.
“This colorful collection, winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction, illuminates the hyphenated identities of Afro–Puerto Ricans in the Northeast U.S. and on the island itself.”
—Kirkus Review, read more here.
“Afro-Puerto Ricans encompass a dual heritage that provides a rich and unique cultural perspective. “Now We Will Be Happy” (University of Nebraska Press, $16.95) is a prize-winning collection of stories about Afro-Puerto Ricans, U.S. mainland-born Puerto Ricans and displaced native Puerto Ricans who are living between spaces while attempting to navigate the unique culture that defines Puerto Rican identity. Amina Gautier’s characters deal with the difficulties of bi-cultural identities in a world that wants them to choose only one. It is a perspective the author knows well: Gautier was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y and is of African American and Puerto Rican heritage.”
—The Philadelphia Tribune, read more here.
“Gautier elevates these stories to literature through the quality of her characterization and the polish of her writing. Nearly every character is a living, breathing person with idiosyncrasies that are either endearing or infuriating. Gautier’s writing is perfectly suited to the characters and conflicts; her prose style is elegant without being formal; nary a word is wasted or misplaced. The dialogue is Hispanic without coming off as stereotypical or sitcom-level. As a lifelong Californian, I don’t know many Puerto Ricans, but I know countless Mexicans and Central Americans, as well as hyphenated-Americans with a history in those countries, and the dialogue seems just right to me. Gautier’s people are passionate, open-hearted, angry, confused, bitter, and funny.”
—Read Her Like an Open Book, read more here.
“The stories build on each other until they have constructed a complete view of the world of Puerto Rican experience in the US, returning again and again not only to the same characters but to the same issues, with even the same soundtrack of boleros playing across the stories. The music, as well as the food (flan, arroz con gandules and tostones) and the religious rituals of santeria, acts as a tether to Puerto Rico from the mainland. In “Bodega”, it even draws back the Puerto-Rican born son of Brooklyn deli owners Nelida and her husband, who left San Juan specifically to give their only child a chance of a better life. But what is ‘better’, their son seems to ask, and why must it be found in New York City and the states? Turning his back on the sacrifice his parents have made, he leaves his young son behind with his parents and returns to Puerto Rico, scuttling the entire purpose of their abandonment of home.”
—KBG Bar Lit Magazine, read more here.
“In these 11 linked stories, Gautier explores the complexities of being Puerto Rican and how living within a family divided by geography, culture, and language can both bring relatives closer together and tear them apart.”
—The Gazette, read more here.
“One of the reasons Guatier’s voice drew me in is because it is both lyrical and pared down, qualities that less-skilled writers might take too far in either direction but that Gautier pulls off with perfect pitch. There is a lulling rhythm to her sentences and a ripeness to her language that makes the reading pleasurable. She takes small snapshots of the often overlooked pieces of daily life and delivers them to us with an eye for the beauty and sadness they hold.”
—The Rumpus, read more here.
“Amina Gautier’s award-winning collection Now We Will Be Happy also mixes story types to illuminate the nowhereness of the Puerto Rican American experience. Because Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, Puerto Ricans who migrate to the mainland exist in a foggy neutral zone between ocean-crossing immigrant and native American. Gautier’s characters have modest dreams: to open a bodega, to serve in the Armed Forces, to find an estranged family member. When the stories are fully realized, the reader is reminded of the depth of pleasures that can be enjoyed from a story that stretches a single genre to its limits.”
—Kenyon Review Online, read more here.
“Timely as well as beautifully rendered, Gautier’s collection breathes life into America’s racial and immigrant conflicts, going well below the skin-deep surface of her characters to expose the passions and hopes that unite diverse people. As the title Now We Will Be Happy implies, Gautier locates her characters on the cusp of a happiness that is forever just off in the future, just out of reach. Still, these stories are not about hopelessness but rather about strength and endurance. Amid the brutality that informs the immigrant experience across more than one generation, Gautier unfurls the uniquely human beauty that is born of passionate desire and pursuit of the best in ourselves.”
—Sian Griffith, The Georgia Review, read more here.
“Rushing back to Brooklyn to see her sick abuela, the young narrator of “How to Make Flan” wants to find a way to connect with her grandmother one last time. She wants more than anything else, however, to understand who her grandmother is. It’s not an existential question. “My hair is from Spain and my face is from Africa,” her grandmother says. “And you nieta, you look just like me.” Nevertheless, the girl wants to know, “Abuela, what am I?” The answer is not an easy one, and trying to understand the multiplicity of cultural factors that mark Afro-Puerto Rican life is at the heart of Amina Gautier’s Prairie Schooner Prize-winning story collection, Now We Will Be Happy.”
—Necessary Fiction, read more here.