PLACES LEFT UNFINISHED AT THE TIME OF CREATION by John Phillip Santos

PLACES LEFT UNFINISHED AT THE TIME OF CREATION

KIRKUS REVIEW

A moving, intellectually powerful memoir of Mexican-American life. Born in San Antonio in 1957, Santos, a journalist and television documentary producer, grew up in an extended family whose elder members remembered a Texas that had not yet become anglicized. Through their eyes, Santos revisits that time, looking deeply into the Mexican past as a way of informing the present. “We may be latter-day Mexicanos,” he writes, “transplanted into another millennium in el Norte, but we are still connected to the old story, aren—t we?” Answering his own question, he continues, that connection is rapidly dying with the loss of the old generation, and with what he considers to be a cultural habit of selective forgetting, for “there is pain enough in the present to go around.” Resisting that habit, Santos writes evocatively of his childhood in la Tierra de Viejitas, “the land of the little old ladies” in whose custody family memories resided. He reconstructs the old San Antonio of daylong movie matinees and weekend barbecues, of visits by relatives from both sides of the border, of the quotidian life of men and women who considered themselves exiles but who refused to feel oppressed or downtrodden; that San Antonio, he writes, is now gone, with places like the Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood having taken their place. Santos probes the silences of childhood, the things those viejitas left unspoken, the terrible (and sometimes humorous) family secrets. His quest for roots eventually takes him deep within Mexico, where he explores the Indian and Spanish roots that shape modern Mexican-American identity. Santos’s fine memoir is sure to find a wide readership, especially in courses in ethnic and Mexican-American/Chicano studies.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-670-86808-6
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1999




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