A review by Joan Livingston for Taos News.
Author David Pérez continues his memoir, “WOW!” The title happens to be the first English word the author of Puerto Rican heritage spoke, and it’s about growing up in New York City’s South Bronx with a look at his teen years and a little beyond.
The memoirito begins on freshman orientation day at the Cardinal Hayes Memorial High School for Boys when a priest busts Pérez for not wearing his sports jacket after leaving the building. (I imagine educators today would be grateful that would be a student’s only infraction – but, hey, this was 1969.)
Here’s part of his exchange with Father McCormick.
“‘Not a good way to start off, is it?’
“‘Could be worse.’
“The Dean of Discipline smiles cryptically. ‘You’re funny. I don’t like funny.’”
Frankly, though, readers will like Pérez’s brand of funny.
A little background is appropriate here: Pérez’s family came to New York City from Puerto Rico, where they live in the Millbrook Housing complex. His father works in a meatpacking plant. His mother wants the best for her kids. His brother is a talented artist, who illustrated this book and his brother’s first.
And at the novel’s start, Pérez is an overachieving student, proud of his standing in class — No. 3 — and attention to his studies. He’s a stellar athlete.
Ah, but he is quickly torn between being good at school and hanging with his neighborhood pals that enjoy smoking pot, drinking and other mischief. Guess which side is more appealing.
So we stick with the young Pérez while he continues his slide. He does a stint in the Navy and even becomes a father. But happily, he decides to make better choices, thanks in part to Milton Vera, a mentor who educates him about justice and radical politics.
Vera says, “We make everything, David, and yet the boss man owns everything.”
Pérez, who is also an actor, tells his own story with a great deal of humor and energy. Besides being a fun read for us grown-ups, his novel offers lessons for young adults, who may be inspired to make better choices in their lives.
Yes, there will be a “WOW! 3” in the future.
“WOW! 2: The Memoirito Continues” is a 145-page paperback published by Nighthawk Press. It costs $10.