THE HAMMON AND THE BEANS AND OTHER STORIES by Americo Paredes

THE HAMMON AND THE BEANS AND OTHER STORIES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Paredes, an ethnographer, literary critic, and social historian of national repute, is virtually the founder of Chicano cultural studies as an academic discipline. He has also dabbled in fiction, and this volume represents the first time his short stories have been collected in one place. Written between 1940 and 1953, all but two of these 17 stories are being published for the first time. A lengthy critical introduction by Ram¢n Sald°var of Stanford University situates Paredes's work in a larger historical context, which is absolutely essential to understanding several of the stories that draw on the troubled history of the Chicano community in Texas and (in the case of the story ``The Gringo'') during the events of the Mexican War. The stories fall into several categories: Several, including the title offering, deal with the problems of Mexican-American children growing up in poverty near the US Army's Fort Jones; the best works in the collection are set among the US Army of occupation in Japan; others subtly puncture the myth of machismo. At his best, Paredes writes with darkly tragic irony of men trapped in self-imposed images of masculinity, whether Chicano or Anglo, and of young boys and their first encounters with death. The last two stories in the collection represent a radical departure from the tone of the rest: They are raucous picaresques centering on the machinations of a wily Chicano trickster figure, Johnny Picadero. These bring the book to a surprisingly rollicking conclusion and make one yearn for more stories about Picadero. The collection serves a useful historical purpose, documenting yet another facet of the American literary experience. As literature, the book is uneven, with several of the stories little more than anecdotes. However, the occupation stories and the Picadero tales are well worth reading.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
ISBN: 1-55885-071-6
Page count: 220pp
Publisher: Arte Público
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1994