by Alan Lessik
Chelsea Station Editions. 268 pages, $18.
THIS STUNNINGLY CREATIVE NOVEL combines history and mythology from several cultures to tell the story of Antinio, a gay Cuban man, as he searches for freedom and love in the face of oppression and disease. It is narrated by Hadrian, the brilliant emperor of ancient Roman whose male lover Antinous died by drowning at age nineteen, whereupon Hadrian made him a god and had statues of Antinous erected all over the Empire. Hadrian, now a disembodied demi-god with limited supernatural powers, takes an interest in Antinio, actively saving his life on several occasions. He also meets with several of the Greek gods and with the orishas of the Santería faith—who migrated to Cuba from Africa during the slave trade—learning about their role in human affairs. It is an unusual blend, but holds together throughout to tell a compelling story. There is a helpful character guide at the beginning.