To Live and Die in El Valle
This haunting collection of eleven stories grounded in Arizona reveals the varied lives of Mexican and Mexican-American protagonists.
by Oscar Mancinas
Publication Date: September 30, 2020
Format: Trade paperback
Many of the young people in this haunting collection of thirteen stories grounded in Arizona don’t have the luxury of being dreamless. Some are compelled to leave their hometown: “I knew early on that I didn’t want to die in El Valle. Nothing could be worse than being stuck somewhere you didn’t belong.”
Those that manage to get out often find themselves in awkward situations. One young man, a student at a New England college, is surprised to receive a call from the admissions office, asking him to give a tour to a Mexican family. He agrees to help, but the interaction only reinforces the unease he feels about his place on campus and his Mexican identity. Not all want to leave. Kino vigorously resists his friend’s constant encouragement to apply to schools out of state. “You think you won’t be a wetback to people out there? You think I wanna be your lil’ Indian sidekick on the East Coast? You think you’re better than all of us here?”
Others live with the daily fear of deportation or the loss of family members. Fernanda adjusts to a new life as an undocumented person in El Valle, where she takes comfort in the familiar ritual of baseball. Roach’s mother has steadfastly refused to talk about her father, until through drastic measures she learns he was deported before her birth. And on their long drive to college, Melissa’s father finally talks about the death of her would-be older brother.
Vividly depicting working-class communities, Oscar Mancinas creates lives shaped by circumstances beyond their control, from migration for a better life to centuries of systemic racism and settler-colonialism. His characters frequently struggle with a sense of belonging, and their stories eloquently illuminate Hispanic and indigenous experiences in the Southwest.