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The speaker of the poems in The Life Assignment is reviewing his history. As if sorting through a box of photographs, the speaker sorts through relationships, trying to discern what was healthy from what was exploitative. Concepts of love are turned over and over in these poems: romantic love, love of family, love of country, self-love (or lack thereof). Often the speaker finds that what at first appeared to be caring, was insincere all along. When tenderness is in short supply, how can one protect himself? How can one find home? In his debut collection, Ricardo Alberto Maldonado bends poems through bilingual lyrics that present spartan observation as evidence for its exacting verdict: “We never leave when life is elsewhere. The clemency of men disappears / as does the light, tarring the roofs.” An electric debut collection.
About the Author
Ricardo Alberto Maldonado was born and raised in Puerto Rico. He is the co-editor of Puerto Rico en mi corazón and the recipient of fellowships from CantoMundo, the New York Foundation for the Arts and Queer|Arts|Mentorship. He lives in New York, where he serves as managing director at 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center.
“[A] collection whose devastating precision is only matched by its capacity to rebuild tenderness from the ashes.”
—Raquel Salas Rivera
“. . . Complex and unblinking, with heaps of sorrow and grace, Maldonado has a knack for the impossible, and for making his readers look headlong into it until we all come out the other side more compassionate and honest.”
“The Life Assignment is, in its own startling terms, an ecology of late capitalist grief. . . . This outstanding first book, merciless in its beauty and wit, is a ‘schema for our lapsed world,’ a way to make sense of our ‘somber city’ and ‘the grief / we happen to be around.’”
“. . . This bilingual collection asks us to consider how we as readers and citizens reconcile self and state, body and landscape, desire and capital, language and communication . . .”
"In this quietly furious bilingual debut, Maldonado challenges the entanglements of power, queer love, money, and language against the backdrop of a post-hurricane Puerto Rico and a life of daily labor in New York City...."
— Publishers Weekly
"...Maldonado’s observations about capitalism’s prevailing violence are particularly timely in this lonely, decades-long year—embodied in references to foreclosure, workday uniforms, and guilty fantasies of productivity and self-improvement...." --Julia V. Pretsfelder, https://remezcla.com/features/culture/best-books-of-2020/