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Book Review
By

Vincent Bosquez

[This review first appeared in

The San Antonio Express-News]


Brides And Sinners in El Chuco
By Christine Granados
Publisher: University of Arizona Press (February 28, 2006)
ISBN: 0816524920

 

           The Texas border town of El Paso, nostalgically referred to as "El Chuco" by residents who have lived there for generations, straddles two countries and cultures distinctly different at first glance, but eerily similar in the stories of its inhabitants.

           Members of two worlds, yet assimilated to none, the fictional characters of Brides And Sinners in El Chuco Christine Granados' debut collection of short stories, reveal their tales of dysfunctional relationships, unrealized dreams and the emotionally harsh realities of life with blunt force that lingers long after you have put the book down.

          In these 14 stories, Granados introduces us to households of working-class men, fragile but resilient women, and children who, witnessing pain and suffering under the roof of a home that should offer sanctuary, dream dreams of better tomorrows while living in the confusion of today.

            Written in the raw bilingual Tex-Mex language that echoes through the homes of Hispanic families in South Texas, Granados gives us glimpses into intricate lives that seem normal to its characters

In "Love Web," Dora, an overweight female employee, serves as an unofficial secretary to the office's Don Juan James Morris taking calls from his lovers and assigning them to a level in a hierarchy system she devised based on the numbers of daily calls they make, the tones of their voices and their "nasal whine of desperation."

            Determined to conquer the conqueror to fulfill her own lustful desires, Dora formulates a plan to seduce James, the object of her adoration, if only for an office tryst. Through cunning maneuvers she overcomes girlfriends in James' web, catty female co-workers and her own lack of beauty, and orchestrates an evening alone with him in the office.

The sexual conquest of James by Dora is over almost as soon as it begins. Giving her virginity to him was everything and nothing she thought it would be. Almost immediately, she fades back into the recesses of his mind, and the next day begins just like yesterday.

            Granados' other stories create the illusion of appearing as snippets of memories in the times of our lives. Maybe we haven't experienced everything the characters in her stories do, but we have suffered through some of it, and know of family members and friends who have made similar life choices.

 If you're looking for a "feel good" collection containing fictional accounts of barrio life that centers on nostalgia and the achievement of the American Dream, this isn't it. Instead, Brides And Sinners in El Chuco delivers a jarring portrayal of everyday life that you don't see on television or read about in the newspaper. Yet you know it rings true because you have lived it, and your resilience, like those of the people in El Chuco, carries you into tomorrow.

 

Vincent Bosquez is president of the Society of Latino and Hispanic Writers of San Antonio