Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Background

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Background

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a coming-of-age, young adult novel written by Benjamin Alire Saenz and published in 2012. The story takes us back to 1987, where me meet two young Mexican-American boys residing in El Paso, Texas. Aristotle "Ari" Mendoza and Dante Quintana are friends who are trying to understand their place in the world, which they are finding hard to do because they don't even understand themselves yet. They face many internal struggles; their heritage, their relationships with their family, their futures, and their sexuality. Dante comfortable with his homosexuality, and falling in love with Ari; Ari, in denial, and trying to persuade himself that he really does prefer girls.

At the start of the novel, Ari is lonely, friendless and wondering what on earth he is going to do with himself all summer. Dante is a more popular boy who spends the vast majority of his time at the pool because he excels at swimming. He offers to teach Aristotle to swim, and a friendship is born as the two boys bond over their classical names and their ambivalence over the fact they are both Mexican-American. This struggle with their ethnicity is one of the main themes in the novel, which also deals with issues of sexuality, what it means to be a man, and the different dynamics of family.

The novel is not divided into traditional chapters, but into six sections, each of which starts with an epigraph from later on in the chapter, or borrowed from another author or work entirely. This serves to focus the reader's attention on the main purpose of the chapter, and as a guide to recognize the crux of the matter within it.

This novel has been given countless accolades and really never received a negative review or comment - quite an accomplishment, especially given its gritty subject matter. It was awarded the LAMBDA Literary Award and the Stonewall Award, both for LGBT fiction, and also the Pura Belpre Narrative Medal for Latino Fiction. The fact that it has received such diverse awards also demonstrates the complex collection of themes within the book that are all afforded equal importance in the narrative.

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