Richard Blanco's childhood and adolescence were experienced between two imaginary worlds: the nostalgic world of 1950s Cuba that lived in the hearts and minds of his parents, an island paradise temporarily lost, to which they would all return someday, and Blanco's imagined America, which he believed was exactly like the America he saw on reruns of The Brady Bunch and Leave it to Beaver, an "exotic" life he yearned for as much as he yearned to finally see "la patria."
Navigating these worlds eventually led Blanco to questions about his cultural identity, which led him to writing as a means to investigate them; in turn, his vision as a writer, as an artist, prompted the courage to accept himself as a gay man.
In The Prince of the Cucubanos-a firefly-like insect and the name of Blanco's childhood market where much of the book takes place-the 2013 inaugural poet traces his poignant, often hilarious, and quintessentially American coming-of-age story. From his conflicted feelings for his grandmother, who loved him fiercely but whose homophobia drove Blanco deep into the closet from an early age, crushing his ability to write, to his childhood pilgrimage to "the promised land"- Disneyworld-a trip for which his mother packed six rolls of toilet paper; from his relationship with his grandfather and their make-shift "farm" in suburban Miami to his interactions with the Cuban exiles during the years he worked at his uncle's grocery store, Blanco explores his Miami adolescence.
A prismatic and lyrical narrative rich with the colors, sounds, smells and textures of Miami, The Prince of the Cucubanos is a resonant account of how Blanco came into his own sense of an authentic self, one that incorporated his Cubanness, his queerness, and his artistic drive; and ultimately, a deeper understanding of what it means to be American beyond the myths and ideals to which we subscribe. A singular and yet universal story, The Prince of the Cucubanos illuminates the experience of "becoming;" how we are perpetually shaped by experiences, memories, and stories worth examining and honoring for all their complexities: the humor, love, yearning, and tenderness that make a life alive in any context imaginable.