The Accidental Native by J.L. Torres follows a Puerto Rican raised in the United States and the difficulties he encounters upon returning “home.” When Rennie’s parents die in a freak accident, he does what they would have wanted and buries them in Puerto Rico, their homeland. There, he’s shocked to discover that the woman who raised him was not his biological mother. A high-powered attorney, his birth mother Julia is determined to reclaim the son she gave up many years before. Adrift, with no family in New York and haunted by memories, Rennie is swayed by Julia’s constant pleading that he move to the island. A teaching job at a college in Puerto Rico decides it, and he finds himself flying “home” to a place and culture he knows only through his parents’ recollections. Once there, he must deal with Julia’s strong-willed nature, a department chair not thrilled to have a Nuyorican on staff, squatters living in the house he inherited, students frequently on strike and a lover anxious to settle down. Most disturbing is the rumor that numerous faculty and staff are dying from cancer because the campus, a former U.S. military base, is full of buried munitions. Rennie soon finds himself working to expose the government’s lies, though he risks losing his job, his home and even the woman he loves. In his debut novel, J.L. Torres captures the conflict and challenges experienced by Puerto Ricans returning to their “homeland.”
J.L. TORRES is the author of a short-story collection, The Family Terrorist and Other Stories (Arte Público Press, 2008). His stories and poetry have been published widely in anthologies and magazines. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the South Bronx, he currently lives with his family in upstate New York, where he teaches American literature and creative writing at SUNY, Plattsburgh.
ARTE PÚBLICO PRESS is the nation’s largest and most established publisher of contemporary and recovered literature by U.S. Hispanic authors. Its imprint for children and young adults, Piñata Books, is dedicated to the realistic and authentic portrayal of the themes, languages, characters, and customs of Hispanic culture in the United States. Based at the University of Houston, Arte Público Press, Piñata Books and the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage project provide the most widely recognized and extensive showcase for Hispanic literary arts and creativity. For more information, please visit www.artepublicopress.com.