“I’ve learned, unlearned my language too many times,” writes Ayendy Bonifacio in To the River, We Are Migrants. Childhood, exile, faith, grief are all part of the language he shapes into luminous poems that remember in English and in Spanish. His voice is lyrical, direct—he confesses “[t]ime has made us strange” but also transforms a river into a rosary. These poems are exquisite, heartfelt.”
—Eduardo C. Corral, author of Guillotine
The actual Dominican river that gives title to Ayendy Bonifacio’s To the River, We Are Migrants
is also a river of words, the river of life, the river of death, the river dividing us from our truest selves and the river that delivers us home again. These are poems of immigration, separation and grief, but they are also poems that honor home, family and the enduring powers of language and memory. I am deeply instructed and moved by the mundos of this beautiful book.
—Kathy Fagan, author of Sycamore
Desde Broadway Junction hasta Bao, Ayendy nos lleva en su tren—the one que comienza with a word-dream born in the eyes of his father. Está lloviendo desde adentro, desde que dejó de llamar mundos a los countries. Cada verso estruja la nostalgia, y nos presta un rosario in order to survive here-there and en rotundo futuro que se rompe. Corre el agua con cada metáfora, con el pasaporte que se tragó el campo donde se regresan a descansar las palabras. Este poemario es una corriente encima del cuerpo, un ardor, pain, el recuerdo de su abuelo and the smell del idioma que tuvo que darle rompa en su lengua. To the River, We Are Migrants nos lleva “más allá de líneas de inmigración,” el principio y el final de los días largos cuando la pérdida de un ser querido estruja la mirada, “paper planes when our motherlands liberated us,” es un basement donde reciben los campesino, es la habitación donde su madre hospeda los nuevos recién llegando que parió Quisqueya. Vamos soñando in english and español silenciosamente “para que las nubes no se rompieran.” Leer a Ayendy, es encontrarnos where nos habíamos dejado; en la desembocadura de un río que nos dispersó en alguna parte con una promesa hecha cicatriz.
—Fior E. Plasencia, author of Para Cenar Habra Nostalgia
When getting out of the hood is a dream, but the chances are stacked against you—Dique: “supposedly.” He’s not supposed to be here—in Brooklyn, in the U.S., in the hood. This Dominican immigrant in
Brooklyn does not ask too much of his memory. He clings to the bits and pieces of his fragmented self—the one in the rural campo of his Dominican birthplace, the East New York teenager, the Ohio young adult—his dique becoming and belonging to a place that doesn’t seem to exist yet.
Told through a series of flashbacks and vignettes, Dique Dominican is Ayendy Bonifacio’s memoir. His coming-of-age is the story of so many immigrants—the undocumented, the poor, the oppressed, and the unafraid—how he went from no electricity to bright lights in the Big Apple, beat his circumstances while never losing his Dominican dreams. Ultimately, this is his story of rebirth and reconciliation, how he found truth in his difference, enlightenment in his words.
"Dique Dominican is a candid, often moving account of what it was like for a Dominican-American to grow up in East New York . . . His story takes us back to his childhood in a small farm town near Juncalito, about 160 kilometers north of Santo Domingo, records his life in his hood and his move to Ohio in order to continue with his studies. As the author illustrates his family dynamics, the reality of his community, and his attempt to negotiate his way between English and Spanish, sharing with us, at the same time, his personal trajectory, ambitions, and reflections, Ayendy Bonifacio always keeps his own lucidity in front of pain, discrimination, and violence. Never overstated, his account is like a whisper which, however, forcefully demands to be heard."
—Maria Cristina Fumagalli, professor and author of Caribbean Perspectives on Modernity: Returning Medusa's Gaze and On the Edge: Writing the Border Between Haiti and the Dominican Republic
“'Near a mango-steepled river-scented town'” in the Dominican Republic, a writer was born. Everyone has a story, and for all those marginalized in the United States, it is our duty to tell what we have lived. In this debut memoir, Ayendy Bonifacio, who migrated as a child to Brooklyn, has done it well. By giving his life meaning, Dique encourages overlapping communities to join in and also lift their voices high. These times demand such acts of courage and skill."
—Ana Castillo, poet, activist, and novelist, author of The Mixquiahuala Letters, So Far From God, and Massacre of the Dreamers
“Language is home—and isn’t. It makes room for us, allowing us comfort. Or it proscribes us, sending us into the vertigo of exile. In Dique Dominican, [Bonifacio] gets lost and found as he navigates the interstices where words struggle for meaning. A courageous, Babel-like journey!”
—Ilan Stavans, cultural commentator, TV personality and author of On Borrowed Words and general editor of The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature
"A striking account of his journey from the campo in the Dominican Republic to Brooklyn to Ohio, as well as an exploration of independence and transcendence. The vivid details in this memoir portray more than the disparate places traversed, they reveal Bonifacio’s own complex internal landscape. Intense, honest and bold."
—Erika M. Martínez, editor of Daring to Write: Contemporary Narratives by Dominican Women