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Macho! Paperback – February 10, 1997
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“It rings true. [Villasenor’s] sentences and his characters have the smell of rich earth and honest sweat about them.”
—The San Francisco Examiner
“Macho! is poetic in its devotion to realistic detail and classic sparseness of style.”
—Los Angeles Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From the Publisher
From Victor Villaseor, author of the critically acclaimed bestseller Rain of Gold, comes the stunning story of a young man's coming of age--a novel that captures the cadences and color, passion and pride of the Mexican-American experience.
Roberto Garcia was only seventeen. But he already had big dreams of freedom, respect, money, familia. With ambition to burn and a passion to prove his manhood, Roberto took the dangerous journey north, crossing the Mexican border to pick fruit in the golden fields of California. There, a good man could make more money in a week than in a whole year in the mountains of Michoacan. Nothing could have prepared Roberto for the jammed boxcars and bolted trucks carrying migrants through burning deserts to fields of dreams. But he was determined to become a norteo, coming home with a family to save and a score to settle, no longer a boy, but a man.
At once raw and powerful, poetic and heartbreaking, Macho! brings to life the brutality of migrant labor, Cesar Chavez's efforts to unionize the workers, and a vivid portrayal of the immigrant experience as seen through the eyes of a young man who saw it all.
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It just seemed that the author tried to keep the book engaging by cramming it with as much action as possible and it just seems contrived. The amount of gun play that occurs throughout is also greatly exaggerated as most Mexicans don't settle their problems by killing. Yet this book is full of endless shootouts, whether over cockfights or blood vengeance or just plain bar fights. At times it seems that the entire journey is a sequence of skirmishes, killings, and flight. All for the purpose of making an entertaining read.
The impression one gets is that the author tried to make his case more convincing over the plight of the Mexican illegal immigrants by exaggerating their hardships and really does not have to do so.
Villaseñor accomplishes in 235 pages what some writers can't accomplish in a 1000, with writing so visual that you will see the scenes play out right before your eyes.
The exposition was judiciously used, and the bits of history regarding Cesar Chavez were relevant, insightful, and really put the novel into context.
Between chapters I found myself putting the book down, and really pondering over what I'd read, savoring it like a good meal with a great glass of wine.
Even though the backdrop of the novel is Mexico and the Mexican-American experience...the book, at its core, is truly universal. Many cultures all around the world have backwards notions of what it means to be a man - I say "backwards," because some of these moronic notions of what it means to be a MAN can get you killed. And, then what? People come to your funeral and say how honorably you died. What sense does that make? You don't even get a chance to live and enjoy the honor you've apparently earned.
If you have to fight to prove you're a MAN, that's not honorable at all - that's barbaric and primitive!
This book will truly force you to differentiate honor from stupidity, and nobleness from arrogance.
But then again, GREAT literature often does stimulate deep thinking!
A view of the U.S. immigration policy in the 50s from a Mexican point of view
I will think about the people in this book for a long time.