Unlike many of her countrymen, 15-year-old Nina has no desire to leave her native Dominican Republic for the United States. She would much rather tend her garden and live simply with her overbearing mother. Unfortunately, when pretty Nina catches the eyes of some unsavory tourists, her mother sends her to New York City to live with her older brother, Darrio.

In Washington Heights, Nina discovers a world of gray concrete, a far cry from the tropical colors of her island. Despite being surrounded by fellow Dominicans, Nina feels strange and alone. Darrio does his best to make Nina feel at home—he enrolls her in high school, buys her new clothing and even helps her plant orchids on the fire escape—but he cannot hide that he’s in serious trouble. Things get emotionally confusing for Nina when she falls in love with a suspected drug dealer. This is not the America that Nina expected. Despite all the turmoil, Nina does make a life for herself.

Told in Nina’s lyrical first-person narrative, Flowers in the Sky is a story about expectations and the pressure to succeed in the “land of opportunity.” Nina’s acclimation to New York is aided by those who came before her, especially her brother, whose criminal activities have provided Nina and her mother with a comfortable life in the Dominican Republic and even afforded Nina a visa to get to the U.S. Although readers might take issue with Nina’s dependent relationship with men, they still will be able to sympathize with her circumstances. It takes a strong person to leave one’s homeland for opportunities—both good and bad—in another country. Faced with numerous choices, Nina must decide what kind of woman she wants to be: naive or empowered.

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