UNCIVIL RIGHTS by Nash Candelaria

UNCIVIL RIGHTS

and Other Stories
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A second collection, mostly set among the Chicanos of the American Southwest. Perhaps Cesar Chavez has a novel in him. It would be a good thing, frankly, since Candelaria (The Day the Cisco Kid Shot John Wayne, not reviewed, etc.) doesn’t exactly have the old Steinbeck touch when it comes to sketching out the lives of the downtrodden masses along the Mexican border. All of the seven stories gathered here depict the frustrations experienced by Hispanic Americans struggling against Yankee injustice and duplicity. The title piece describes how an unemployed artist involves himself in the Sanctuary movement of the early 1980s in an attempt to win back some measure of self-respect (“First they steal your country, Alfonso thought. Then they steal your language so you can’t even think naturally. . . . Then, when you can’t or won’t talk gringo, they call you stupid”) The corruption of politics is also at the center of “A Whole Lot of Justice,” where a shady small-town sheriff kills a local for his lowrider Chevrolet. “The Dancing School” is a young girl’s rather nasty reminiscence of her half-Anglo classmate, who (naturally) turns out to be quite untrustworthy. In “Family Thanksgiving,” a former district attorney, who now represents sanctuary refugees, argues through the holiday dinner with his brother, a sellout cop, while “The Border” describes the obsessive, almost mystical search of a young man for his father in Mexico. Bad agitprop: Although the politics that run through all these pieces may be annoying to some, it is the inverted racism (“Some Anglo TV guy asked him questions about culture and identity and some other bullshit, and Danny gave him a look of disbelief that made everyone in the room laugh”) that will offend most readers. Ultimately, Candelaria’s soulless Anglos bear about as much relation to reality as the noble Latinos they oppress.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-927534-83-5
Page count: 136pp
Publisher: Bilingual Review Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1998