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Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa (Writing in Latinidad) Paperback – September 1, 2011

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Product Details

  • Series: Writing in Latinidad
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0299219046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299219048
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This moving memoir of a young Chicano boy's maturing into a self-accepting gay adult is a beautifully executed portrait of the experience of being gay, Chicano and poor in the United States. Now an associate professor of English and Latino studies at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Gonzalez writes in a poetic yet straightforward style that heightens the power of his story (mariposa is Spanish for "faggot" as well as butterfly). As he describes growing up in an extended migrant-worker family, his youth in Bakersfield, Calif., and his departure for college, some readers may recognize similar characters and situations from his 2003 novel, Crossing Vines (University of Oklahoma). Like other gay coming-of-age memoirs, this one recounts the hardship of being an effeminate youth with a high singing voice and a penchant for cross-dressing, and the delight in discovering the homoeroticism of classic literature by Melville and E.M. Forster. But Gonzalez transforms these standard conceits into an affecting narrative in which his class and ethnic identities are as vital as his often painful metamorphosis into a fully formed gay man. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In the tradition of Richard Rodriguez, this stirring memoir of a first-generation Mexican American's coming-of-age and coming out is wrenching, angry, passionate, ironic, and always eloquent about conflicts of family, class, and sexuality. The son and grandson of farmworkers, constantly moving between Mexico and the U.S., then and now, Gonzalez weaves together three narrative threads: his angry present journey across the border with his estranged father; childhood memories of growing up as a fat, bookish "sissy-boy"; and his urgent longing now for his sexy, abusive older lover. As a child, he was whipped for dressing in the clothes of the mother he loved, but he could not stop his girlish behavior or his furious desire for other males. He remembers hunger (and how it later led to his overeating) and overcrowding and his escape into books. The first in his family to graduate from high school, he may be the innocent immigrant when his mostly white college class talks about weekends at the beach and other mysterious pastimes, but he has lived through traumatic separation they know nothing about. An unforgettable story of leaving home today. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Rigoberto González was born in Bakersfield, California and raised in Michoacán, Mexico. The son and grandson of migrant farm workers, he is the author of fifteen books and the editor of Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing and Xicano Duende: A Select Anthology of Alurista's poetry. The recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, winner of the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Societry of America, the American Book Award, The Poetry Center Book Award, and the Lambda Literary Award, he is contributing editor for Poets and Writers Magazine, on the Board of Directors of the National Book Critics Circle, and is Professor of English at Rutgers--Newark, the State University of New Jersey. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Olivas on August 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
What makes a writer?

This seemingly simple question can elicit many complex answers and even more questions. Case in point: Rigoberto González's poetic and heartbreaking memoir, "Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa" (The University of Wisconsin Press, $24.95 hardcover).

González is an award-winning author of poetry, fiction and children's books. He is also a book critic contributing regularly to the El Paso Times.

How did González, the son of migrant farmworkers whose first language was Spanish, become González the writer? Answers begin to emerge from his painful assertion of himself as a gay man in a culture steeped in machismo.

González tells of his journey into adulthood and a life of literature in a nonlinear fashion, moving back and forth from childhood to adulthood, Mexico to the United States, self-loathing to self-revelatory empowerment.

The book begins in Riverside, Calif., in 1990. González, as a college student at the Riverside campus of the University of California, has fallen in love with an older man who, as symbolized by painful yet beautiful "butterfly" marks he places upon González, brings both tenderness and brutality to the relationship. The unnamed lover cheats on González and doesn't hesitate to beat him up to establish his superiority over his young man. At times, González believes he deserves such brutality.

Other times, he is grateful to have escaped the oppressiveness of his family and its legacy of dropping out of high school to work in the fields. The escape comes in the form of literature. A sometimes-callous, sometimes-tender teacher named Dolly lends the young González a poetry book and works with him to subjugate his accent.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John O. Espinoza on September 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Years ago Rigoberto Gonzalez did a reading at the University of California, Riverside, his alma mater and the approximate locale where he met the "older lover" who abused him. Someone in the audience asked him why he felt he could write a memoir so young? Rigoberto, then in his early thirties, answered, "Because I write about another time that is no longer my life."

BUTTERFLY BOY: MEMORIES OF A CHICANO MARIPOSA speaks to us about cruelties we do not want to confront: physical and sexual abuse among gay men, child sexual abuse, continuing cycles of abuse, poverty among immigrant farmworkers, family abuse linked to socioeconomic conditions, and inequality in secondary and higher education. These are some of the issues most of us have lived, our "dirty little secrets," but very little of us admit to. I praise Rigoberto Gonzalez for his courage to bring this out to light.

Without a doubt, BUTTERFLY BOY is an example of taking risks with one's writing. Each scene is more heart-breaking than the last, and addictive. Addictive not in the sadistic sense, but because Gonzalez weaves a narrative that pulls you in, and its unsentimentality and your empathy that won't let you go. His prose is poetic and never dramatic. A read you won't be able to put down.

This book will become a classic in Chicano/a and ethnic literature. Worth the buy at any price.

Nothing can be more true than when Gonzalez said that he writes about a life no longer lived. He is an accomplished, award-winning writer and a leading figure in Chicano letters, movers and shakers. He is currently a professor in creative wrting at Queens College in New York. It's hard to believe he went through all the events he writes about, plus more I can't imagine, and still become as successful as he is now. Considering his up-bringing and where he's arrived, I hope this book falls into the hands of those who face similar adversities and have shrinking hope.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sean Corbett on December 7, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I think that this book really shows the true background story of people. It gives the insight of a different type of history. Of a dual minority someone who is a Mexican as well as a gay Mexican living in today s society.
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By Roger F. Hoffman on June 25, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book reminds me of another book, "Gypsy Boy" by Mickey Walsh. They are both about migrant workers in search of work, living communally under the dictatorship of the patriarch, where education is considered a waste of time, and always feeling like an outsider. In both books the authors as young men are gay and it is forbidden to express it in any way.

In this book the migrants travel back & forth between Mexico and the US so the two brothers, as well as other family members, are of different nationalities. Since I know nothing of Mexico I was unfamiliar with many words, phrases and place names but it didn't change my understanding of the story.

This is an excellent book about a culture I never thought about before and how difficult life is, especially when you stand out because you're educated, gay and motherless.
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By Blueknight on March 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
"Butterfly Boy" is a memoir that weaves a beautiful tapestry of poetry, fantasy and spoken word. It's a rare experience for me to feel as though I am living inside the head a writer. His use of both dialogue and imagery are beautifully expressed here. This is an amazing "coming of age" story of a gay Mexican-American man born into a family of migrant workers, who overcame serious hardships and tragedy before reaching his 18th birthday. Mr. Gonzalez is now an associate professor of literature at Rutgers and has received several literary awards. He is a true Mexican-American success story. This book is a testament to the belief one must persevere no matter what in order to pursue your dreams and the courage to live your life authentically. I highly recommend this book.
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