In this collection of short stories, Irma Olmedo immerses her readers in the world of her childhood growing up in New York’s El Barrio during the 1950s. Tinged with nostalgia for her years surrounded by family, celebratory meals, and togetherness while facing economic challenges as other working-class Puerto Rican families in la gran urbe, Olmedo’s stories reclaim the humanity of displaced Puerto Rican families in New York through dialogues that are succinct yet truly human, exploding with a candidly felt, nurturing cariño. While the focus rests on her extended family, the stories reveal a larger social and historical moment in New York. Themes such as the mistranslations of migration through consumerism, the power of music and memory, the social alliances between Puerto Ricans and Italians, the limited access to resources, gender and sexual identities, and the diverse generational perspectives of identity and culture across time, all come together in these beautiful narratives of culture, family and communities. Olmedo’s unique talent in assuming the voices of her family members throughout these stories, including her own as an adult, is evident throughout the collection.
Bravo to a new voice that humanizes Puerto Ricans in the diaspora at a time when the State brutally dismisses our lives as unworthy of recognition. —Frances R. Aparicio,
Professor Emerita, Northwestern University
Barrio tales is a warm-hearted collection of short stories
on memory, love, and loss told with compassion, humor and wit. Moving from
Puerto Rico to barrios across the US, each story is a gem that captures the sights,
sounds, smells, spirit, and emotions of a community on the move from the island
to the diaspora. Irma María Olmedo has a keen ear for dialogue and is an
original and inventive storyteller. Anyone interested in the immigrant
experience will love these stories.
—Dr. Lourdes Torres, Editor, Latino Studies, Vincent de Paul Professor, Department of Latin American and
Latino Studies, DePaul University
Irma Maria Olmedo was born in Puerto Rico, and moved to New York City at the age of eight with her family. She remained in the Lower East Side of New York City, where she pursued a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees at the City University of New York. After marrying, she moved to Wisconsin, Chicago and Ohio, received a master’s in Latin American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Curriculum from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in Education from Kent State University in Ohio. She taught in various colleges and universities, most recently at the University of Illinois-Chicago, from which she retired.