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Names on a Map: A Novel Paperback – February 5, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 423 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061285692
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061285691
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,095,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Sáenz's lyrical sixth novel, Octavio Espejo leads an ordinary life in multiethnic 1967 El Paso: he sells insurance and is raising three children with his wife, Lourdes. Octavio was brought to the U.S. from revolutionary Mexico as a child and talks about the family's roots across the border, but on the whole the family has silently Americanized. The Vietnam War and the counterculture, however, begin to change how his children conceive of themselves and their lives—teenaged twins Gustavo and Xochil in particular. Gus must make choices about facing the draft; Xochil, a rape victim when she was 12, attempts to reconcile the era's passions with internal bitterness. Sáenz shifts perspectives fluidly among the family, relatives and friends. The climax is given away early, keeping the focus on the manner in which the characters come to know themselves—or fail to. The result is a beautiful mosaic of the borderlands as women's liberation and the Chicano movement gain traction. (Feb.)
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“Sáenz’s lyrical sixth novel…is a beautiful mosaic of the borderlands as women’s liberation and the Chicano movement gain traction.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A rich, conflicting, and ultimately heartbreaking saga of a family’s loyalty and love for one another.” (Booklist)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Vincent Bosquez on February 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
While America's "Greatest Generation" had World War II and today's generation has the ongoing Gulf War, a generation that lived through the Sixties had Vietnam, a military conflict that indisputably defined an era and carved a permanent wound into the nation's psyche.

Award-winning author and poet Benjamin Alire Sáenz has boldly sidestepped contemporary history and set his sights on revisiting our nation's turbulent past to tenderly tell the story of an immigrant family trying to adapt to its adopted land while coming to terms with the true cost of freedom in America.

Set in 1967, Sáenz's "Names on a Map" follows the Espejo family of El Paso, Texas, during a momentous week in September when a draft notice forces them to drop the veil of secrecy that cloaks their fears and causes them to confront their internal conflicts etched by customs accepted in Mexico, but found to be out of date north of the Rio Grande.

Octavio Espejo is the son of a wealthy family that was run out of Mexico during a bloody revolution when he was a child. Now, as patriarch of a close-knit family in the United States, he tries to rule the clan with an iron hand only to find that strict adherence to house rules causes irreparable rifts in personal relationships.

Gustavo, Octavio's son, is the recipient of the draft notice that sets into motion the novel's overarching theme of loyalty to family, country and most importantly, one's self. He broods over the price America extracts from its populace in order to sustain peace on the home front and the realization that dodging the draft may tarnish the family's standing in the community more than his own reputation.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sam Sattler on May 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
America's generation gap was exposed in the late 1960s to a degree that may never be reached again because, as the war in Viet Nam claimed more and more young lives, Americans found themselves politically at war with each other in a way that sometimes managed to split apart even families. Fathers fought sons, wives fought husbands, students fought teachers, the clergy fought the government, and young men fought themselves because duty to country so often conflicted with what was in their hearts. Even all of the political sniping associated with the war in Iraq has been unable to recreate that level of tension.

In Names on a Map, Benjamin Alire Saenz tells of the Espejo family, one of the thousands of families that did not manage to survive the Viet Nam War intact. Octavio Espejo, who was brought to the U.S. as a small boy when his parents fled the Mexican revolution, is a proud and honorable man. Now an insurance salesman in El Paso, Texas, and the father of three, Octavio considers himself to be a patriotic American. It is 1967 and his twins, Gustavo and Xochil, are finishing high school and making decisions about the rest of their lives.

The war in Viet Nam, particularly the draft he faces after high school, nags at Gustavo just as it does every boy his age. Some of his friends are eager to join the military after graduation, some are against the war and will refuse to serve, some will let the draft board decide their fate, and others, like Gustavo, are finding it difficult to decide what to do at all.

Gustavo knows that his father expects him to serve if called and that he will be proud to have a son fight for his adopted country.
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By C Klein on November 20, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A well-written and heart wrenching story of a Mexican-American family. Hope this author will write more.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Saucier on September 26, 2013
Format: Paperback
I cannot say enough times how much I love this author. He is now 3 for 3 for the books I have read of his. Each one is in a different style with a completely different storyline, the only link being they are all set in El Paso, Texas and involve Hispanic families.

The character development in this novel was as superb as ever from this author and, again, I could relate very closely to characters that had absolutely nothing in common with me or my life, ever!

He takes a tragic situation but does not overly glamourise or over dramatize what must have happened to a large number of families of that time.

Despite each chapter being from a different characters voice and each one being of a random length, some very long others just a few sentences, it was very easy to follow each persons story.

If you have not read any of this authors books, please just pick any one up, I am sure it will not disappoint. 5 out of 5.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on February 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
In 1967 El Paso, insurance salesman Octavio Espejo is happily married to Lourdes as they raise three children together. However, the blight in his mind to his American lifestyle is his Mexican roots; Octavio has not been back or seen his family ever since he was ferried across the Rio Grande as a child.

However, his children begin to reconsider their national identity. Teenager Gustavo has received the certified "Greetings" letter directing him to report to basic training; which in the Chicano border communities means tours of Viet Nam. He does not want to go as he is becoming aware of freedom fighting in America not Southeast Asia. His twin sister Xochil still struggles to overcome her anger and acrimony over being raped when she was twelve years old. Both wonder if America is where they belong.

This is a strong timely historical character driven thriller as Benjamin Alire Saenz enables the reader to look deep into the Espejo family whose members each struggle differently with assimilation at a time of women's liberation, civil rights especially the growing Chicano awareness, and cutting across all is Nam. NAMES ON A MAP is insightful as the children reconsider and resist Americanization understanding the nightmare while their parents have doubts but embrace the dream.

Harriet Klausner
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More About the Author

Benjamin Alire Sáenz was born in 1954 in his grandmother's house in Old Picacho, a small farming village in the outskirts of Las Cruces, New Mexico in 1954. He was the fourth of seven children and was raised on a small farm near Mesilla Park. Later, when the family lost the farm, his father went back to his former occupation--being a cement finisher. His mother worked as a cleaning woman and a factory worker. During his youth, he worked at various jobs--painting apartments, roofing houses, picking onions, and working for a janitorial service. He graduated from high school in 1972, and went on to college and became something of a world traveler. He studied philosophy and theology in Europe for four years and spent a summer in Tanzania. He eventually became a writer and professor and moved back to the border--the only place where he feels he truly belongs. He is an associate professor in the MFA creative writing program at the University of Texas at El Paso, the only bilingual creative writing program in the country. Ben Saenz considers himself a fronterizo, a person of the border. He is also a visual artist and has been involved as a political and cultural activist throughout his life. Benjamin Sáenz­ is a novelist, poet, essayist and writer of children's books. His young adult novel Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood was selected as one of the Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults in 2005, and his prize-winning bilingual picture books for children--A Gift from Papá Diego and Grandma Fina and Her Wonderful Umbrellas--have been best-selling titles. A Perfect Season for Dreaming is Ben's newest bilingual children's book which has received two starred reviews, one from Publishers Weekly and one from Kirkus Reviews. He has received the Wallace Stegner Fellowship, the Lannan Fellowship and an American Book Award. His first book of poems, Calendar of Dust, won an American Book Award in 1992. That same year, he published his first collection of short stories, Flowers for the Broken. In 1995, he published his first novel, Carry Me Like Water (Hyperion), and that same year, he published his second book of poems, Dark and Perfect Angels. Both books were awarded a Southwest Book Award by the Border Area Librarians Association. In 1997, HarperCollins published his second novel, The House of Forgetting. Ben is a prolific writer whose more recent titles include In Perfect Light (Rayo/Harper Collins), Names on a Map (Rayo/Harper Collins), He Forgot to Say Goodbye (Simon and Schuster), and two books of poetry Elegies in Blue (Cinco Puntos Press), and Dreaming the End of War (Copper Canyon Press).

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Names on a Map: A Novel
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