The Cholo Tree
An engrossing coming-of-age novel that examines the intersection of art and ethnicity
by Daniel Chacón
Publication Date: May 31, 2017
Format: Trade Paperback
Imprint: Piñata Books
Ages: 14 and up
“Do you know what a stereotype you are?” Jessica asks her son. “You’re the existential Chicano.” Fourteen-year-old Victor has just been released from the hospital; his chest is wrapped in bandages and his arm is in a sling. He has barely survived being shot, and his mother accuses him of being a cholo, something he denies.
She’s not the only adult that thinks he’s a gangbanger. His sociology teacher once sent him to a teach-in on gang violence. Victor’s philosophy is that everyone is racist. “They see a brown kid, they see a banger.” Even other kids think he’s in a gang, maybe because of the clothes he wears. The truth is, he loves death (metal, that is), reading books, drawing, the cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz and the Showtime series Weeds. He likes school and cooking. He knows what a double negative is!
But he can’t convince his mom that he’s not in a gang. And in spite of a genius girlfriend and an art teacher who mentors and encourages him to apply to art schools, Victor can’t seem to overcome society’s expectations for him.
In this compelling novel, renowned Chicano writer Daniel Chacón once again explores art, death, ethnicity and racism. Are Chicanos meant for meth houses instead of art schools? Are talented Chicanos never destined to study in Paris?
Named a Junior Library Guild selection
“Chacón’s insightful novel portrays the trials of Victor Reyes, a death metal-loving, artistic teen who’s seemingly ill-fated in life.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Chacón has written a classic and powerful underdog story about a brown teen building the self-efficacy to see his worth and achieve his dream.”—School Library Journal
“Told in chunks spanning four years, this is a Bildungsroman with a voice reminiscent of Sherman Alexie or Walter Dean Myers, gritty but with a sense of humor. Victor’s struggle to be taken seriously and define himself without adult input is a teen experience with which a wide range of readers will identify.”—The Horn Book Magazine
DANIEL CHACÓN is the author of Hotel Juárez: Stories, Rooms and Loops (Arte Público Press, 2013); Unending Rooms (Black Lawrence Press, 2008), winner of the Hudson Prize; and the shadows took him (Washington Square Press, 2005) and Chicano Chicanery (Arte Público Press, 2000). A professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, he is co-editor of The Last Supper of Chicano Heroes: The Selected Works of José Antonio Burciaga (University of Arizona Press, 2008).
ATOS Interest Level: Upper Grades
Category: Young Adult