Raised on the northern bank of the Río Grande in South Texas, acclaimed author Rolando Hinojosa attended Mexican and American schools as a child and has lived in both cultures throughout his life. “One language supplanted the other for a while,” he writes, “but eventually they balanced each other out.” His schooling contributed to an awareness of differences and similarities in those around him, and led to his search for “a personal voice, which was to become my public voice.”
Author of the acclaimed Klail City Death Trip series of novels, which examines relations between Mexican Americans and Anglo Americans in the fictional Rio Grande Valley town of Klail City, Texas, Hinojosa muses on various aspects of writing in these 14 essays. Topics include the decision to write in English or Spanish, the problem of writer’s block and the development of story ideas and characters. Other essays cover personal issues, such as memories of his father and his love of reading and its impact on his life, and scholarly subjects such as the development of Chicano and ethnic literature.
Four of Hinojosa’s short stories are included in this volume, and as is typical of Hinojosa’s life and work, some of the pieces are in English and others are in Spanish. But whether writing fiction or non-fiction, it is clear that his early life on the Texas-Mexico border was a driving force in his development as a man and a writer. As the narrator in “Es el agua” says, “It’s the water, the Río Grande water. It claims you, you understand? It’s yours and you belong to it, too. No matter where we work, we always come back. To the border, to the Valley.”
With an introduction by UCLA scholar Héctor Calderón, this collection written between 1982-2009 is required reading for anyone interested in Hinojosa’s work and issues of assimilation, acculturation, border life and discrimination.