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Bulletproof Vest: The Ballad of an Outlaw and His Daughter Hardcover – June 17, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (June 17, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374117314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374117313
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #237,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In her debut memoir, Venegas tells the inseparable stories of her reckless father’s outlaw lifestyle together with her own experiences as the daughter of a man who repeatedly threatens the livelihoods of the people around him. From his wanton drinking to his indiscriminate gun waving, Jose Venegas is a man easy to disdain as he makes enemies with his neighbors in Chicago, with local law enforcement, even with his wife, Pascuala. But when his eldest son is murdered in Mexico, Jose abandons the family to move back to the hacienda where both he and his daughter were born. Estranged from her father, Venegas travels from Chicago to Spain and New York, deciding eventually to visit Jose in Zacatecas. Though she finds him still carrying on in his intoxicated, philandering ways, the author manages to create a sympathetic portrait of this selfish, stubborn, and, ultimately, broken man, especially after a harrowing close call with members of a drug cartel. A candid memoir of strained relationships, impossible personalities, and the complex motivations of deeply flawed yet deeply moving individuals. --Diego Báez

Review

Praise for Bulletproof Vest

"Vividly evocative... [a] love letter written across borders of time and geography from an Americanized daughter to her quintessentially Mexican father. ...Full of richly described moments... [that seem] both real and like something out of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It is a testament to Venegas's prose that we experience all this not as sensationalistic fantasy but as a way of life." —Zachary Lazar, New York Times Book Review

“[A]s amazing as that emotional honesty is, it's the brilliantly executed narrative structure — the stubborn refusal to give in to established perceptions about the memoir — that makes the book truly amazing. It's likely Bulletproof Vest will be taught in college classes for years to come, not just because of its brutal and heartfelt prose, but because of its technical brilliance. There are more than a thousand stories in this book, each one holding the others up and collapsing in on themselves. It's a stunning achievement, and it proves, beautifully, what the memoir can be.” —Michael Schaub, National Public Radio

“Through vivid prose and psychological shading, [Venegas] turns blockbuster material into a novelistic portrait of a renegade who lived his life on the border ‘of what was fact and what was myth.’”—The New Yorker

“[Venegas’s] sharp observations and honesty . . . make this tale of painful love and grudging respect unforgettable.”—Emily Carter, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[A] captivating narrative. . . of both [Venegas’s] father and her family's arduous history.”—David A. Shirk, San Francisco Chronicle

“Maria Venegas beautifully charts the landscape of her father’s absence. By mapping his internal exile, she finds a way to their shared home, one known best by heart.” —Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, author of Random Family

“Maria Venegas is a transfixing writer. Her voice is tough, vulnerable, humorous, insightful and always rousingly alive. Whether writing about Chicago or Mexico, she possesses an extraordinary eye and feeling for place, and her characters are vivid expressions of those places. American readers have rarely encountered a depiction of Mexican lives so true, unsentimental, and moving as in this emotionally complex story of an Americanized young woman and her outlaw father who lives by the hard violent codes of Mexico profundo.” —Francisco Goldman, author of Say Her Name

“This is a contemporary corrido—a ballad of America, a love song to Mexico, and an intertwined family history, all brilliantly realized in sharp, precise, poetic prose.” —Colum McCann, author of the National Book Award-winning Let the Great World Spin

“The scene in which [Venegas] describes learning to shoot a gun with her father on New Year’s Eve at her family’s isolated ranch will redefine the idea of “shooting stars” for you in a way that only the clearest writing can.”—Kirkus (starred review)


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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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This is an amazing story about the authors life & her dad.
Gloria
This one will stay with you for a long time as a daughter comes to terms with her violent father and his violent history.
wjb
Maria Venegas story will stay with me for a long time after putting the book down.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. Driscoll on June 27, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Maria Venegas came to my college and read a few excerpts from her book before it was released. I was completely transfixed with the three passages she shared, and ordered the book immediately. Having just finished Bulletproof Vest, I cannot say enough good things about it. Her writing is intriguing and true as she brings the reader through out her life with her father. I highly recommend it!!!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By sarai on June 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Venegas paints the picture of her struggle with her father so beautifully. Her word play is so perfectly done that you find yourself flipping the pages long after you told yourself you were only going to get a chapter in before bed. You end up finishing the whole book. I highly recommend it !
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By R. Leacock on June 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I took my time reading this. This book not only takes one to a different time, a Mexico before the cartels ruled, but also to the two worlds of north and south of the border. Bravo! What a wonderful and brave book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gloria on July 11, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an amazing story about the authors life & her dad. I couldn't put the book down & was riveted by the stories she told & what she had to endure. I would recommend this book to everyone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By f on September 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this book full of marvelous self reflective ballads as Maria grows up, reestablishes and intertwines her life with her family, particularly her father who resides both in the USA and Mexico. Maria Venegas spends her life creating a new identity for herself as she grows up with her mother, sisters and brothers. In the end she is stuck with the same person she was but more mature and wise for all of her American life experiences. Maria does not fall apart but stays glued together as she uses the analogy of wearing her own imagined bullet proof vest with her father who once wore a real bullet proof vest. Maria's internal human strength and personal values, plus her creative, descriptive writing style allows us to vicariously participate and understand her continuing ballads of life.
Thank you Maria for inaugurating me into Mexico, the scenery, people, traditions, family living arrangements and the immigrant ability to survive and thrive in the USA.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Graymauser on August 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The shattering violence and immutable mysteries of the almost mystical powers of what can be thought of as The Border, and of the experience and transitions on both sides, are only a backdrop to this rich and compelling tale, that despite its' ending, has not ended.

How timely as well, as Central America's children are crossing that divide to family at once lost and gained.

But that is not what this story is about. That is just what is. An old world, that is gone, but yet alive.

The huge transitions taking place. It is so easy to fall into sociological jargon, and that is what this book so beautifully avoids. It takes you there.

Between a daughter and her father, the huge transitions. I have to read it again to even begin to do this book justice. You are lucky to have found this.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Thomas on July 16, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An epic tale of lives inextricably intertwined with the wild, lawless desert landscape of Mexico that you assumed had disappeared long ago—the type of story that seems on the wane in a world that seems to be moving quickly towards order.

Such a good read, and very well written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By wjb VINE VOICE on August 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This hard-to-put-down memoir was a study in forgiveness and reconciliation in the backdrop of breathtaking beauty. Then there was the violence - always present, lurking, and ready to pounce. I could almost feel the cold, breathe in the fresh mountainous air; feel the stillness of a cloudless, star-studded night sky, and smell the earthy soil. This one will stay with you for a long time as a daughter comes to terms with her violent father and his violent history. Haunting, and beautifully written, this is one worthy of a Pulitzer.
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