Pa'Que Tu lo Sepas Paperback – October 27, 2019
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- Publisher : Down & Out Books (October 27, 2019)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 208 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1643960423
- ISBN-13 : 978-1643960425
- Item Weight : 9.5 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.52 x 8.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,892,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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My favorites were the bitterly cynical "Turistas" by Hector Acosta dealing with coyote tourism at the border and cultural revenge; "The Sundowner" about a wholly different kind of monster which actually made me laugh out loud at points; and "Bobo" by Richie Narvaez and the way it told the story as a one-sided phone conversation. Definitely worth picking up.
Also, net profits from this book go to UNIDOS.
¡Pa’Que Tu Lo Sepas! features 11 stories from established and up-and-coming Latinx authors, like Alex Segura, Cina Pelayo, Hector Acosta, Hector Duarte Jr., Chantel Acevedo, and others, along with an introduction from Colón.
The stories featured within represent Puerto Rico and the long reach of Puerto Rican, and by extension Latin, blood across the world, whether the authors hail from New York, Texas, or Puerto Rico itself. They carry the culture with them, even if only as minor parts of their identity, either as conscious attempts to blend, like the college football player at the heart of Alex Segura’s “Red Zone,” or because their heritage has been so disrupted by colonizers and genocide that they’re not quite sure what they are, like Colón himself, a self-described “bad Puerto Rican.”
Mexican-American author David Bowles kicks off the anthology with “The Bones of Rio Rico,” a Prohibition-era short set in a border town along la frontera. A local witch finds herself enlisted to recover a kidnapped child, one of the latest in a line of missing kids that may have to do with a smuggling operation between a Mexican mobster and Al Capone. “The Bones of Rio Rico” presents a really strong start to the anthology, and I loved the infusion of gangsters and the supernatural, all wrapped up in a really cool noir PI vibe.
“Me Encanta Tu Nombre” gives you a strong sense of what to expect from this anthology as a whole, as it has nearly nothing in common with the preceding Bowles story, yet still retains a strong Latin feel. ¡Pa’Que Tu Lo Sepas! is an non-thematic anthology beyond the overarching representation of Latin voices, so some stories dive into crime, others give you small tastes of the supernatural and dashes of horror, while others, like Carmen Zamorano’s story, dive into politics and privilege. Although he’s Puerto Rican by blood, Jack is most definitely American and carries around his weight of American privilege like a cudgel, refusing to even learn his family’s Spanish language. While his cousins discuss politics and the forthcoming water rights legislation that will impact them, Jack complains about those around him discussing politics, particularly politics he’s unaffected by. Of course, Puerto Rico’s politics eventually catch up with him in unexpected ways, and Zamorano does a great job with her fish out of water narrative.
Hector Acosta’s “Turistas” is absolutely marvelous, and like Bowles’ opener, it’s a detective story of sorts, with the search for a missing person spring-boarding into a larger examination of desert immigration and racism. An enterprising business in Mexico has decided to capitalize on the current interest in the border by creating a guided tour that mimics a harsh desert crossing, led by drug-dealing Coyote, and actors playing cartel gang members and Border Patrol agents. Olivia has joined the tour to find Tommy, a white boy who went missing during one of the previous “crossings,” but whose participation in the tour was for dubious reasons. Tommy, you see, was a red hat — a Trump supporter. “Turistas” capitalizes on America’s hypocrisy in its relations with Mexico — the red hats want to build a stupid wall, but they’re also some of the first people to take advantage of the country’s tourist traps, and condemning Mexico for providing the drugs they buy. It’s a great story, one that backs up its fun plot and a cool concept with a strong socio-political statement, and even manages to infuse some Mexican mythology along the way. This was easily one of my top favorites.
“La Baca,” by Christopher Novas, was another easy favorite. This one, too, weaves in various myths and lore, elevating a simple revenge story into something more monstrous, giving its murders deeper layers of meaning and cultural intonations. Hector Duarte Jr.’s “It Takes Un Pueblo,” meanwhile, tackles its themes of justice in more earthly ways as a Guatemalan village, led by a newly arrived priest, fights off a violent drug cartel plaguing its people. There’s some pretty twisted imagery here, like decapitated heads turned into makeshift bombs, and it has the spirit of a modern-day spaghetti western. Simply put, I dug the hell out of this one!
¡Pa’Que Tu Lo Sepas! ends on a particularly powerful note with Cina Pelayo’s “Boricua Obituary.” I don’t know how much personal history Pelayo poured into this, but it is a deeply heartfelt and moving story of a daughter’s love for her father, and I can’t help but wonder how much of this was an ode to Cina’s own father and their relationship. It’s emotionally authentic and rich, and the central character’s return to Puerto Rico to pay one last tribute to her father’s memory and answer for her own past actions is the perfect clincher for this anthology. It tackles the sense of otherness that Puerto Ricans possess, particularly after claiming mainland America as their home, the traditions they carry with them, and their response to Hurricane Maria.
Pelayo encapsulates so many of the themes Colón presented that it makes a truly marvelous bookend to his introduction. It also serves to illustrate the reach of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, from their island and up through America, their status as American citizens who are still somehow foreign, somehow other, a part of our nation but also apart from our nation. ¡Pa’Que Tu Lo Sepas! gives them a voice that might otherwise be ignored, and my hope is that this charity anthology finds an audience that is not only willing to listen, but that ultimately demands more, from our president*, our government, our country, and, most of all, ourselves.
[Note: I received an advance copy of this title from the editor.]
Top reviews from other countries
The collections ranges in genre type, but where most anthologies have ups and downs this one is extremely consistent and I think the variation in genre definitely helps. David Bowles brings us a tale of witches and gangsters from the 20s along the US/Mexican border. Deiree Zamorano writes the first of several heartbreaking tales in "Bobby's Leave - 1968". "Me Encanta Tu Nombre" by Carmen Jaramillo brings a soapy telenovela style story to proceedings.
The Edgar nominated story "Turistas" by Hector Acosta lives up to its billing presenting a mystery wrapped in cynicism during a staged border crossing. "Bobo" by Richie Narvaez uses one half of a telephone call to tell its tale to great effect. Chantel Acevedo takes us into the Cuban home of Ernest Hemingway in "Papa's Maunscript". "The Sundowner" by Jessica Laine is brilliant and crosses genre multiple times itself within the story and as a sucker for bar stories (even though I don't drink) it was right in my wheelhouse.
"La Baca" by Christopher Novas combines genres similarly as a widow looks for her husband's murderer. A favourite from my online reading, Hector Duarte Jr. takes us to the Guatemalan border to see villagers show down against an emerging Cartel in "It Takes In Pueblo". Another favourite of mine, Alex Segura unexpectedly brings a sports tale to the table with "Red Zone" about a Cuban Quarterback at a small school. "Boricua Obituary" by Cina Pelayo closes the book and is as gripping and heartbreaking as advertised.