Bodega Dreams tells the story of a young man named Chino who lives in Spanish Harlem. One day he crosses paths with Willie Bodega, who is part man, part legend. He is also a gangster, a community activist and a man with dreams that know no limits. Chino is intoxicated by him and is drawn gradually into his world, becoming embroiled in the underbelly of Spanish Harlem which gives him pause to think about both his own future and the future of his neighborhood.
The novel was an immediate success and thrust first-time author Ernesto Quinonez into the literary spotlight; many proclaimed him the new voice of Latin American literature. Quinonez was designated a Barnes and Noble Great New Writer after the publication of the book and he also received a nod for Notable Book of the Year from The New York Times. The same year that the book was published, 2000, Quinonez also published several notable essays in The New York Times. It was four years before his second book was released, and a further gap of fifteen years occurred before his third novel, Taina, was published in 2019.
Quinonez is an associate professor at Cornell University, and continues to contribute to The New York Times as both a journalist and an essayist.