Side Chick Nation, By Aya de León, 375 pgs.

Dec 13, 2019

Hurricane Maria made Caribbean landfall in September 2017, and not two years later Aya de León published Side Chick Nation, a novel with Maria at the center of it. The nation of the title is Puerto Rico—de León quotes San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz as comparing her country to a married person’s under-respected lover, with the United States as the married person.

This excerpt from the back cover captures the spirit of Side Chick Nation: “her formidable Lower East Side Women’s Health Clinic’s heist squad.”

From the novel:

“I have some bad news for you,” Marisol said. “We need you to do the real dirty work.”

“What? Fucking him?” Kim asked.

Marisol nodded.

“If he was Dulce’s sugar daddy, then he likes Latinas with big asses,” Kim protested. “Sounds like a job for you, Marisol.”

“Nope,” she said. “Not only have I met him, but he knows someone who can trace me. Besides, he likes young women. Even his wife is in her twenties.”

“Tyesha’s younger than me,” Kim said. “And has much more ass.”

“Tyesha has a grant proposal due.”

Marisol runs the clinic and the heist squad. Dulce is a former sex worker who flees an abusive and connected boyfriend and ends up trapped during the hurricane.

Side Chick Nation is a novel in the romantic suspense genre, a political novel with an emphasis on feminism, and a character study with a certain amount of modernism; de León peppers the novel with many scenes from a telenovela some of the characters watch.

De León has created a world not quite like any other writer’s. She’ll be writing bestsellers within ten years and reviewers of other books will be using phrases like “in the tradition of Aya de León.”

I have to tell you that I can’t imagine the reader who would not find Side Chick Nation too long—when de León decides to slow her story down, it’s time for the reader to settle in for the duration—though if you suspect you’ll like it, you will like it. –Jim Woster (Dafina Books,