by Rudy Ruiz ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 25, 2013
Well-executed stories that offer fresh perspectives on long-standing societal problems.
Seven short stories explore the hard lives of Latinos and the fraught relations between their native and adopted countries.
Ruiz (Going Hungry, 2008) writes about characters who grapple with injustice, usually as they pursue the American dream. In “It’s My Wall Now,” a Hispanic woman living in south Texas, on land granted to her ancestors by a Spanish king, wakes up one morning to find that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has built a fence across her property—right over a shrine for her son, an American soldier who was killed while fighting in Iraq. “I didn’t cross the border,” she laments. “The border crossed me.” In “Pierce the Sky,” an immigrant to Los Angeles, fleeing “paramilitary sociopaths” in Ecuador, gets stuck in an elevator with a right-wing norteamericano and finds that he’s caught between two worlds—the poverty and violence of his native land and the smog and paranoia of LA. Two stories depict a dystopian future in which rising floodwaters have overwhelmed the eastern United States. In “Liberty Lost,” a Dominican woman living just above sea level—on the 30th floor of her Manhattan apartment building—tries to help prevent a Chinese ship from seizing the Statue of Liberty “to repay some of our country’s old debts.” In “Inverted,” the U.S. has fallen into anarchy, forcing an American family to sneak into Mexico, an oasis of peace and plenty, only to be deported after they’re caught working as migrant laborers. Occasionally, Ruiz tells too much, as when a character sententiously explains that it’s ironic that immigrants are “fighting for Liberty when it was American xenophobia that ignited this whole apocalypse.” At other times, the stories use shopworn language, such as “I felt empowered.” But many stories show real sparks of creativity as they give voices to the voiceless. Although a few are predictable Horatio Alger–style tales of immigrants, most paint nuanced pictures of people seeking an impossible American dream.Well-executed stories that offer fresh perspectives on long-standing societal problems.
Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2013
Page Count: 200
Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2014
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
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National Book Award Finalist
Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.
Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
Pub Date: March 10, 2015
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by J.D. Salinger ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 15, 1951
A strict report, worthy of sympathy.
A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.
"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….A strict report, worthy of sympathy.
Pub Date: June 15, 1951
Page Count: -
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951
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