The poems in this manuscript are a sociopolitical, cultural conglomeration of thoughts, reflections, observations, and experiences. As a first generation Puerto Rican, the privilege of a college education has been a blessing for Luivette Resto, but it has divided her from family and friends who did not have the same opportunities. Being the first of her family with a college diploma, Luivette’s accomplishments and failures are not seen as individual but communal.
Some of the poems in Unfinished Portrait depict the dichotomy of being true to one’s culture and language, while taking advantage of the existing educational opportunities. Resto considers these poems as rebellious to the Latino status quo in the way women are perceived and treated. In addition, some of the poems question aspects of religion, specifically sexual experimentation, premarital sex, promiscuity, abortion, and the significance of life.
For many years when women wrote poems of sex and love the expectation was that it had to be beautiful and meaningful. Only men seem to have the right to interchange sex and love and write about it freely without judgment. Many of Resto’s poems prove that women can write about the joys of sex as well as the beauty and devastation of falling in love.
Growing up in New York and moving to Los Angeles, code-switching has been commonplace in Resto’s home and social circles. However, the power and place of language in classrooms, around water coolers, restaurants, and homes have been questioned and continue to be questioned by many including Latinos. The poet continues this perennial discourse in this, her first book. And there are poems that comment on the social fascination of Latinos since the alleged “Latin Invasion” of the 1990s.
Defiance, humor, and music is a vital part of Resto’s poems as much as it is of her culture.