The Broken Plate Recommends

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz / KJ Justice

In this week’s blog, I want to discuss one of my favorite novels from my childhood that still continues to be one of my all-time favorites as well! Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz is a novel that discusses two boys growing up in El Paso, Texas over the course of a few summers. Their connection is one of the really close friends and when life begins to get more and more serious, their relationship gets challenged. The novel itself is more along the lines of an internal dialogue, exploring the concept of mental health and struggling with manhood in Aristotle, the main character. When he meets Dante at swimming lessons, the two build a quick connection and Aristotle finds his first friend in Dante. This book touches on queerness in men as well as the experiences of a young boy of color. Saenz is an incredible writer who, originally was a poet. He has since written a sequel to the book exploring their relationship even further. He is a queer Mexican American man and almost exclusively writes in this voice. He strives to create a voice that he did not have when he was younger and really wants to create work for Mexican American youth. He has written many poetry books, novels, and even children’s books in his efforts to expand this voice that is so often underrepresented. 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a piece that would fit beautifully into our mission as it discusses the fragility and underrepresented voices of queer Mexican-American youth. I grew up with very little queer media representation and this novel was the first one that I had read that gave me that bit of representation and I fell in love with it. The novel is so incredibly important for queer youth and this is exactly the type of work that our journal is looking to publish! We want these voices to be heard, for others to be able to see a piece of themself in this piece of artwork or writing and works like Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe are exactly the key to doing so. If you take anything away from our journal, it is that voices such as these deserve a place and deserve respect as much as any other writer. 

This novel is one that has touched me so deeply since my first encounter with it in high school and really helped me to come to understand myself. I sincerely hope you all can share that experience with me as well and consider reading Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.