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Brownsville: Stories (2003)

Brownsville: Stories (2003)
3.75 of 5 Votes: 1
0316146803 (ISBN13: 9780316146807)
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Brownsville: Stories (2003)
Brownsville: Stories (2003)

About book: I lived in Brownsville for six months as a Mormon missionary, and loved the city and its people very much. I lived in Cameron Park, the poorest part of the city and one of the poorest areas of the country. There is a distinct feel to Brownsville and its people are proud of their identity. The author was born and raised there and, as a result, this book is largely an authentic portrayal of the people who live there. One of the most endearing quality of the city (for me, probably not all) is the Tex-Mex dialect, a conglomeration of Spanish and English into a new language of sorts. Casares uses it nicely, which adds a humorous quality to these short stories. To me, it took me back again. To others, it will develop into its own confused vernacular. Though the written words lack the cadences of the language, the reader will still get an appreciation of it. In some ways, this is poetry.In addition to portraying the city accurately via the language, Casares creates characters that seem authentic too. Other reviewers of the book have said there's a gentleness to the stories, even an underlying sadness. I agree. In short, the stories seem real, as trite as that sounds. The stories have building actions and climaxes like longer novels, but never do they betray their characters and assume Hollywood-style cop-out endings. The stories are like real life, full of plot points that are far from spectacular or amazing, but characters who live out those plots in their own ways. My favorite stories involve the ne'er-do-well son-of-respected-community-leader Bony (who finds a monkey head on his front lawn and believes over time that the head is his best friend) and Jesse (who has to come to terms with the fact his young son is smarter than he is).

I got tired of reading Chicano literature years ago because all the books seemed to be about identity and not much else. A few titles got a lot of attention but were not well written. This is the book that changed my attitude.Every story is well crafted. He captures the sense of place without have a chip on his shoulder or writing in a way to exclude readers who are not from his culture. He really made me think about the way people are unable to voice their greatest fears and desires and so make a mess of their lives and the lives of others. A glossary would have made his book more accessible to a wider audience. I can hardly wait until his allegedly forthcoming novel is published.
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I decided to read this book, since the authur is from Brownsville Texas, and his stories take place there. I worked as a Child Welfare Worker there, so it intrigued me. The location of the stories brought back memories of working and living in Brownsville. Several of the stories mentioned curses. I had a mother bring me a greasy coin, and I asked the secretaries what that was about. I was told she was placing a curse on me, for taking her three children away, and sending her to a mental hospital. The culture of the people in the Valley was very different to me, and it was interesting to read those things in these short stories.
I finally picked up Brownsville from my local library after a year of it waiting on my to-read list. Casares sparked my interest after I read Amigoland. Brownsville reflects the same writing style as Amigoland. It's not too exciting, a little bland at times with a dash of quirkiness. Casares simply tells a story. The collection of short stories in Brownsville do just that: tell simple stories. Each short story picks up at random times within a random person's life. The stories range from a 10-year-old boy starting his first job at a fireworks stand to 30-something man's small obsession with a dead monkey's head. The people in the stories are unrelated with the exception that they are all from Brownsville. Casares writes about life. And let's admit it, every aspect of life is worth telling.
Dixie Diamond
The stories in this are deceptive: They seem so simple, and then they go somewhere that you didn't expect them to go.I picked this up at a used bookstore when I was in the midst of a McMurtry jag and was in the mood to read anything "Texas". It turned out to be one of those books with which I had an inexplicable instant rapport. I've never been to Brownsville so I can't quite picture the details (locations, roads, etc.) but Casares does a wonderful job of making the reader relate to a character with whom it seems, at first, s/he has nothing in common. Then you read a little more and the stories and thought processes seem so familiar that you feel as if you're talking right to the character.
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