By Natasha Ford
AUSTIN, Tx.—Adapted from an award-winning stage play, “Brownsville Bred: Dreaming Out Loud” is an explosive memoir about rising above and becoming more than what is expected of you. The stage play and memoir were written by filmmaker Elaine Del Valle and she explores the trials of girlhood, family relationships and memories of childhood innocence. Del Valle truly shines through in her debut memoir.
As told through a series of vignettes, Del Valle explores memories of her past, and, rather than telling her story in a straight line, she picks themes to thread her life together. Themes like maturing from girl to a young woman, the struggles to understand life beyond her neighborhood and witnessing tragedy take place around her.
One of the main themes throughout the memoir is Del Valle’s relationship with her father, who struggled with drug abuse before passing away from AIDS in 1989. She explores the anger, shame and disappointment she felt upon learning about his drug abuse. Del Valle talks about her father leaving to “get healthy again” in Puerto Rico, and the anger she felt at his abandonment. Her feelings about her father, and, to a smaller extent, her mother, shape the narrative and truly tell her story.
Before learning about her father’s drug abuse, Del Valle paints him as a hero: a man with swagger and pure charisma. In Del Valle’s eyes, he is the light in the darkness by bringing the neighborhood together with his music. She aspires to be him, and the revelation of his faults is all the more heartbreaking. As a reader, you can feel the wounds her father left behind. It is messy and honest.
Another theme that is strong throughout the memoir is the loss of innocence. Through each vignette, Del Valle gives the readers an instance where she loses a piece of her innocence. Whether it’s being accosted by a strange man in a dark alley and having to fight him off, or watching a little girl get hit by a truck and killed. Each moment leaves the reader feeling sad, and wanting more exploration into the emotions Del Valle felt as she experienced these difficult situations.
When it comes down to it, “Brownsville Bred: Dreaming Out Loud” is an homage to her father, telling her Papi she did it —she rose above what was expected of someone from Brownsville, Brooklyn. She’s telling her readers she is not ashamed of where she came from, but rather, she would not be who she is today if not for her upbringing. Del Valle shines through the difficulties of her childhood and shows how her life shaped her and gave her strength to rise above.
For more information on Del Valle’s novel, check out Latinitas Magazine’s “20 Questions With” podcast on SoundCloud where we sit down with Del Valle to discuss the novel and more!
About the writer:
Natasha Ford graduated from St. Edward’s University with a Bachelor degree in English Writing & Rhetoric with a minor in music. She currently works at BookPeople as a Assistant Kids Inventory Manager. She is passionate about childhood literacy and diversity in publishing, and believes there is one book out there to turn every child into a reader. Her work has been published in Latinitas Magazine, Austin Woman Magazine, and on the BookPeople blog. In her free time, Natasha loves doing yoga, reading young adult fantasy, and playing her with schnorkie, Bodhi. Find more of her book reviews on her instagram, @natreadstuff!