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Parrot in the Oven: mi vida Hardcover – September 30, 1996

4.0 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It's no wonder that Parrot in the Oven won the 1996 National Book Award for Young People's Fiction. Victor Martinez's lush, evocative prose leaps from the page, grabbing the reader by the throat right from the start. Not only do we witness Manuel Hernandez's coming of age, we feel every juicy moment of it: his ache for something just out of reach, the confusion of seeing his family with new eyes, the tickle and flood of awakening passion. It's difficult to portray transformation from the inside, but Martinez does so with grace and power.

From Publishers Weekly

In his debut novel, set in a dusty California town, Martinez employs a series of compelling, frequently troubling vignettes to illuminate a Mexican American boy's coming of age. It's not easy for Manuel Hernandez to discover his place in the world, especially when he is constantly bombarded with the hardships of his poor and woefully dysfunctional family. Their tiny sheetrock house in the projects is the scene of angry arguments-even of threats at rifle point. Manny steps onto a battlefield at every turn, whether he is collecting his alcoholic and violent father from the local pool hall, withstanding the ethnic slurs of white school mates, or seeking initiation into a neighborhood gang. But as the months pass and some of his wounds heal, Manny slowly begins to understand the sense of self that he can derive from his role within this difficult household. The tense prose and often biting dialogue bring into razor-sharp focus the frustration and bitterness of a struggling family; at the same time, Manny's first-person narrative is tinged with compassion and, indeed, love for the unstable people around him. Martinez's honest voice, and descriptions sprinkled with elegant imagery, offer a rare and consummately believable portrait of barrio life. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Rayo; 1st edition (September 30, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060267046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060267049
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,063,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
It's hard to review a book that fairly reeks of excellent prose. When you encounter a really GOOD writer, the temptation is to read the pretty words and pay little to no attention to the plot. Victor Martinez fits this category perfectly. Reading, "Parrot in the Oven" is difficult if only because the descriptions in the story are pitch perfect every time. I found myself so continually overwhelmed by the lush characters and interesting metaphors that I would completely forget to pay attention to the narrative and plot. Fortunately, in the case of this particular book, they were perfectly up to snuff.

The tale follows the life and realistic adventures of Mexican-American Manuel Hernandez. Manuel's a good kid. He has a slacker older brother, an older sister that flirts with danger, and a baby sibling that doesn't understand the ways of the world just yet. His father is unemployed leaving him regularly drunk and belligerent. His mother, not quite up to facing the problems surrounding her, stays by his side despite the effects of his actions on the kids. But mostly this is Manny's story. It's a look at a sometimes painful adolescence and the world of classism and racism in which everyone lives. That and it's a beautiful read.

I'll give you a taste of what I'm talking about. For example, after doing painful yard work with his brother the book reads, "When we stopped, finally, the sun was prickling like a hot rash on the back of my neck, and a piece of lava was wedged in my spine. My brother's face was swollen and burnished as a new penny". Another favorite passage of mine speaks of Manny's sister's friend. "She was in love with Nardo, but he didn't pay her any mind, mostly because blocks of fat sagged on her hips like a belt of thick Bibles".
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Format: Paperback
Manuel is fourteen years old and living close to the Mexican border. He is Mexican-American himself. His life is full of conflicts, from his father who is alcoholic and abusive and can't seem to keep a job, to his passive mother who lets herself be scared and abused, to his three siblings.

This books is about Manuel's struggle to find himself and to figure out his life. It takes the reader on a journey through about a year in Manuel's life, and we get to see the things he interacts with daily, from his family situation to the bullies who live on his street, to the other people who surround him. Even though he sometimes has problems, like when he is invited to a party full of all white kids and things start to go bad, Manuel always manages to keep his head on his shoulders and get through things okay. Even though his family is dysfunctional, the reader is able to see some good in them.

The language in this book is beautiful; the author has a gift for stringing together very poetic sentences. However, there wasn't any sort of cohesive storyline. I kept trying to wrestle the individual parts of the story into a plot, and was frustrated when they remained disjointed until the end.
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Format: Paperback
Manny Hernandez is a fourteen-year-old boy who is struggling in life to become someone. As hard as he tries it's hard for him because he has to live with an alcoholic father, worried mother, annoying sister and his older brother who can't get a job anywhere (and when he does get a job he loses it instantly). In Manny's neighborhood it's not easy to become someone, especially if you're a good kid like Manny. In the neighborhood he lives in you have to be in a gang to be known. The gangs around there are serious law breaking gangs. Most of the kids in the gangs steal old ladies purses, rob grocery stores, and steal cars. Manny is more of a nice guy that would never hurt a fly (not really gang material).
In this story Manny has to experience many stressful events. Manny is beat up by kids at school, his sister is having problems with her pregnancy that none knows about, his mother worries about his dad and the family all the time, and both his brother and father are gone from the house day and night drinking. Over time Manny learns to deal with these events but not easily. Manny tries many different solutions. He tried joining the boxing team but that didn't work, he tried hanging out with older kids to try to make new friends but that didn't work and he tried to join a gang but that was the worst of them all. I will let you find out what happens to Manny yourselves. Enjoy!
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Format: Hardcover
Victor Martinez's Parrot in the Oven, was in my opinion, one of the most inspiring books I have ever read. Its not a book that demands a great amount of intelligence from the reader because it is written in a form that can be read by a wide range of ages, but the story is truly genuine. It focuses on the life of Manuel Hernandez and his family's struggle with problems such as a racism, poverty, and violence. Forteen year old Manuel, often called "Manny", has an older brother, Bernardo, often referred to as "Nardo", an older sister, Magda, and a younger sister Pedi. They live in the projects, constantly avoiding people such as the Garcia family, who are almost always up-to-no-good. Manuel's father can't keep a job, much like his son Bernardo. His father spends most of his free time at Rico's Pool Hall intoxicating himself into an angry stooper, only to return to his home, occasionally reulting in abusive behavior. Manuel's mother tries so hard to maintain a clean, and socially acceptable home, but her continuous arguments with her husband, as well as Magda's lack for respect and responsibility, manage to keep her stress level high, and the thought of true happiness inconceivable. Manuel desperately wants to be respected, but what he really wants is to be loved, especially by a girl. He once said, "Just thinking about telling a girl I liked her clamped the muscles on my chest and made my lungs pull hard to catch a breath." Eventually, Manuel gave up the idea that he would ever be "smooth" with girls and decides to join a gang in hopes of being allowed to kiss a girl in the gang. He kisses the girl, but later realizes that he doesn't really need to belong to a gang. In the end, Manuel realized what he has had the entire time, a home.Read more ›
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