“I felt reading these wonderful stories that I was admitted to an adjacent neighborhood, a rich culture that is another world—call it Amexica—both mysterious and magical, that is persuasive through its tenderness. My hope is that Ron Arias continues to write short stories that tell us who we are.”—Paul Theroux
HOUSTON, TX August 2017—Author Ron Arias is the recipient of a 2016 Peace Corps Award for his new book of short stories, The Wetback and Other Stories. This collection brings together the short fiction of an acclaimed journalist and Chicano literature pioneer.
The award was announced during the National Peace Corps Association’s annual conference Friday-Sunday, August 4-6, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. Established in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, Peace Corps volunteers have worked alongside community leaders in 140 countries to solve critical challenges.
Many of the pieces in this collection take place in a Los Angeles neighborhood that used to be called Frog Town, now known as Elysian Valley. Ron Arias reveals the lives of his Mexican-American community: there’s Eddie Vera, who goes from school yard enforcer to jail bird and finally commando fighting in Central America; a boy named Tom, who chews his nails so incessantly that it leads to painful jalapeño chili treatments, banishment from the neighborhood school and ultimately incarceration in a school for emotionally disturbed kids; and Luisa, a young girl who can’t resist an illicit visit to Don Noriega, an old man the kids call El Mago who is known as a curandero in their neighborhood.
Most of the 14 stories included in this volume were originally published in journals that no longer exist, including El Grito: A Journal of Contemporary Mexican-American Thought, Caracol and Revista Chicano-Riqueña. The author of an important novel—The Road to Tamazunchale—published during the Chicano literary movement of the 1970s, Arias was one of the first to use magic realism and connect U.S. Hispanic literature to its more popular, Latin-American cousin. The Wetback and Other Stories finally gathers together and makes available the short fiction of a pioneer in Mexican-American literature.
RON ARIAS, a journalist who worked for People magazine for 22 years, is the author of five non-fiction books: Five Against the Sea (Dutton, 1989), Healing from the Heart with Dr. Mehmet Oz (Dutton, 1998), Moving Target: A Memoir of Pursuit (Bilingual Review Press, 2003) and White’s Rules: Saving Our Youth One Kid at a Time with Paul D. White (Random House, 2007). He is the author of a foundational Chicano novel, The Road to Tamazunchale (Bilingual Review Press, 1975). He lives with his wife in Hermosa Beach, California.
Arte Público Press is the nation’s largest and most established publisher of contemporary and recovered literature by U.S. Hispanic authors. Its imprint for children and young adults, Piñata Books, is dedicated to the realistic and authentic portrayal of the themes, languages, characters, and customs of Hispanic culture in the United States. Based at the University of Houston, Arte Público Press, Piñata Books and the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage project provide the most widely recognized and extensive showcase for Hispanic literary arts and creativity. For more information, please visit our website at www.artepublicopress.com.