A poet and American Book Award–winning memoirist tells the story of his troubled family and the sustaining relationship he shared with his brother.
González (English/Rutgers Univ., Newark; Pivotal Voices, Era of Transition: Toward a 21st Century Poetics, 2017, etc.) and his family left Mexico for the Coachella Valley when he and his younger brother, Alex, were still children. But the better life they sought across the border in the United States did not materialize. Crammed into a tiny house, 19 family members attempted to make the best of difficult circumstances that included hunger, poverty, and abuse at the hands of a cruel and controlling grandfather. By the time González reached adolescence, he and Alex faced other traumas: the death of their beloved mother and desertion by their father, who relocated back to Mexico without them. The losses impacted each brother deeply: the author “withdrew into a depression that [his] family members called shyness,” and Alex began to spend time with high school dropouts who did little else but smoke and drink. At the same time, loss helped forge the fierce bond that helped both survive loneliness and hardship. Their paths diverged when González became the first member of his family to go to college while Alex returned to Mexico to live with their father. But even as the author immersed himself in his work, his emerging gay identity, and a career as a writer and teacher in New York City, he still maintained a close connection to his brother. That bond became their salvation when each brother faced midlife challenges rooted in the early experiences that had stripped them of parental love and positive role models. For González, those challenges involved alcoholism and unconsciously seeking out abusive relationships; for his brother, they involved coming to terms with what it meant to be a good husband and father. Generous and intimate, González’s memoir offers a riveting account of the bond that saved two brothers from their tortured past while offering lucid glimpses into the meaning of Latino manhood.
A raw, emotionally intense memoir.