Rice (Crazy Loco, 2003, etc.) pulls stories from his native ground, that fertile bicultural soil along the Rio Grande where the great border river makes its way to the sea.
The book includes nine pieces of original “sudden fiction,” often no longer than two pages, all of which are told in the first person. As with some of the previously published pieces, many seem autobiographical, and all explore the life of a child in the vibrant Mexican American culture of south Texas. Rice has a fondness for a sharp turn at a story’s end, not an O. Henry ending, but delightful all the same. The sudden fiction includes “Man vs. Beast,” wherein two little brothers are stung while maliciously killing a jellyfish, and “Dad Shoots to Kill,” about a boy who worries about his National Guard father, sent to watch for looters prowling the hurricane-ravaged streets of Brownsville. The longer works come from Rice’s collection Give the Pig a Chance and his contributions to anthologies. The author makes death a character in more than one of the pieces, and there are BB guns, mythical beasts, curses and even teenage experiences in hospitals that inspire medical careers. The most emotionally affecting may be “Tina La Tinaca,” in which a lonely, unattractive single woman becomes guardian to Hector, the son of her drunken brother. A day at Astroworld and a Major League baseball game—“The best time I ever had in my whole life”—ends in tragedy. Throughout, Rice displays a gift for descriptive turns of phrase—e.g.,“[Mother] shook her now-angry dishrag.” The book concludes with the script of a play authored by Mike Garcia based on a Rice short story, “She Flies.” That play, with its theme of opportunities lost and taken by young Hispanic women, has been performed in front of audiences across the nation.
An intriguing variety of stories about growing up Mexican American.