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Unapologetically Honest and Revealing
on November 4, 2012
Martinez's book is about a young family born into the unique clash of cultures in South Texas where the children must learn to consolidate their cultures. Their family gives them the understanding that being American/white/speaking English is superior to being Mexican/speaking Spanish and are callous and manipulative when the author does not adhere to the horrid machismo customs that they associate with being men, not with being Mexican. These themes are likely familiar to those growing up in South Texas, but the author was born in the exact circumstances that would exaggerate these problems for him - lack of power balance between the parents, young family, poor, being introspective, being male.
I highly recommend this book for anyone. Some of his experiences are potent, but he is so good at providing relevant events from his childhood, that you come to understand, and even predict, the actions he will take next, even if they wouldn't be your own. I found myself cheering him on but understanding why he would sometimes falter.
Mr. Martinez is introspective, even at an early age, which puts the reader in his head during some pretty substantial events. He allows you to understand his experiences and the conflict between knowing what is best and his own impulses. Also, he's pretty funny. He unexpectedly made me laugh out loud like three or four times.
I read this thing in less than two days. I usually enjoy reading Mexican-American literature, but I find that the themes usually center around the differences/problems between Mexican-Americans and whites or the rest of the US. This book is about how uniquely, exquisitely messed up the cultural niche in South Texas will make you - not because you don't get how to be American and Mexican at the same time, but because your elders or the people responsible for you don't get it.
Read this book if you are curious about a crazy-ass culture right here in the United States. Read it if you enjoy memoirs. Read it if you like a casual style that is meant to be understood and not intimidate. If you're from South Texas, read it to confirm that yes, all the kids you go to school with are Mexican and eat tamales at Christmas even if nobody ever talks about it, it's not just you.