Hailed as a "genial masterpiece" by Robert Farris Thompson and as a "classic" by playwright Kal Wagenheim, the story of Benjy Lopez exposes the half-truth that the typical experience of the ordinary Puerto Rican is exclusively defined by privation, fear, prejudice, and culture shock.
Eliciting Benjy's story with empathy, literary grace, and scientific dispassion, Barry B. Levine helps unfold the social complexity of the life of a man who escaped rural poverty by enlisting in the United States Army just prior to World War II. After the war, Lopez lived in New York City—going to school, pimping, driving a cab, and working as a merchant seaman. He returned to Puerto Rico where, armed with wisdom and skills garnered on the mainland, and a new sense of himself, he prospered as a successful, if unorthodox, entrepreneur and family man.
Lopez's story reveals the qualities that enabled him and others like him to reverse course: intelligence, resilience, ambition, and venturesomeness. In Benjy's lusty and humorous telling, we see not only the harsh conditions American life inflicts on the disadvantaged, but we are vividly shown how these conditions may be turned by the brave and the determined into an expansion of possibilities.
Barry B. Levine edited the Caribbean Review for twenty years. Among his previous books are The Caribbean Exodus and The New Cuban Presence in the Caribbean