THE WETBACK AND OTHER STORIES by Ron Arias (Peru) due out in September

In the title story of The Wetback and Other Stories by Ron Arias (Peru 1963–65), Mrs. Rentería shouts, “David is mine!” as she and her neighbors gather about the dead but handsome young man found in the dry riverbed next to their homes in a Los Angeles barrio. “Since when is his name David?” someone asks, and soon everyone is arguing about the mysterious corpse’s name, throwing out suggestions: Luis, Roberto, Antonio, Henry, Enrique, Miguel, Roy, Rafael.

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 acurandero 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 ThoughtCaracol and Revista Chicano-Riqueña.

road-tamazThe 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 fictional stories of a pioneer in Mexican-American literature.

 

Praise for the work of Ron Arias

 The Road to Tamazunchale is one of the first achieved works of Chicano consciousness and spirit.” — Library Journal

“In terms of craftsmanship and artistry no Chicano novel before The Road to Tamazunchale has tapped the artistic resources of the modern and contemporary novel (and the arts) in a comparable way, deliberately and intuitively . . . daring and commendable.” — Latin American Literary Review

five-against-sea“Arias, who reported the story in People magazine, here interviews virtually everybody involved in this affair, and reconstructs the agony of the families waiting at home as well as the desperation of the fishermen. The account of their adjustment to their plight is as interesting as the fact of their survival.” — Publishers Weekly on Five Against the Sea

Ron Arias

Ron Arias

RON ARIAS, a journalist who worked for People magazine for 22 years, is the author of four non-fiction books: Five Against the Sea (Dutton, 1989), Healing from the Heart: A Leading Heart Surgeon Explores the Power of Complimentary Medicine 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.

 

The Wetback and Other Stories
Ron Arias
Arte Publico Press
September 30, 2016
160 pages
$17.95 (paperback)

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2 Comments

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  • I hope this book goes over the top in sales.
    This is by one of those Peace Corps Arias brothers who are getting to be legendary.
    Wonder if any of their kids or/ and any of the cousins have gone into the Peace Corps.

    This leads me to wonder about the dispersion of family members within the various Peace Corps groups since 1971 of cousins, nieces and nephews, sons and daughters, mothers, fathers, grandchildren. I don’t remember hearing about this.

    Well, the Arias brothers for sure. And I have cousins in the Peace Corps.

    But what are the facts and figures? Moreover, how many books by returned volunteers have been published? Also, how about ex-volunteers who went on to jobs abroad such as journalists: how many? Does anybody keep up with this sort of thing?

    Of course, it may not matter in the long run. But I wonder now and then what kind of influence the establishment of the Peace Corps meant? Are our citizens better educated about the world now because of JFK’s getting this now big group going? Usually we were just earnest and pretty well educated youth then in the beginning. I know studies were continued for years by such as Dr. Brewster Smith and others that tried to figure what kinds of criteria for initial selections worked best. This wondering of mine is probably like what others might scratch-out into some kinds of questions. Ron Arias himself worked for 2 decades for PEOPLE magazine (this from the posting above I am commenting on). He is one of America’s great serious writers of challenging literature. So many returned volunteers became teachers and other kinds of professionals: what do they think about the Peace Corps idea?

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