A Brooklyn Tale

Young Adult - Coming of Age
174 Pages
Reviewed on 05/06/2017
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

John E. DeJesus is a writer who was born in Puerto Rico, grew up in Brooklyn, New York and lives in New Jersey. He is working on his fourth screenplay and his second book. John E. DeJesus started writing professionally four years ago. Remember, you're never too old to start something new!

Book Excellence Awards Finalist!

Reader's Favorite

Stories from the Barrio / Hispanic Heritage

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Taco: A Brooklyn Tale is a young adult coming of age novel written by John E. DeJesus. Taco and his family moved to Brooklyn, New York, just before he began first grade. His real name was Juan Ortega, but Percy, a class clown, promptly named him Taco, and the name stuck. They lived in a brownstone on Wyckoff Street, with lots of other Puerto Rican families. The elders had titles; they were called Don or Dona, Tio or Tia, and while Taco thought of them as being royalty, Mami explained that the titles were used out of respect. The Dons and Donas seemed to be founts of wisdom and were always dressed as if for a special occasion. Taco’s abuela was known as Dona Maria. She insisted that Taco, his brother, Jose, and sister, Inez, call her Dona instead of abuela. She was slim and vivacious, and she loved to dance. Being called a grandmother made her uncomfortable, and indeed she didn’t seem to act like an abuela. One day, she had Taco take pictures as she climbed a tree and perched out on a tree limb.

John E. DeJesus’s young adult coming of age novel, Taco: A Brooklyn Tale, is one of those very rare novels that I just didn’t want to end. I loved hearing Taco’s stories about his life, his mom and siblings, and the world that was Wyckoff Street while he was growing up. I was especially moved by the passages about Don Paco and his son, Papo, who was Taco’s unofficial guardian, mentor and friend. The war-time setting of this novel lends a particularly poignant tone as we see the suffering of Papo who returned from the war with one leg missing and tormented by nightmares that would make him cry out in horror in his sleep. DeJesus beautifully paints the image of that city block as a cohesive and self-supporting village, such as was found back in that tropical homeland which still lived in the heart of each and every resident. Watching as the family and Papo ride the Puerto Rican Parade Float is one of the most moving passages I’ve read in some time. DeJesus includes a glossary of terms used in the book as well as an Author Q&A which is marvelous reading. In it, he discusses reader interest in a follow-up to Taco: A Brooklyn Tale, and I’m hoping he does decide to write one. This is one unforgettable coming of age tale and a sequel would be a treat indeed. Taco: A Brooklyn Tale is most highly recommended.

Valerie Rouse

Taco is a light hearted read based on the childhood experiences of Juan Ortega. Juan, affectionately known as Taco, talks about his years growing up in Wyckoff Street in Brooklyn, New York. He resides with his mother, his sister and brother. His mother is Puerto Rican by birth and the entire family is proud of their heritage. Taco's neighbourhood is filled with community spirited personalities as many of its members look out for Taco and his siblings and vice versa. Even Taco mentioned that his "familia" not only consisted of his immediate family members, but also those caring members of Wyckoff Street. Taco gave an account of warm memories of occurrences in his community. For example, he mentioned when his grandmother, Dona Maria, used to climb the tree in the park and have her picture taken. He also shared his true desire to sell Sno Cones like Don Paco. Overall, Taco appreciated his neighbourhood and loved sharing his memorable experiences.

Taco is an interesting book. It is composed of short chapters which encourages the reader to continue following the storyline with relish. The language used is simple and easy to understand. I love the fact that author John DeJesus provided a detailed account of the main character's childhood. These descriptive escapades make you pause and reflect on your own childhood days. You might ask yourself were yours as memorable and fun filled as Taco's? This in turn displays the writer's skill in making readers identify with Taco. Despite the revelation that Taco lost some pertinent persons in his life, like his grandmother, he still had an innocence about him as well as a positive outlook on life. I loved the fact that the author mixed the good with the bad as this reflects the realities of life. Taco is a lovely book and I recommend it to all readers.

Erika Grediaga

Taco: A Brooklyn Tale by John E. DeJesus is a collection of micro-stories written by Taco, a young Puerto Rican boy living in Brooklyn with his mother and two younger siblings, José and María. The collection of stories spans a few years, from the end of the '60s to the beginning of the '70s. The tales are full of reminiscences and nostalgia, detailing in a very personal way what is was like growing up in a Puerto Rican community in the US in those times. With the Vietnam war as a backdrop, each story focuses on a different character in the neighborhood, and what their role was in raising or growing up with the main character, Taco. From Taco's Mami (mother, in Spanish), to their grandmother, Doña María, the matriarch based society in a community where the men rarely stayed is an interesting setting for a little boy to learn how to become a man. All the stories are like minute brush-strokes that give you the whole picture -- each story about one or two pages long. This makes for an easy and very quick read, and you can go through the entire book in pretty much just one sitting.

I enjoyed Taco, and the book reminded me of the foods, colors of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rican friends of mine. I think that as a way to illustrate a culture and a piece of history of the United States, this is an interesting read. It does have some sordid details (a fairly graphic suicide), which makes it unsuitable for children, but the book is most definitely accessible for older teens and young adults. Mr. DeJesus is a new writer, and I believe he depicted the world he grew up in with a careful eye and a lot of emotion.