The Accidental Native
Publication Date: September 30, 2013
When Rennie’s parents die in a freak accident, he does what they would have wanted and buries them in Puerto Rico, their homeland. There, he’s shocked to discover that the woman who raised him was not his biological mother. A high-powered attorney, his birth mother Julia is determined to reclaim the son she gave up many years before.
Adrift, with no family in New York and haunted by memories, Rennie is swayed by Julia’s constant pleading that he move to the island. A teaching job at a college in Puerto Rico decides it, and he finds himself flying “home” to a place and culture he knows only through his parents’ recollections. Once there, he must deal with Julia’s strong-willed nature, a department chair not thrilled to have a Nuyorican on staff, squatters living in the house he inherited, students frequently on strike and a lover anxious to settle down. Most disturbing is the rumor that numerous faculty and staff are dying from cancer because the campus, a former U.S. military base, is full of buried munitions.
Rennie soon finds himself working to expose the government’s lies, though he risks losing his job, his home and even the woman he loves. In his debut novel, J.L. Torres captures the conflict and challenges experienced by Puerto Ricans returning to their “homeland.”
“An inspired debut…Torres does capture the conflicts and challenges Puerto Ricans experience when returning to their homeland, but he reaches beyond the specific to the universal, illuminating the lives and feelings of any second-generation American in a similar situation.”—Booklist, Starred Review
“Themes of identity—personal and national—vibrate at the core of Jose Torres’s debut novel, The Accidental Native.”—Press Republican
“The encounter with his birth mother throws Rennie into a life-changing conflict where love and memory will intersect with Puerto Rico’s reality.”—NBCLatino
“Torres’ first full-length novel veers between a fish-out-of water story, a thriller, and a history lesson, weaving together Puerto Rico’s past, present, and future. The Accidental Native represents a new phase of Puerto Rican literature, giving us a character that rebels against the usual and challenges what it means to be Puerto Rican, and the proscribed ways in which to be Latino.”—La Respuesta
J.L. TORRES is the author of a short-story collection, The Family Terrorist and Other Stories (Arte Público Press, 2008). His stories and poetry have been published widely in anthologies and magazines. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the South Bronx, he currently lives with his family in upstate New York, where he teaches American literature and creative writing at SUNY, Plattsburgh.