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The Flowers: A Novel Hardcover – January 21, 2008

4.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Gilb's new novel is hilarious and thought provoking as it traces the bigotry and alienation among the wildly varied cast of characters living in and around the Los Flores apartment building in an unnamed city that may remind some readers of Los Angeles. When narrator Sonny Bravo's mother, Silvia, marries Cloyd Longpre, the tightfisted landlord of Los Flores, Sonny is thrust into a racially charged environment on the brink of exploding. Sonny is an isolated teen whose only friends are the tragically dorky duo, Mike and Joe, from his new high school. He finds comfort in the menial chores Cloyd assigns him, as they give him a chance to escape the stifling apartment and to interact with the other residents, including Mr. Pinkston (known as Pink), an African-American albino who sells vintage cars to black customers in front of the building; Cindy, a broke and married teenage dropout looking for some fun; and Nica, a teen who is locked inside her apartment all day taking care of her brother. Racial tension boils over in the world outside Los Flores as Sonny navigates Cindy's advances and falls for Nica. Gilb (Gritos; Woodcuts of Women) offers sharp commentary via his quick-witted narrator, and the reader feels Sonny's disaffection as his world dissolves into chaos. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Dagoberto Gilb, winner of the PEN/Hemmingway award for his 1994 short story collection The Magic of Blood, hasn’t written a novel since The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuña (1994). With The Flowers, he has blazed back onto the literary scene. Once again, he earns rave reviews from critics who universally praised his ability to capture the rhythms of working-class life and speech. A slow start and a much-too-sophisticated Sonny distracted a few critics, but these were minor complaints. Though Gilb’s newest novel deals poignantly with matters of race, the Dallas Morning News expressed an opinion echoed by many other reviewers about the widespread applicability of The Flower’s themes: “Let’s hope Mr. Gilb’s book isn’t pegged solely as Latino literature. The issues it explores are universally relevant in our shrinking world.”
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; First Edition edition (January 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802118593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802118592
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,405,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dagoberto Gilb was born and raised in Los Angeles and spent as many years in El Paso. He now lives in Austin. Gilb's books have won the PEN/Hemingway Award and have been finalists for the PEN Faulkner and National Book Critics Circle Award. He edited Hecho en Tejas: An Anthology of Texas Mexican Literature, the canonical volume of Texas Mexican literature, which won the Southwest Book Award for nonfiction. Anthologized widely, recipient of awards including a Guggenheim and Whiting, his fiction and nonfiction have appeared in many magazines, such as Harper's, The New Yorker, and The Threepenny Review. Gilb spent most of his adult years as a construction worker and a journeyman, high-rise carpenter with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. Writer-in-residence at the University of Houston-Victoria, he is also the executive director of CentroVictoria, a center for Mexican American Literature and Culture.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book in San Francisco after hearing the author read an excerpt. I was moved by Dagoberto Gilb's spoken word. His prose in print was very much as his natural speaking voice--deliberate, honest and direct. I loved this book! I loved his use of colors, sounds and texture. I loved his choice of words, language (English, Spanglish, Spanish and French) and silence. I loved how he painted a real picture of society. The Flowers, is a bouquet of class, race, age and gender and the problems that connect and disconnect us.

Don't be confused by Sonny's thoughts that are infused with shapes that bounce and blend into different shades. Dagoberto Gilb uses Sonny Bravo's synesthesia to paint a world of colors that clash, combine and enlighten. This is the first novel that I read where synesthesia seems to take on a character form by interacting with the sounds of the city and the people, the emotions of a young man experiencing love, lust and displacement, and the feelings of anger, justice and fear. This book is not about black and white, it is dark and gray with rays of a piercing white light that encompasses all colors and feelings of hope, happiness and opportunity.

An added bonus: If you don't have synesthesia, you will definitely get an insight of how one senses shapes and colors in the frontal lobe area. Trust me, it is not something brought on by the use of psychedelic drugs.
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By fuzzdog on February 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This novel narrated by Sonny Bravo, a wise and deep thinking fifteen year-old boy, reveals a story from a city where prejudice is intense not just between the white against black, but also the brown. When Sonny's mother, Silvia, suddenly marries the Okie building contractor, Cloyd Longpre, mother and son are uprooted to a small apartment building, where as Sonny sweeps its sidewalks, he meets his neighbors and becomes caught up in their lives. This cast of characters takes Sonny into the worlds of eighteen-year-old Cindy, who's boring marriage gives her an excuse to dose; then there is Nica, a the sheltered Mexican girl who care takes her infant brother but is a prisoner to her apartment. The other tenants range an albino black man named Pink, who sells old cars in front of the building, to Bud, a iron-pumping construction worker, whose prejudice is outward despite his marriage to a Mexican-American woman. Within the stories contained in this novel, narrated to us by Sonny, we are exposed to Gilb's most powerful work yet. Sonny's experiences transcend age, race, and time to reveal the fearlessness and wit that make Dagoberto Gilb one of the best voices in America Literature today. This is a book not to be missed.
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Format: Hardcover
Dagoberto Gilb is considered to be a leading voice of the Southwest. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, then wandered throughout the Southwest until he made his way to Texas as a young man. While working as a construction worker near the University of Texas of El Paso he had a fateful meeting with his future friend and mentor, Raymond Carver. The rest, as they say, is history. Such is the larger-than-life almost mythical birth of a writer known as Gilb, who looks like actor Armand Assante of Odyssey fame. In Gilb's novel, The Flowers, Sonny Bravo, a high school student, wants to help himself while helping others. This is a coming-of-age story about the triumph of the human spirit.

I don't know whether or not Sonny is a good student in school, but what really stands out is that despite the lack of parental supervision, he wakes up every morning and walks to school. Given his background, and alienation from society, it would have been easy for Sonny to become passive and give up the fight--to drop out of school, but Sonny not only goes to school, he takes on the challenge of teaching himself French. Sonny is bilingual, on his way to becoming trilingual through his independent study. He is an optimistic, forward thinking young man who blocks out the present and yearns for the future. This says a lot about him as a person.

It is his mother Sylvia's obligation to raise her son but she is wrapped up in her own drama, and cannot see beyond her own situation. The Flowers is an intricate study in the abuses of power on the part of various people in Sonny's life beginning with his self-centered mother and his alcoholic new stepfather to a belligerent racist tenant, and an eighteen-year old female drug addict who seduces him.
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Format: Paperback
Like many, I am a fan of Gilb's earlier books, but I didn't even hear about this one getting published. Why is that? His publisher should do more to promote the Flowers because it might be his best book yet. It is one of the best contemporary novels I've read in years, one I'd love as a movie too. It grabs you from the first lines the narrator Sonny, a boy who is a man or vica versa, tells his story, and it does not let up until you reach the last line. I didn't put it down.

The narrator Sonny is confined to a Los Angeles apartment complex in a neighborhood of the Watts Riots. What's captivating here is that the story is told not from the white or black but from the perspective of a Chicano. There is more to it than that, of course, several stories are being told, and done so dramatically and very poetically. The Hernandez twins are his clowns, though even the laughs have deeper meanings. Gilb's novel is as real and strong as his popular short stories. His work ought to get so much more attention and the Flowers more promotion. We need more from him, I want more!
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