American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera is the first novel in The Dreamers series, each following a character that featured in the previous text. Our story centers around Nesto Vasquez, a long time New Yorker, who has decided to move to Albany in order to pursue his dream of running a Dominican food truck. Nesto’s decision is aided by the fact that his family has moved to the suburbs. On the day that Nesto drives to Ithaca, he runs into a cute man at the gas station named Jude. Later in the day, Nesto is surprised to see the man walk up to his food truck with his friend Carmen. Jude and Carmen work in the one of Ithaca’s libraries. When Jude’s salad gets eaten by a disrespectful colleague Carmen suggests that they check out the Afro-Carribean food truck, OuNYe, parked nearby. Carmen is Dominican American and is always excited to test out Dominican food to see if it is authentic. Both Nesto and Jude are surprised to see one another again, and the instant chemistry that they have prompts Jude to be uncharacteristically flirty. American Dreamer was such a pleasant surprise. I absolutely love the characters. Nesto’s determination to make his dream of cooking food for a living come true was wonderfully realistic. I loved the banter Nesto has with his family. Herrera’s descriptions felt warm and enveloping. As for Jude, well, it seems like I have a love for characters named Jude. While Jude of American Dreamer is very different from Jude of A Little Life, I find myself relating to them. Maybe it’s Jude of American Dreamer being a librarian, and I am in my third week of librarian school. Maybe it’s that I read Jude as somewhat neurodiverse, but please know that the text does not intend for the reader to interpret him in this manner.
If you are looking for a romance that explicitly features a m/m relationship with one of the partners being on the autistic spectrum, then I would recommend Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan. Unfortunately, it isn’t own voices, but I felt like the portrayal was respectful. Carry the Ocean also portrays someone who struggles with long-term depression.
It was a joy to listen to American Dreamer. American Dreamer is a romance, so readers aren’t surprised when our leading men end up together, but it was lovely to watch them grow together. While Nesto and Jude fall into one another fairly quickly, there are still clear changes in their relationship: trust gained, problems addressed and surmounted. Nesto’s friends have no qualms informing him that he has commitment issues, and they believe that part of the reason he has given himself three months to have a successful business is because part of him doesn’t want to believe that his dream is possible and he doesn’t want to leave New York City. Jude learns to share his vulnerabilities with Nesto. The appreciation Nesto has for his mother, the descriptions of food and the care there, the way Herrera ties in the microaggressions and pressures to do well for his family. Jude’s navigation of the bureaucratic library board. Heck, I even like how Herrera portrayed, Misty, the grant writer at the library, whose infuriating, racist, and pompous characteristics felt true to life. All these pieces contributed to my enjoyment of Herrera’s American Dreamer and to me giving it 4 out of 5 stars. I’m hopeful that Carmen will be one of the characters whose story we get to delve further into in the next installments of The Dreamers.