July 2024


By Santiago Jose Sanchez
Review by
Santiago Jose Sanchez’s debut, Hombrecito, is a queer coming-of-age following a boy’s life from Colombia to Miami to New York. It’s a heartbreaking pleasure to get lost inside these pages.
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In their haunting debut novel, Hombrecito, Santiago Jose Sanchez illuminates the hidden. The story begins in Ibagué, Colombia, a city that the protagonist, Santiago, returns to again and again, in dreams, memory and reality. Santiago is a young boy trying to make sense of a world he doesn’t understand: his absent father, his mother who sometimes “forgets she is a mother,” his feelings of alienation and otherness. When he moves with his mother and brother to Miami, those feelings continue to grow, even as he begins to embrace his queerness.

Sanchez traces Santiago’s search for belonging as he grows up and eventually leaves home for college in New York. The story follows the expected beats of a queer coming-of-age novel, but does so at a slant. Time moves unexpectedly. Scenes that take place over a few hours go on for pages; several years pass in the blank space between chapters. The prose is intensely visceral and deliberately opaque. It feels as if the narrator holds both himself and the reader at a distance before, distraught and needy, suddenly pulling them close. It’s a heartbreaking pleasure to get lost inside these pages.

Santiago’s complicated relationships with his brother and his mother shift with time, but never get easier. This is true of every relationship in Santiago’s life. There’s his first boyfriend, whom he meets in an internet chat room; his father back in Colombia, who drifts in and out of Santiago’s life; his roommate in New York; the men he sleeps with but doesn’t show himself to. His relationships to places are equally fraught: He longs for Colombia even as he distances himself from it. He leaves Miami but feels constantly pulled back by his mother.

Hombrecito is a novel about the events, sometimes unseen, often beyond our control, that shape our understanding of the world. It’s about growing up amid silences that reverberate into adulthood. It’s about self-destruction and self-denial; about fierce and unconditional love; about the cost of hiding and the turmoil of leaving a country. It’s about queerness and transience and one man’s long, slow journey to find a home inside both.

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By Santiago Jose Sanchez
ISBN 9780593542187

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