Books by Yxta Maya Murray

Yxta Maya Murray is the author of Locas and What it Takes to Get to Vegas. She was recipient of the 1999 Whiting Writers' Award for fiction. She teaches at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, where she lives.

Released: Jan. 1, 2010

On the day Michelle Peña wins in the qualifying rounds for All-American track and earns a spot on her school's academic decathlon team, she and her best friend, Kiki, are kidnapped. Michelle knows her kidnappers: They're members of the gang run by her mother, Reina. Reina is serving time in prison, but her name still strikes fear in the hearts of members of the 99's. With Reina's capture, the gang collapsed, and Michelle, just 12 at the time, went to a misguided, gay, overworked but ultimately loving foster father. Despite Reina's imprisonment, the 99's are still operating, but they need royalty in the form of Princess Michelle. There's salty gang talk, an urban setting and plenty of violent action. Readers will see adult language and situations, but the focus is on a smart teen character with growing-up issues, not the adult world of gang politics. Michelle talks tough but has a soft heart for her friends and family. This may not be great literature, but it holds strong appeal for teens who can't get enough street lit. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
THE QUEEN JADE by Yxta Maya Murray
Released: Feb. 1, 2005

"Fiery beauties and rakish hunks can't enliven this overblown melodrama."
Meticulously researched backstory and excess verbiage too often trump adventure in Murray's fourth effort (The Conquest, 2002, etc.). Read full book review >
THE CONQUEST by Yxta Maya Murray
Released: Oct. 4, 2002

"A fluid and genuinely interesting story badly weighed down by leaden prose ('If I prove my hypothesis I will be as clever as any necromancer, for all the dark women of history have lost their tongues') and a thoroughly hackneyed view of Latin American history."
Another ponderous and trendy novel from Murray (What It Takes to Get to Vegas, 1999, etc.), this one about a museum curator's search for the identity of a 16th-century memoirist. Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 1999

Men will break your heart, but sisterhood is powerful in this uneven but arresting second novel by the author of Locas (1997). That's sisterhood as a blood relationship, not a political movement, though there are also echos of "brown female power" feminism in Murray's gritty tale of growing up scandalous in East L.A. For the most part, however, Rita Zapata finds the Mexican-American women in her poverty-stricken neighborhood quick to judge her a putana like her promiscuous mother. It's Rita's younger sister, Dolores, who saved her after she accidentally set her hair on fire as a teenager, who claims her heart and her fiercest loyalty—until Billy Navarro shows up. Rita has slept with most of East L.A.'s aspiring boxers (indeed, most of its men, period) in her search for someone on his way up and out who—ll take her with him, and in Billy she finds not only a potential champ but a man who understands her. "You want better than what you got," he tells Rita, "You got dreams." For a while Billy seems to fulfill them. He takes her with him on his ascent to a title bout in Las Vegas, and his win gains her some grudging respect from "las girlfriends," even though they prefer the respectably married Dolores. But identity won through a man can be lost the same way, and Rita hits bottom around about the time Dolores's political activism indirectly gets her husband killed and riots in 1997 nearly incinerate the Hispanic ghetto. Murray has a sharp eye for the particulars of Mexican-American life, and her prose is juicily vivid. But there's a fine line between affirming the values of an ethnic subculture and reinforcing its stereotypes; Murray's hot-mama Latinas and their swaggering men seem perilously close to the latter. Readable and intelligent, though this writer of promise and ferocious energy needs to scrutinize her subject matter a little more deeply. Read full book review >