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The Five Acts of Diego Leon: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 19, 2013
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Growing up in rural Mexico in crushing poverty, Diego Leon dreams of performing. When circumstances become dire, his revolutionary father sends him to live with his dead mother’s aristocratic parents. They raise Diego to take his grandfather’s place in the family bank, but his dream of performing and his budding homosexuality force him to run away the night before his arranged marriage. Arriving in Hollywood in the early 1920s, he discovers that Mexicans don’t get served in restaurants or hotels—or get work. So hiding his nationality and his beauty and physique get him bit parts in silent films. It doesn’t take long for director Bill Cage, who is known for promoting pretty young men, to take notice and groom Diego for stardom. Unfortunately, Diego mistakes this for love. Basing his novel on a true story, Espinoza has created an alternative vision of Hollywood’s golden age and a young man determined to achieve his dreams at any cost. There are flashes of real drama and action in the novel describing the Mexican revolution and the backstage workings of the silent-film era. Although the characters remain a bit flat, film enthusiasts should find it fascinating. --Elizabeth Dickie
“Excellent….[The Five Acts of Diego León] has many of the elements of the classic Hollywood novel, but works on a much larger canvas.”
--Los Angeles Review of Books
"Alex Espinoza's vivid storytelling leads us through a hall of mirrors that's as fragmented and multifaceted as identity itself."
--Los Angeles Magazine
"A story undertaken with gusto, imagined with daring."
--The Washington Post Book World
“There’s a lot of action in this story…As a young Latino in Hollywood during the 1920s, Diego hopes to be the next sought-after leading man…Espinoza ties the locations and the historical action together well, reflecting the tumult in the political and social landscape of the first decades of the last century.”
--Historical Novels Review
"Espinoza shows how every gay man in this closeted era was a kind of actor, whether they worked in movies or not ... In telling the story of one fictional character, The Five Acts of Diego León invites readers to ponder the many real people in the past -- and even the present -- who have been forced to conceal their true identities, keeping secrets but sometimes channeling their hidden angst into art."
--High Country News
"The re-creation of Hollywood's golden era is vivid ... The dialogue is crisp, the characters are well-delineated, the story moves quickly."
“With its colorful narrative and historic sweep, The Five Acts of Diego León has both a story line and characters that a wide readership will surely enjoy.”
--Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
“A story that begins in revolutionary Mexico and travels to Hollywood during the film industry's transition from silent films to talkies, The Five Acts of Diego León breaks greater silences—taboos of race and sexuality, of reinvention and assimilation—in a fantasy called Hollywoodland.”
--Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street
"Fresh, surprising, and delightful. There is nowhere this gifted writer can't go."
--Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird's Daughter
“An elegant, startling vision of a Mexican in America, The Five Acts of Diego León proclaims the ascendance of a unique new talent, Alex Espinoza—a Chicano in America certain to surpass the fame of his novel’s silent Hollywood hero. Espinoza takes our literature from a mute, black-and-white era to a national stage with full-spectrum color, in high-tech surround sound.”
--Dagoberto Gilb, author of Woodcuts of Women
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Top customer reviews
I thought the book showed promise. That's as far as I can go with praise. Most of the writing is strong. Some, not so. Maybe a good editor could have made this a better book. It starts out well. Without giving away the plot, I will say that I thought the protagonist turned into a wimp about half-way through it; I wanted to slap him. From there on the plot falters and eventually turns mishmash. I found the ending almost inexplicable.
My suspicion is that this writer has (much) better in him, that he just hasn't hit his stride. Time will tell. If he puts out another book I will probably read it, if only to see how he has progressed. If you are inclined to read this, by all means do! Ignore this review and form your own opinion. It's worth reading; just don't expect too much.
interesting when Diego is a child but as he grows up he is not likable at all. Its difficult to get into the book when you don't care about the main character.It did make me stop and think about how much a person may suffer when they don't accept them self just the way they are. I would not recommend this book.
If you liked Beautiful Ruins, then I highly recommend you read The Five Acts of Diego Leon as well, since it provides "the rest of the story" in so many ways. Enjoy!