MIGRANT SOULS by Arturo Islas


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Islas wrote about the Angel family, living on the border between Mexico and the US, in The Rain God, 1984 (not reviewed). Here, members of the clan continue their balancing act poised between two cultures, ""just like our souls are between heaven and earth."" The Angels first crossed the Rio Grande fleeing from the Mexican Revolution: ""migrant, not immigrant souls"" who ""naturally went from one bloody side of the river to the other. . ."" In the Texas border town of Del Sapo (El Paso?), they strive to maintain a fervent belief in Catholicism and their own superiority: Mama Chona, the matriarch, reminds them that their roots are European rather than Indian. Josie Salazar, who emerges from a large cast of characters as the novel's heroine, knows she cannot be the Spanish lady her mother and grandmother want her to be, but identifies instead with her more down-to-earth and skeptical father. In sections scattered throughout the novel, Islas follows Josie from childhood, through her romance and wedding to a local boy, to her return home without her husband and with two daughters in tow. Her gay cousin Miguel Chico, the other family rebel, has begun to chronicle the Angel story and remains her confidant. The second half of the book revolves around family reunions at Christmas time, allowing Islas to highlight conflicting generational views. Rich, simply told material about many generations of a Mexican-American family, but the scattered narrative is undermined by too much explanation and too frequent shifting of gears.

Pub Date: Feb. 22nd, 1989
Publisher: Morrow