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High Spirits is a collection of eleven interconnected short stories from the Dominican diaspora, from debut author Camille Gomera-Tavarez. It is a book centered on one extended family the Beléns across multiple generations. It is set in the fictional small town of Hidalpa and Santo Domingo and Paterson and San Juan and Washington Heights too. It is told in a style both utt High Spirits is a collection of eleven interconnected short stories from the Dominican diaspora, from debut author Camille Gomera-Tavarez. It is a book centered on one extended family the Beléns across multiple generations. It is set in the fictional small town of Hidalpa and Santo Domingo and Paterson and San Juan and Washington Heights too. It is told in a style both utterly real and distinctly magical and its stories explore machismo, mental health, family, and identity. But most of all, High Spirits represents the first book from Camille Gomera-Tavarez, who takes her place as one of the most extraordinary new voices to emerge in years.


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High Spirits is a collection of eleven interconnected short stories from the Dominican diaspora, from debut author Camille Gomera-Tavarez. It is a book centered on one extended family the Beléns across multiple generations. It is set in the fictional small town of Hidalpa and Santo Domingo and Paterson and San Juan and Washington Heights too. It is told in a style both utt High Spirits is a collection of eleven interconnected short stories from the Dominican diaspora, from debut author Camille Gomera-Tavarez. It is a book centered on one extended family the Beléns across multiple generations. It is set in the fictional small town of Hidalpa and Santo Domingo and Paterson and San Juan and Washington Heights too. It is told in a style both utterly real and distinctly magical and its stories explore machismo, mental health, family, and identity. But most of all, High Spirits represents the first book from Camille Gomera-Tavarez, who takes her place as one of the most extraordinary new voices to emerge in years.

30 review for High Spirits

  1. 4 out of 5

    A Mac

    This work is a collection of short stories that are all connected in various ways. They follow an extended family who are from the Dominican Republic originally. The stories explore themes of mental health, race, displacement, identity. sexuality, and family and include some moments of magical realism. I really enjoyed this read. The author excellently wove together several short stories that had some repeating characters and explored important themes. While the author didn’t have a full book to This work is a collection of short stories that are all connected in various ways. They follow an extended family who are from the Dominican Republic originally. The stories explore themes of mental health, race, displacement, identity. sexuality, and family and include some moments of magical realism. I really enjoyed this read. The author excellently wove together several short stories that had some repeating characters and explored important themes. While the author didn’t have a full book to develop the characters, they weren’t lacking in depth or feeling. They all felt relatable and realistic in a way that brought their stories to life. I also loved the story that utilized some magical realism to convey a family’s history through the eyes of its women. I listened to the audiobook of this work. The narrator did an excellent job with these stories; I highly recommend giving it a listen! And I look forward to reading more works by this author. I received a complimentary copy of this work through NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Asher Stewart

    Thanks to netgalley for the audio arc, All thoughts and opinions are my own. I really enjoyed this book. I did feel like some of the concepts weren't developed properly, and I found it confusing to read at times. I also wished the book was a bit longer, as it stopped rather abruptly. Thanks to netgalley for the audio arc, All thoughts and opinions are my own. I really enjoyed this book. I did feel like some of the concepts weren't developed properly, and I found it confusing to read at times. I also wished the book was a bit longer, as it stopped rather abruptly.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Pedro

    I really enjoyed this book! I see a lot of potential from this debut author and her writing and characters and the way she explores topics like family and machismo and the elderly and how the youth are passed on their teachings but also paving their own mannerisms and path to forming their own identity.

  4. 4 out of 5

    2TReads

    With simplicity Gomera-Tavarez tells such a vibrant collection of intergenerational connected stories that speak to family, migration, love, and identity. There was a lot to relate to in these stories: the colourism on the island, the importance of language and the link to familial lands; how children and grandchildren interact with their sexuality and existing mental illness knowing the stigma that is held by family members and the impact of religion and superstitious beliefs in approaching the With simplicity Gomera-Tavarez tells such a vibrant collection of intergenerational connected stories that speak to family, migration, love, and identity. There was a lot to relate to in these stories: the colourism on the island, the importance of language and the link to familial lands; how children and grandchildren interact with their sexuality and existing mental illness knowing the stigma that is held by family members and the impact of religion and superstitious beliefs in approaching them. The clarity with which Gomera-Tavarez evoked a domino game, the rebelliousness of teenagers, and the use of banishment to the island as a form of discipline were all so familiar and on point that I could not stop reading. The coming-of-age stories, the use of the supernatural to share a history passed down through women, and the fear of not truly belonging to this family endeared these characters to me and I wanted more of their stories and more time with them.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chris G.

    There’s an extensive family tree at the beginning of High Spirits - give it a glance, and then dive into this wonderfully told set of interlinked stories featuring several generations of an Afro-Dominican family. Moving freely in time, with touches of magical realism, each story strongly combines vivid settings and intriguing characters. EARC from Edelweiss.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    As much of a faux pas as it is to discuss aesthetics in the world of books/within bibliophile circles, when discussing High Spirits it actually makes every bit of sense to start there (and would be very much a disservice not to). I was fortunate enough to attend a signing/Q&A/release party for the book, where Gomera-Tavarez mentioned her background in illustration and graphic design. Given this, she likely had a hand in the book's final design/presentation (an exceptionally unique experience as As much of a faux pas as it is to discuss aesthetics in the world of books/within bibliophile circles, when discussing High Spirits it actually makes every bit of sense to start there (and would be very much a disservice not to). I was fortunate enough to attend a signing/Q&A/release party for the book, where Gomera-Tavarez mentioned her background in illustration and graphic design. Given this, she likely had a hand in the book's final design/presentation (an exceptionally unique experience as an author) and it shows: the brilliant pop of color (a cross between neon pink and electric purple, accented with an iridescent indigo font) revealed upon removal of the book jacket was dazzling and refreshing. What's more, use of this eye-catching color scheme is very much on brand with Gomera-Tavarez's own bearing: unabashed, resolute. At the book signing, her keeping true to not only her creative side but the book's own aesthetic theme by intentionally signing and dedicating each book in bright pink marker was a clever touch. Conversely, while I appreciated the hand-drawn aspect of the included family tree (and what I can only infer was Gomera-Tavarez's aim to be nonconformist and organic), I unfortunately found it hard to read/follow. The fact that it was hand-drawn actually factored very little into this—I think the included information being displayed and/or laid out differently probably could have precluded potential confusion. Those times I was making my way through a story and attempted to reference back to it for clarification the tree unfortunately helped very little, if at all. I often found myself having to make do with piecing together familial affiliations by using narrative clues instead. Composition-wise, it's tempting to categorize the stories included as vignettes given their brevity and their semblance to snapshots in time. By definition a vignette lacks a plot sequence (beginning, middle, end), a conflict, and a protagonist. Yet because the stories of High Spirits do in fact contain all of these elements, they rightfully qualify as short stories. What Gomera-Tavarez often relays in hers is that a seemingly simple, innocuous memory can have the power to transport. Through them, she also imparts that not every memory that comprises a person is necessarily laden with profound significance. Also, as fleeting as memory, the retention of one is not formulaic or necessarily "logical"—the human mind can oftentimes dismiss what others may deem "significant" and instead retains what would have been discounted as superfluous. Yet it's the seemingly superfluous and inconsequential that the collection's stories highlight. The fluidity of time, the seamless transition between past and present is a central, binding theme throughout. I appreciated that the stories kept true to this dynamic in refraining from inclusion or mention of months or years at the opening of each chapter (or at any point within the stories themselves). The only included details that could provide such hints with regard to time or chronology, were occasional pop culture references (like Aribel and Rafaela crooning the lyrics of Aventura's hit 2002 song "Obsesión" in "Domino"). For me as a Dominican reader who could so often relate to the experiences relayed and the milieus described, in many ways the collection offered up a welcomed dose of nostalgia. The mention of frío frío (62, "Vamo 'pa la Playa") and limoncillos (117, "Skipping Stones") were but some of these. The stories also made consistent reference to widely-accepted arenas of Dominican influence, like baseball ("Colmado"), dominos ("Domino"), and volleyball ("Payphone," "Domino"). This additionally served to strengthen plotlines and the composition of Gomera-Tavarez's characters as actual people, even outside the microcosmic context of their respective stories. Thematically, Gomera-Tavarez covers a great deal: sexism and traditional gender roles ("Payphone," "Bárbaro," "Skipping Stones," "High Spirits"), machismo ("Colmado, "Swimming in Circles", "Cut Day," "Bárbaro," "Domino," "High Spirits"), familial constructs ("Vamo 'pa la playa," "Bárbaro"), colorism and racism ("Vamo 'pa la playa," "Payphone," "Bárbaro," "Life After the Storm," "High Spirits"), mental and emotional health ("Stickball," "Swimming in Circles"), sexual identity ("Skipping Stones"), ancestry and legacy ("Life After the Storm," "High Spirits"), heredity ("Life After the Storm"), and diaspora/the next generation (throughout). In her stories Gomera-Tavarez pushes a number of envelopes, including many that have long existed but have been intentionally and meticulously suppressed within many cultures, including the one we have in common. Ana in "Skipping Stones" embodied exactly this with regard to her sexual identity, while Jorge transcending time and space to experience key moments in the lives of his foremothers in "Life After the Storm" was bold and gender-bending (since the historical convention and the expectation within the context of these stories, for example, likely would have been for one of the Belén girls to have had this experience instead). Also, the idea of Gabriel's gift (or curse, depending on perspective) having seemingly been inherited by his nephew Jorge was an illuminating concept within the scope of familial and generational inheritance. Aribel and Rafaela being admitted to and proving themselves formidable opponents in the domino tournament, as well as Aribel recalling the manner in which she acquired her game-playing prowess as a child ("Domino," 170), further challenged the concept of traditional gender roles (since domino-playing in Dominican culture has been a historically male-dominated pastime). Story-wise, my hands-down favorites were "Skipping Stones," "Bárbaro," and "Life After the Storm." In spite of Gomera-Tavarez being new on the scene (at least in a mainstream sense) and only in her early 20s, she's definitely emerged audaciously. I'm interested in reading her future works and witnessing how she'll undoubtedly evolve in style and expression in her writing. As a fellow Dominicana, I applaud her achievement in succeeding in having High Spirits published (definitely no small feat!) and her contribution to the steadily growing list of published Dominican writers of note. Noteworthy lines and passages: "Because, you see, Gabriel's family knew absolutely everything about the carefully constructed persona he'd spent his adult life presenting to them. He'd pieced it together with the caring, gentle hands of the piñata sculptor he would pass on the way to his grandmother's house as a boy. Each slice of wet newspaper a little bit of the truth, hardening into a fragile shell over time." ("Stickball," 2) "The pale blue paint on the house exterior had deeper cracks than her abuelo's toasted hands, its hue fading faster than his fleeting mind." ("Colmado," 15) "Despite pressures to adopt her father's town as her own, Cristabel had never been able to shake the American city she'd known for most of her life. The languidness of the day in Hidalpa weighed on her as densely as its humid summer air. She often tried to combat the New Yorker within who desired fast walking and trains to catch, but it was a losing fight. Hidalpa was a history she'd inherited, but it was not her own." ("Colmado," 16) "Her days were spent running around the peaceful streets swatting sticks at other children and returning home for endless amounts of white-cold glass soda bottles from the colmado's back fridge [...] She could never figure out as a child why the sodas in Dominican Republic tasted better than any other soda she'd ever had. When she grew older she realized the secret ingredient — real cane sugar from the fields, with a deep sweetness as refreshing as mint." ("Colmado," 18-9) "It was like another dimension. Something like the Heights, but also something entirely new. A glimpse into the life he could be leading if his parents had made different decisions." ("Payphone," 76-7) "The mini rollers in her own hair were hanging on for dear life. She was a woman who was always waiting to let her hair out — waiting for an event or an appointment or someone worthwhile. Yoanson didn't understand why she spent hours every week sitting in an inferno just to cover her hair up the next day. Like she was saving up every last ounce of her beauty for the day she would finally need it." ("Bárbaro," 95) "...Jorge felt his past spirits cementing themselves within him, forming community." ("Life After the Storm," 159) "Most days that year after a starch-heavy supper, along with the children and the elderly, a teenage Aribel could be dependably found sharing a bed with get pregnant Tía for an afternoon nap. She savored these naps. The midday air would settle into beads of sweat on her caramel skin as a dusty plastic fan blew salt crystals onto her back. And she would wake up clammy and delirious, somewhere outside of time and space, until her mother shouting disbelief at her daughter's laziness would tune the girl's ears into focus. And the sun would bleed into the next day's siesta hour." ("Domino," 163)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nkwlila

    This was nice but it didn’t really have an obvious overarching plot and it felt a little difficult to read sometimes. I was also a little confused about the family tree. Overall I was a little lost. But still good.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cozy Reading Times

    Thank you to Netgalley and Recorded Books for providing me an audioARC of this book in excgange for an honest review. High Spirits is collection of interconnected short stories, that are auobiograhic and showcase moments and vignets from three generations of the author's family. All of them are told from younger or older teen perspectives with a non-linear timeline. If you listen to this book on audio, make sure you have a way to look at the family tree from the book. It is essantial for keeping Thank you to Netgalley and Recorded Books for providing me an audioARC of this book in excgange for an honest review. High Spirits is collection of interconnected short stories, that are auobiograhic and showcase moments and vignets from three generations of the author's family. All of them are told from younger or older teen perspectives with a non-linear timeline. If you listen to this book on audio, make sure you have a way to look at the family tree from the book. It is essantial for keeping up with this story! Hostely, I listened to this twice. The first time, I didn't have the family tree and had a hard time connecting to this book. Even on 1time speed, keeping up with it was so hard that I tuned out several times (sometimes listening to the same part three times and still not taking in any information). Obviously, that didn't make for a very enjoyable read and left me deeply unsatisfied. In the end, I wanted to check wether the physical book featured any solution to my problem, and descovered a charming, hand-drawn family tree int he digital excerpt I read. That one I took a screen shot of and then started again (the audiobook is only 3h long), and had a far better experience. Being able to visually see were each story fell withing the constellation of this huge family (34 named members throughout four generations on the family tree alone) was an immense help and made it far easier connecting to each member on there own and the family as a whole. And when able to enjoy and understand this book, High Spirits becomes a beautiful montage of family, diaspora, afro-dominican culture, coming of age and belonging, that's not just for kids or teens but something for people of all ages. It talks about mental health, machismo and identity. Moving through generations and across continents it draws an all-connecting circle that left me satisfied and deeply moved. PS: Also, if you have a picture of the family-tree, I do recommend the audiobook as the narrator, Coral Pena, has a warm and soothing voice thats very nice to listen to and gives the book alot of colour.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Karolyn

    High Spirits follows a Dominican family through tiny experiences that impact the bigger sphere of their lives. It begins with an illustration of a family tree, which was really dope in my opinion, and moves through continents, countries, states, and time with each person listed on that tree. Through their experiences, the author covers topics such as belonging, machismo, the stereotypes placed on hair, sexuality, and more. It’s a beautiful book, but it lacked something for me. Taking into accoun High Spirits follows a Dominican family through tiny experiences that impact the bigger sphere of their lives. It begins with an illustration of a family tree, which was really dope in my opinion, and moves through continents, countries, states, and time with each person listed on that tree. Through their experiences, the author covers topics such as belonging, machismo, the stereotypes placed on hair, sexuality, and more. It’s a beautiful book, but it lacked something for me. Taking into account that I struggled a bit with Blackout, it may just be that I’m not the right person for short story collections that are interconnected by one theme. But I can appreciate the talent it takes to bring together a book with so many complex topics. I really appreciated the world-building in the story about the bracelet. There’s also a story about a young boy who is given space to appreciate his natural hair and it was a breath of fresh air to see that theme play out in a different gender than I am used to reading. It was a cute and quick read that I hope falls into the hands of a young person that needs to see themselves and their experiences reflected in a book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Abbey

    vignettes, storytelling, character forward I received a digital ARC of this book on Edelweiss+. Thank you to Levine Querido and Chronicle Books. High Spirits is a quick but impactful set of interconnected short stories. The language is evocative, drawing realistic and vivid characters and settings. If I had been reading a physical copy rather than the e-ARC I would have made liberal use of the family tree that was included. I couldn't always keep track of who was related to who or how they were c vignettes, storytelling, character forward I received a digital ARC of this book on Edelweiss+. Thank you to Levine Querido and Chronicle Books. High Spirits is a quick but impactful set of interconnected short stories. The language is evocative, drawing realistic and vivid characters and settings. If I had been reading a physical copy rather than the e-ARC I would have made liberal use of the family tree that was included. I couldn't always keep track of who was related to who or how they were connected to characters that I had already met, but I don't think that took too much away from my enjoyment of the stories. Many of the stories felt more like vignettes and I wished I got to spend just a little more time with the character. I could easily read a sweeping intergenerational novel about this family, but the short story format provides something different. It gives you the feeling of accumulating family lore over time. Hearing stories told, maybe eavesdropping on gossip, and everything's always just a little incomplete.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Advanced Reader’s Copy provided by NetGalley, RB Media, and Recorded Books in exchange for an honest review. HIGH SPIRITS is a collection of short stories from debut author Camille Gomera-Tavarez that all connect together over years and people both in the United States and in the Dominican Republic. There's a little bit of magic, but mostly, this is a collection of stories that delve into mental health, what it means to be family, and toxic masculinity all wrapped in the cultural experiences of p Advanced Reader’s Copy provided by NetGalley, RB Media, and Recorded Books in exchange for an honest review. HIGH SPIRITS is a collection of short stories from debut author Camille Gomera-Tavarez that all connect together over years and people both in the United States and in the Dominican Republic. There's a little bit of magic, but mostly, this is a collection of stories that delve into mental health, what it means to be family, and toxic masculinity all wrapped in the cultural experiences of people who were impacted by the Dominican diaspora. It's a quick read, but I think it lends a voice to an important part of human history. Coral Pena does a great job with the audiobook narration and Gomera-Tavarez's prose lends well to consuming this collection of stories as an audiobook.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    Thank you to Netgally and the publisher for providing me an e-arc of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review I loved this book! High Spirits is a work of semi-autobiographical short fiction in which all eleven stories tie together by focusing on the same family, the Belens, and their family members both in America and in the Dominican Republic. This is Camille Gomera-Tavarez's first book and a real winner. I hope she continues to write because she has a great style. I really felt like I k Thank you to Netgally and the publisher for providing me an e-arc of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review I loved this book! High Spirits is a work of semi-autobiographical short fiction in which all eleven stories tie together by focusing on the same family, the Belens, and their family members both in America and in the Dominican Republic. This is Camille Gomera-Tavarez's first book and a real winner. I hope she continues to write because she has a great style. I really felt like I knew the Belen family by the end of the book and could cheer and cry for its members. The topics of the stories vary greatly and include things like gender roles, religion, family dynamics, poverty, immigration, machismo, lgbt+ topics, and magical realism. I listened to the audiobook of this work and thought the narrator was great and the format really added to the stories.

  13. 4 out of 5

    isyrein

    I went into this book thinking it was a short story collection that maybe had a central theme to keep it tied together. It does, and that is a family. I started to notice characters that had gotten their own chapter making cameos in other stories and that’s when I put two and two together. This was a very slice of life book that tackles multiple topics, events, relationships and even magic. It’s not that long and I really recommend it if you’d like to read something quick with a bit of mystery a I went into this book thinking it was a short story collection that maybe had a central theme to keep it tied together. It does, and that is a family. I started to notice characters that had gotten their own chapter making cameos in other stories and that’s when I put two and two together. This was a very slice of life book that tackles multiple topics, events, relationships and even magic. It’s not that long and I really recommend it if you’d like to read something quick with a bit of mystery and intrigue.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Juanita Flores-Mejia

    It was a quick easy read. The stories were mostly pretty interesting. The thing I found challenging was trying to make all the stories align. They were all over the place which is usually okay, but these stories don’t come together to make a complete picture or story, they were very disjointed.

  15. 4 out of 5

    A.

    What a staggering debut.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kaytee Cobb

    Over 3. Not 4. I think these stories should have been standalone, trying to connect them didn't serve any of them well. Over 3. Not 4. I think these stories should have been standalone, trying to connect them didn't serve any of them well.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    3.5 stars - Short stories are just not my favorite, but I enjoyed this collection

  18. 5 out of 5

    Veronica

    3.25

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dalila

    One of my new favorite books of all time! This debut work of art by Camille Gomera-Tavarez features a series of short stories about a Dominican family with family members living in the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. Through these short stories Gomera-Tavarez present a beautiful weaving of story telling and discussion of important topics such as feminism, the Dominican diaspora, mental health, religion, brujeria, gender roles and more. The writing is incredibly descriptive and beautiful and by One of my new favorite books of all time! This debut work of art by Camille Gomera-Tavarez features a series of short stories about a Dominican family with family members living in the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. Through these short stories Gomera-Tavarez present a beautiful weaving of story telling and discussion of important topics such as feminism, the Dominican diaspora, mental health, religion, brujeria, gender roles and more. The writing is incredibly descriptive and beautiful and by the end of the book you feel like you are a part of the Belen family, or at the very least a close community member that has been adopted in. It amazes me to realize that this is only Gomera-Tavarez's first book! I really hope that she keeps writing and would love to read more work by her. Absolutely in love with her writing style! I experienced this book as an audiobook and absolutely love the narration provided by Coral Peña is a masterpiece. I will be in the lookout for other books narrated by her. #HighSpirits #NetGalley

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lieke

    I had trouble connecting with the stories, they where very confusing to me. The stories are interconnected but it would have been nice to know how, since with short stories it is hard to understand the relationships and how the family tree was going. I could only recognize the last name. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Megan Brotemarkle

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cristina Fontana

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emi Cohen

  24. 4 out of 5

    Scott

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mariana

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lira

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elvis

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

  29. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tanya Ehlert

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