Olga Dies Dreaming is an award-winning novel by Xochitl Gonzalez, published in 2022. War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson A. Denis is a history of the Puerto Rican Independence movements. These books together are palimpsest and mirror. Questions and responses, with more inquiries, contradictions, and doubts. The negative to each other's printed image.
That they are the same books, palimpsest and mirror, is not just a headline. First, that they are the same books is a proposal to check them out together – from the library and with others. Second, Olga Dies Dreaming does not exist – as a story or a written book – without War Against All Puerto Ricans. The comparison is not about historical timelines or inspiration but emphasizes the creativity of people struggling for freedom, dignity, and self-determination, and the creativity of writing about the struggles of people – with themselves, their families, communities, and places of origin, and the culture of the places where life is lived.
"It's 2017, and Olga and her brother, Pedro "Prieto" Acevedo, are boldfaced names in their hometown of New York. Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn, while Olga is the tony wedding planner for Manhattan's power brokers.
Despite their alluring public lives, behind closed doors things are far less rosy. Sure, Olga can orchestrate the love stories of the 1 percent but she can't seem to find her own. . . until she meets Matteo, who forces her to confront the effects of long-held family secrets.
Olga and Prieto's mother, Blanca, a Young Lord turned radical, abandoned her children to advance a militant political cause, leaving them to be raised by their grandmother. Now, with the winds of hurricane season, Blanca has come barreling back into their lives.
Set against the backdrop of New York City in the months surrounding the most devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico's history, Xochitl Gonzalez's Olga Dies Dreaming is a story that examines political corruption, familial strife, and the very notion of the American dream—all while asking what it really means to weather a storm."
Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September of 2017, causing catastrophic damage that is still being repaired today. To be clear: Puerto Rico is a US colony – "foreign in a domestic sense" as characterized in the Insular cases. Puerto Rico is a colony currently governed by an imposed group of private citizens empowered to make economic, political, and social policy-driven decisions – primarily to privatize the island and make it into another development paradise for wealth oligarchs, aspiring capitalists, and transnational corporations.
The US established the colonial relation with Puerto Rico (and Puerto Ricans) by force and coerced consent in 1898 when Puerto Ricans fought for independence from Spain and the United States. With the support of wealthy Puerto Rican elites, by 1905, English was made the official language and US capitalist and political elites exploited the island for resources and labor – established practices that continue today. Yet, not everyone on the island has historically or contemporarily agreed with this second-class status as a US colony.
War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America's Colony provides part of the historical context in which Olga Dies Dreaming is set.
"In 1950, after over fifty years of military occupation and colonial rule, the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico staged an unsuccessful armed insurrection against the United States. Violence swept through the island: assassins were sent to kill President Harry Truman, gunfights roared in eight towns, police stations and post offices were burned down. In order to suppress this uprising, the US Army deployed thousands of troops and bombarded two towns, marking the first time in history that the US government bombed its own citizens.
Nelson A. Denis tells this powerful story through the controversial life of Pedro Albizu Campos, who served as the president of the Nationalist Party. A lawyer, chemical engineer, and the first Puerto Rican to graduate from Harvard Law School, Albizu Campos was imprisoned for twenty-five years and died under mysterious circumstances. By tracing his life and death, Denis shows how the journey of Albizu Campos is part of a larger story of Puerto Rico and US colonialism.
Through oral histories, personal interviews, eyewitness accounts, congressional testimony, and recently declassified FBI files, War Against All Puerto Ricans tells the story of a forgotten revolution and its context in Puerto Rico's history, from the US invasion in 1898 to the modern-day struggle for self-determination."