Books: The Culture of Poverty

LA VIDA by Oscar Lewis. 669 pages. Random House. $10.

At 40, Fernanda Fuentes Ríos, a Puerto Rican American of Negro blood, has had six husbands. Junior, her sixth, is 19. Fernandá's youngest daughter Cruz is 18. She is currently estranged from her third husband, but not to the point of refusing him occasional access to her favors. Felicita and Soledad, two other daughters of Fernanda's, are whores. They are also good mothers, although somewhat unconventional: the lullabies that soothe Felicita's children would redden a longshoreman's ears. Fernanda's only son, Simplicio, 21, ran away from...

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