Seattle-based Latino journalist Martinez recalls his youthful adventures in the 1980s romping around the border town of Brownsville, Texas.
Though dirt poor, the author’s Mexican-American family continually demonstrated resilience, solidarity and humor. His parents, “children themselves” right out of high school, began having kids in the late-’60s. In a household of “Sisyphean wetbacks” struggling to make ends meet, Martinez was the youngest. Much like his siblings, he was light-skinned, didn’t identify with Mexican culture, and spoke English, an anomaly in a primarily Spanish-speaking region. From his family’s crowded house emerge resonant stories about a tough, gun-toting, spell-casting Gramma; the death of the family dog and his father’s swift retribution; his two older sisters, “the Mimis,” who dyed their hair blonde, dressed in designer labels and adopted a “Valley Girl” affectation; his hard-drinking, abrasive father’s drug trafficking; shenanigans with friends; turbulence with close older brother Dan; and melancholy recollections of beatings from his parents and what he can remember of their sordid histories. At more than 450 pages, the personal remembrances may prove wearisome, even as the narrative brims with candid, palpable emotion. Still, Martinez lushly captures the mood of the era and illuminates the struggles of a family hobbled by poverty and a skinny Latino boy becoming a man amid a variety of tough circumstances.
A finely detailed, sentimental family scrapbook inscribed with love.