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Suffer Smoke

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0595183579
ISBN-10: 0595183573
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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

A largely pedestrian first collection of interlocking stories about Bj”rkquist's hometown of Morenci, Arizona, and the mostly Chicano families that labor in the copper mines owned by the thinly fictionalized Phelps Dodge company. Morenci's history is dotted with violent labor troubles, often fomented and exacerbated by the corporation that literally owned the town--a place that has since been torn down (and relocated) to make way for more mines. In an introduction, the author bemoans the death of the town she once knew, and her tales are clearly designed to keep its memory alive. Many of the pieces have the feeling of folktales, told and retold, about ordinary people tossed into extraordinary situations. There are even two ghost stories. But the majority of the offerings are throwbacks to the proletarian fiction of the Depression, Manichaean tales of good Mexican-Americans pitted against the unfeeling Anglos, smallholders and laborers doing battle with the company that Bj”rkquist here calls Taylor Dunne (or just TD). In one story, TD heartlessly deports its Mexican workers just before Christmas in order to save money; in another, a fired worker nearly loses a child to appendicitis when the company-owned hospital refuses medical care. School officials are also depicted as puppets of TD, until they're set right by plucky young students in two stories--the first about the topical theme of bilingualism (a young girl fights for the right to speak Spanish on the school playground), the second recounting the ways the system discourages minority students from college preparatory programs. Stories told in deadly earnest, without humor, irony, or much characterization. Proof once again that good intentions and historical truth can't by themselves bring subjects to life on the page. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Elena Díaz Björkquist is a retired educator who taught California students at elementary and high school levels and at a state university. Currently she is an educational consultant. She and her husband Kurt, recently moved back to Arizona. Her book of poetry, Rediscovering My Spirit was published in 1991.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse (May 29, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0595183573
  • ISBN-13: 978-0595183579
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,057,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Elena Díaz Björkquist is a writer, historian, and artist from Tucson. Her two books of short stories, "Suffer Smoke" and "Water from the Moon," are about the people in Morenci, Arizona where she was born.

Elena has been on the Arizona Humanities Council (AHC) Speakers Bureau for since 2001 and is an AHC Scholar. She not only performs a Chautauqua as Teresa Urrea, a curandera who lived in the 1900's but also does two presentations about Morenci and one on el Día de los Muertos.

In 2001 Elena became a Research Associate and SIROW Scholar at the University of Arizona. She completed a project funded by AHC, "In the Shadow of the Smokestack," a website containing oral history interviews and photographs of Chicano elders living in Morenci during the Depression and World War II. In 2005 she finished another project funded by AHC and the Stocker Foundation, "The Tubac 1880's Schoolhouse Living History Program."

Elena is one of the founders of Sowing the Seeds, a collective of Latina writers. In 2002, she co-edited "Sowing the Seeds, una cosecha de recuerdos," an anthology written by the Comadres. The project was funded by AHC. Elena has also written a full-length play about Teresa Urrea that has had two readings in Tucson. Currently she is nearing completion of another collection of Morenci stories entitled "Albóndiga Soup" and is co-editing a second anthology by the Sowing the Seeds Collective entitled "Our Spirit, Our Reality."

Her website is at www.elenadiazbjorkquist.net

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By A Customer on February 18, 1998
Format: Paperback
Every so often I fall in love with an author's work; it doesn't happen too often and when it does it's an experience I cherish. "Suffer Smoke," a collection of short stories by Elena Díaz Björkquist, kept me turning pages three nights in a row this week. Díaz Björkquist is a gifted story teller who in this lovely tome has turned her sights back to Morenci, Arizona, where four generations of her family worked the copper mines. Díaz Björkquist's prose is lively and direct, breathing color and life into issues that in lesser hands could seem preachy. Her characters range from the tragically unforgettable Reyna"The Hershey Bar Queen" to a spunky first grader who refuses to be forced to speak only English on the school play yard. They include men such as Pedro Garcia, who earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star but couldn't get a hamburger at a greasy-spoon diner. Díaz Björkquist also follows members of the Aguirre family through several generations, as they are unfairly forced to leave Morenci time and time again. Díaz Björkquist holds her magnifying glass close and does notflinch when it reveals unflattering behavior, such as greed, machismo or incest. Oppression is a constant underlying theme but the stories don't come across as heavy handed. Instead, you feel for the characters -- and for all of the people in Morenci and other such places who have had to struggle with discrimination, lack of opportunity and chauvinism. And perhaps more importantly, you admire their strength, their nobility and their ability to survive and thrive. In her preface, Díaz Björkquist writes: "Morenci is a spirit town. It lives in the memories of those who grew up there and it infiltrates our dreams.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Suffer Smoke is delightful book full of interesting mining history with a gracious salting of local folklore. The book isn't organized like a novel so you can pick it up, read a few chapters, then put it back down for another day. The descriptions of how the largest and wealthiest copper producer in this fee world generally treated it immigrant workers illustrates social disparities found similarly in The Grapes of Wrath. Having grown up in the same town, only many years later, I found my mind wandering the streets of my childhood but walking in the footsteps of the ghostly characters.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having grown up in the small mining town described in "Suffer Smoke" many years ago, Elena Bjorkquist's stories and writing style were a perfect compliment for a "stroll down memory lane". The days of mining towns where the "company" owned all the homes, businesses and controlled the schools is, fortunately, fading but there was also plenty of magic to be found. Growing up in a small, isolated town where most people worked for the same company ( here, copper mining)! gives a kind of unity of experience of all who lived there. Even though the author was of a generation before me, I loved the book and recommend to anyone interested in the life and culture of the area.
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This book is an amazing portrait of life in a AZ copper mining town by an author who was raised there. She does an amazing job of painting a mural of life there for the multigenerational Hispanic community. It makes you know everything you'd want to know about Morenci AZ.
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