New Book: Robert Friedman’s “The Defining Sea”


[Many thanks to María Cristina Rodríguez for bringing this item to our attention.] Robert Friedman’s The Defining Sea (Brown Posey Press, 2019) is the second book in a trilogy based on Puerto Rico’s complex relationship with the United States (The Puerto Rico Trilogy).

Literary critic Carmen Dolores Hernández—and author of Puerto Rican Voices in English: Interviews with Writers (1997)—writes, “Robert Friedman weaves the different strains of Puerto Rican life during the last forty years into a compelling story of love, crime, and colonial politics. Against the backdrop of the monumental effort to get the U.S. Navy out of Vieques Island at the turn of this century, he explores, with context and meaning, the island’s changing social mores, its horrific drug problem, and the political ideals that survive from the past and still inflame today’s youth.”

Description (Amazon): Crime, corruption, and colonialism—as well as compassion, survival and dark humor—are woven into The Puerto Rico Trilogy, which consists of three separate character-driven novels that focus on the Caribbean island and its complex political and social relationship with the U.S.

The Defining Sea: Book two, was also sparked by U.S.-Puerto Rico history. Its plot is derived from the U.S, Navy’s decades-long live fire and bombing exercises on the inhabited offshore Puerto Rico island of Vieques, which caused death and serious illness. The story told concerns a 20-year-old University of Puerto Rico student who delivers drugs between the island and the states to raise money for a scholarship that will be named after his girlfriend, killed by police during a protest against the Navy’s maneuvers.

Description (Google Books): The year is 2000 in Puerto Rico. Stevie Pérez and his girlfriend, Laura Rosario, have joined a student protest against the U.S. Navy’s bombing exercises that have caused illness, environmental damages, and death on the offshore island of Vieques. The Riot Squad is called onto the campus to quell the protest and in the ensuing violence; Laura is hit by a stray bullet and killed. A grieving Stevie vows to keep Laura’s memory alive by creating a scholarship in her name. He is frustrated in attempts to get help in the community and decides to become a drug mule to obtain the scholarship money. After a few lucrative trips, he is set up in a drug theft. His 20-year-old life in danger, Stevie is forced to flee as the drug gang pursues him from the Bronx to San Juan to the mountain towns of Puerto Rico. Along the way, Stevie learns hard truths about life, love, and loss.

Robert Friedman was born in the Bronx and lived in Puerto Rico for over 20 years, working as a reporter, editor, and columnist for the San Juan Star. He covered politics as the Star’s Washington Correspondent until the paper folded in 2008. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Globe and the Miami Herald, among other publications. He reported from Puerto Rico for the NY Daily News as a special correspondent in the 1980s and 1990s. He is the author of four novels.

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