Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Benjamin Alire Sáenz's Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: Introduction

A concise biography of Benjamin Alire Sáenz plus historical and literary context for Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: Plot Summary

A quick-reference summary: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe on a single page.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: Detailed Summary & Analysis

In-depth summary and analysis of every chapter of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Visual theme-tracking, too.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: Themes

Explanations, analysis, and visualizations of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe's themes.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: Quotes

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe's important quotes, sortable by theme, character, or chapter.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: Characters

Description, analysis, and timelines for Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe's characters.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: Symbols

Explanations of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe's symbols, and tracking of where they appear.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: Theme Wheel

An interactive data visualization of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe's plot and themes.

Brief Biography of Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Benjamin Alire Sáenz was the fourth of seven children, and grew up on a small farm in New Mexico. After graduating high school, he spent the next two decades studying and earning a variety of different degrees, including in philosophy, theology, English, and creative writing. He spent several years as a priest in the early 1980s, but ultimately left the order. Sáenz began to study writing in 1985, and started publishing books of poetry in 1992. His first novel, Carry Me Like Water, received rave reviews and won the 1996 Southwest Book Award. After coming out as gay in the late 2000s and seeking a divorce from his wife of 15 years, Sáenz began writing about the LGBT experience in his novels. These novels, including Aristotle and Dante, have been some of his most critically successful works.
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Historical Context of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

The late 1980s were busy years for both gay rights and AIDS activism, something that would’ve greatly affected the lives of gay teens like Ari and Dante. In 1987, when the novel begins, the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights took place. Police estimate that almost half a million people marched. At this event, Cleve Jones’s NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt (a community art project memorializing the lives of people who died of AIDS) was displayed for the first time. Illinois (where Dante spends a school year) was the first U.S. state to decriminalize homosexuality in 1962, while Texas, where Dante and Ari spend most of the novel, didn’t follow suit until 2003 when forced to do so to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Lawrence v. Texas. Gay marriage, meanwhile, didn’t become legal on a national level until 2015, when people Ari and Dante’s age would’ve been almost 50 years old.

Other Books Related to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Many of Sáenz’s young adult novels tackle issues of Mexican American identity, sexuality, or both, and many of his protagonists are also precocious intellectuals like Ari and Dante. These include The Inexplicable Logic of My Life and Last Night I Sang to the Monster. Other novels that delve into the intersection of cultural identity and sexuality include Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sarah Farizan, Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai, and The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi. Aristotle and Dante also joins the growing genre of LGBTQ teen lit, which includes novels like Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Nick Burd’s The Vast Fields of Ordinary, and Boy Meets Boy by David Levithian.
Key Facts about Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
  • Full Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
  • When Written: 2010-2011
  • Where Written: El Paso, Texas
  • When Published: 2012
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Young Adult Novel, Bildungsroman
  • Setting: El Paso, Texas, 1987-1988
  • Climax: At the Mendoza family meeting, Ari admits that he’s gay and loves Dante.
  • Antagonist: Julian Enriquez and his cronies, homophobia
  • Point of View: First person

Extra Credit for Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Cursing is Fun. Ari’s interest in foul language certainly isn’t accidental: Sáenz has written in his blog that he adores cursing and thinks it helps him escape from the adult world and connect with the child inside of him.