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Bulletproof Vest: The Ballad of an Outlaw and His Daughter

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  164 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
A New York Times Editors' Choice book

The haunting story of a daughter's struggle to confront her father's turbulent-and often violent-legacy

After a fourteen-year estrangement, Maria Venegas returns to Mexico from the United States to visit her father, who is living in the old hacienda where both he and she were born. While spending the following summers and holidays togeth
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 17th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Sep 10, 2014 Laurel rated it it was amazing
Bulletproof Vest: The Ballad of an Outlaw and His Daughter pays homage to a man, a father, and a larger-than-life style made completely believable by Maria Venegas’ excellent writing. Not your typical memoir, almost a novel in its scope, I was captivated by this story from beginning to end. Caught up in the waves of the author’s emotion, I began to feel I personally knew this family, was a part of it. It’s an outlaw’s story, a daughter’s tribute, and a look at Mexico from the inside rather than ...more
Nov 20, 2014 Paula rated it really liked it
What an incredible story! I am amazed when I read books like Bulletproof Vest, The Glass Castle, and Projections: Encounters With My Runaway Mother. I didn't think characters like these existed in real life. What an inspiration these women are, to make a successful life from such a dysfunctional childhood. Maria Venegas writes beautifully, creating well rounded characters. I went from not caring at all for her father to feeling a great deal of sympathy for him by the end of the book. Conversely, ...more
Oct 04, 2014 J rated it it was amazing
Wow! I simply could not put this book down. Amazon gives a good but simple introduction to this book...

"After a fourteen-year estrangement, Maria Venegas returns to Mexico from the United States to visit her father, who is living in the old hacienda where both he and she were born. While spending the following summers and holidays together, herding cattle and fixing barbed-wire fences, he begins sharing stories with her, tales of a dramatic life filled with both intense love and brutal violence—
Sonia Argiolas
Sep 06, 2015 Sonia Argiolas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: venegas-maria
New York. Maria riceve una telefonata dalla sorella la quale le comunica che loro padre José è stato vittima di un’imboscata, Maria continua a sfogliare il menù che ha davanti agli occhi e, distrattamente, chiede alla sorella se il padre sia morto. Già. Quel padre che anni prima lei e il resto della sua famiglia hanno deciso di eliminare dalla loro vita, quel padre violento, aggressivo, che sparava in aria durante la notte, quello stesso padre che ha ucciso il fratello di sua moglie. Ma anche qu ...more
Okay, first things first, I received this book for free from the publisher and goodreads (thank you!). The prose is beautiful, the story is compelling, it is all very well written.

And now that those things are out of the way, I want to talk about the portrayal of the father, which was incredible and is haunting me a bit.

Bulletproof Vest is a memoir about a strained, incredibly complex father-daughter relationship. Maria Venegas' father, José, has murdered people. He's pulled a gun on her when sh
Sep 06, 2014 Don rated it really liked it
A remarkable often poetic chronicle of a young woman's reconnection and reconciliation with her absentee, alcoholic, criminal Mexican father. While I sometimes found myself asking why, I had a hard time putting this book down and in the end emerged with profound respect for the author as she tries to explain away her father's many sins. Great read.
Kati Heng
Nov 04, 2014 Kati Heng rated it really liked it
Maria Venegas’ Bulletproof Vest: The Ballad of an Outlaw and His Daughter is at once a memoir and a biography of probably one of the most fascinating gangster you’ve never heard of. Throughout the pages, Venegas charts the story of her father, an outlaw well known and oft wanted by the authorities of Mexico and Chicago, a man who was said to cheat death time and time again, and how this legend’s life intersects with her own.

Of course, the violent stories of blood and revenge, love and limelight
Robert Miller
Oct 31, 2014 Robert Miller rated it really liked it
This is an emotional look-back at a daughter's father who, along with her mother, abandoned her as a child in Mexico (left with relatives) while they leave for the "other side" and moved to Chicago. After a couple of years, she joins them only to experience a strained relationship between her parents and herself owing mostly to the father's alcoholism and criminal behavior, the mother's intense subscription to church doctrine and her increasing indifference. The daughter (author) moves through a ...more
Elizabeth Marro
Dec 11, 2015 Elizabeth Marro rated it it was amazing
I'm a little more than half way through this book and here is what I am loving about it: Maria Venegas has a powerful story and understands exactly how to tell it. Her narrative voice reflects the portrait that emerges of herself, a woman who is at once part of a family yet apart from it, part of the story, yet the observer. Her self reliance has saved her yet perhaps has left her with some problems to solve in order to grow into the person she wants to be. At the same time, she tells the storie ...more
Richard Newton
A fascinating insight into a very different way of life. A well written account of the relationship between a girl and her violent father. Venegas writes clearly about a life style which will be completely alien to most Europeans. This is both about her relationship with her father, but the book also paints a vivid picture of the life of illegal immigrants coming into America, and about being Mexican - both the society of the earlier 20th century and the crazed descent into violence of recent ye ...more
Tania Torres
Jan 23, 2015 Tania Torres rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved this book. I love to read but lately have only had time to do during my commute to and from work.
This book was hiding in the library shelves just calling my name. I love non fiction books that have a great and almost unrealistic story to it and that's exactly what I found. The story of her father and family was so touching that it was hard to put a bookmark in whenever my train stop came up! I've been to Mexico and had such a vivid scene in my mind of everything that was going
Nov 04, 2014 Sarai rated it it was amazing
By far my favorite book! I laughed cried though. I could not put the book down and found myself thinking about it throughout my day.
Dec 14, 2014 Jennie rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
*I was fortunate enough to receive this book through a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.*

This book was a fascinating read. Maria's willingness to forgive her father and try to establish a relationship with him after all he put her through was really inspiring. It really made me think about my relationship with my own father. By the end of the book, I found myself attached to Jose. (view spoiler) You could see that h
Mar 30, 2014 Cole rated it it was amazing
Maria Venegas has written the kind of book that is impossible to put down once you've begun. She offers up a story that is both honest and vulnerable about the life of a Mexican American family; painting scenes that are beautiful and heartbreaking all at once. Bulletproof Vest examines the inner conflict experienced when one life is left for another and illustrates the complications and indestructible love that comes from returning to where you've come from and revisiting your roots.
Daniel Levin
Sep 05, 2014 Daniel Levin rated it it was amazing
2 things are remarkable about this book. First, is how different the daughter (and author) can be from her father and her origins. Second, is how strongly she is emotionally connected to, and influenced by, her father. It's like Monet's 12 Cathedrals; depending on how she is lighting up the scene, she is totally a Mexican outlaw / she is totally a sweet American intellectual college girl.

Aug 04, 2014 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
Loved this beautifully written story of a woman's journey toward understanding her father and their relationship. It was like peeling back the layers of an onion in dealing with a relationship that I believe affects all of us whether or not we acknowledge that fact. Our father is our father, and we all need to figure out what that means in our context.

I also appreciated gaining some cultural insights as I read about her life as a Mexican American.
Leah Sosewitz
Oct 10, 2014 Leah Sosewitz rated it it was amazing
Just finished this fantastic memoir which I couldn't put down. Maria Venegas is a real talent! What a roller coaster of a childhood. It really speaks to the inner drive that some people have to get to an unlikely place given their circumstances. The story itself is fascinating but the writing brings it to life.
Memorie Johnson
Oct 24, 2014 Memorie Johnson rated it it was amazing
This is an intriguing story. Maria Venegas seamlessly tender, and poignantly recollection of her father's life. She is talented and gifted with the ability to described to the reader the place and time she is writing about. This is one of my new favorite memoirs.
Aug 22, 2014 Bonnie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a powerful account of life in a Mexican family written from a daughter's point of view. This is our book club selection and I can't wait to discuss it with my GNO. thanks Bonnie

The life of a Mexican family living in both the US and Mexico. there is so much brutality to understand and we see it played out in the father-daughter relationship.

It's a first novel and I can't wait to read more.
My only frustration is in the last section of the book. For me it dragged and soon I was coming in and o
Oct 01, 2014 Peggy rated it really liked it
Takes awhile to get going and a bit too long, but a touching and well written book
Kim Grossett
Dec 17, 2014 Kim Grossett rated it it was amazing
I liked it a lawt.
Raul Ortega
Jan 15, 2015 Raul Ortega rated it it was amazing
This memoir was exciting and honest. My dad is from the same region in Zacatecas, Mexico. He never talked much about it except to speak of the "bandidos" in the 1920's and how desolate the physical environment was. This book filled in a lot of spaces in his story for me about the people and the country. Even though the setting is more contemporary (1950's to present day). The bandidos are different now and it can still be a scaary place to go. Maia Venegas if you are reading this, thank you!
Sep 08, 2014 Jeanne rated it liked it
Fascinating story of a man as told by his daughter. Jose Manuel Venegas was a bandit, murderer, illegal immigrant, a criminal. He was also a father. Maria conveys the stories of his life woven with her own memories and perceptions of Jose. For many years she shut him out of her life. Then, she reconnected with him. At the very least, this is a complicated relationship.
Barbara Bruce
Jun 09, 2016 Barbara Bruce rated it really liked it
I felt the book was very well written and knowing the story is true makes it even better. I was fascinated by the father and how he lived his life. It was a hard life for his family with all that he did and the daughters relationship with him was such a mixture of emotions.
I really enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to those who enjoy memoirs.
Audacia Ray
Really stunning, rich memoir with an interesting narrative style. Beautiful and difficult stuff about the author reckoning with who her father is, both beyond and including the violence he's put into the world.
Oct 12, 2014 Samantha rated it liked it
I liked this book more than I expected- not great, but very enjoyable.
Mar 26, 2016 Ana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A hauntingly beautiful and painful story of the author's relationship with her father.
Andrea marked it as to-read
Aug 27, 2016
Debbie marked it as to-read
Aug 17, 2016
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“It's okay", you say, perhaps more to yourself than to him. Like if you keep telling yourself that it's okay, then it will be.” 0 likes
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