Acquiring full force in the context of the story cycle to which they gave birth, Estampas del Valle/The Valley are essential...



Reissue, in one volume, of the stories that inaugurated Hinojosa’s (Creative Writing/Univ. of Texas) long-running Klail City Death Trip series.

Set along the Mexican border in South Texas, the series has a title that echoes Michael Lesy’s book about faraway Wisconsin, while its epic ambition seems to owe to William Faulkner, Gabriel García Márquez and Edgar Lee Masters in roughly equal measure. As Arte Público publisher Nicolás Kanellos notes in his too-brief but illuminating foreword, it is one of the foundational texts of Chicano literature, curious publishing history and all: Estampas del valle appeared in Spanish in 1972 and was published in English, much revised and reorganized, as The Valley in 1983, even as the series was moving forward, conjuring Hinojosa’s fictitious Belken County into being. In these and the other 20-odd installments of what Kanellos shorthands as KCDT, Hinojosa limns a realistic—and, unusually for its time, not magical realistic, either—world of imagined small towns such as Relámpago (lightning) and Jonesville-on-the-Rio, where everyone knows everyone else. That familiarity, of course, doesn’t prevent bad things from happening: Confesses one young man, “I killed Ernesto Tamez, and I did it right there at the Aquí me quedo....He’s laid out there somewhere.” So speaks Balde Cordero from the workhouse, owning up to his part in a crime of passion that, really, is very ordinary in this place, where friends love and kill each other. Hinojosa’s text is full of the casual wisdom that people in small towns will offer (“God’s truth it is when it’s claimed that nicknames are powerful friends or enemies; I mean, they’ll sweep names and characters away”), and it is as revealing of the odd politics of rural Texas life as John Nichols’ later, and much more lighthearted, Milagro Beanfield War was on northern New Mexico.

Acquiring full force in the context of the story cycle to which they gave birth, Estampas del Valle/The Valley are essential texts for students of borderlands and Mexican-American literature.

Pub Date: April 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55885-787-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Arte Público

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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