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The Flowers

3.33 of 5 stars 3.33  ·  rating details  ·  166 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Sonny Bravo is a tender, unusually smart fifteen-year-old who is living with his vivacious mother in a large city where intense prejudice is not just white against black, but also brown. When Sonny’s mother, Silvia, suddenly marries an Okie building contractor named Cloyd Longpre, they are uprooted to a small apartment building, Los Flores. As Sonny sweeps its sidewalks, h ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 21st 2008 by Grove Press (first published January 3rd 2008)
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Community Reviews

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Oct 31, 2009 jo rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone who loves the catcher in the rye
Shelves: latino-a, kids
this lyrical and bewitching novel follows a shortish span of time (time, just like other such details, is elusive in this novel, so you don’t quite know for sure in what period it is set and how much time it covers) in the life of sonny bravo, a young chicano teen. at first he lives with his mother, a woman who has little interest in her son and a lot of interest in going out and, presumably, in men. since the story is told from sonny's point of view, we get only what he chooses to tell us, and ...more
I was really excited about this book and it was a bit of a letdown. It's the story of a Latino teenager living in a working class, racially charged area of L.A. with a seriously scary stepfather and a very detached mother. He escapes his family life by getting to know the neighbors in the small apartment complex where they live, which is managed by evil stepdad. Sounds great, right? Well, I found the stream of consciousness passages a bit dull, and the very subtle references to the characters' u ...more
Ann Marie
Sonny is a lost boy. He is one of the most inarticulate narrator and protaganist I've ever come across. Every one of his interactions seems fraught with misunderstanding. He is a Mexican who cannot speak proper Spanish, who often cannot remember the right words for things in either English or Spanish. As a result, his conversations with his mother and a set of twins that he reluctantly befriends who do speak Spanish veer back and forth between English and Spanish, often in the same sentence. His ...more
When Sonny Bravo Met Holden Caulfield (from

Spurred by what one critic said of Dagoberto Gilb's The Flowers (that its narrator Sonny Bravo could be Holden Caulfield), I read The Flowers then reread Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. The narrators do share the word "phony," it's true. Rather than interchange them, I'd like to see them meet.
Loved this book as much as the first. Plus, its attention to race and place and the book's culminating incinerations remi
This may have been one of the most agonizing reads I've ever attempted. I had nothing but difficulty with this book and I finished feeling like I totally missed something but don't know what.

The story should have been great but I could not get past the hazy characters and the constant repetition. Everything. Was. Repeated. All. The. Time.
These people who seemed stoned right out of their heads would say something, another seemingly stoned character would answer, the original character would repea
Jenny Shank

Dagoberto Gilb’s “The Flowers”

By Jenny Shank, 2-22-08

The Flowers
by Dagoberto Gilb
Grove Press
250 pages, $24

With his new novel The Flowers, Austin-based Dagoberto Gilb has written his most powerful book to date, digging his hands into the fraught subject of race relations, but doing so in his signature humorous, meandering, natural way that makes him such a winning chronicler of Western urban life. Although Gilb’s story alights on all kinds of touchy topi
Christie Stratos
Gilb’s seventh publication is a successful depiction of Sonny Bravo, a Mexican American high school boy who lives in a city wracked with racial hatred, violence, and sexual scandal. The city, however, is not his only problem; his male-dependent, overly attractive mother has decided to marry an alcoholic who owns “The Flowers”, a lower-class apartment building which houses tenants of various races. The book revolves mostly around Sonny’s interactions with the tenants, also concentrating on how he ...more
All in the head of Sonny Bravo, who experiences sounds almost as acutely as Saleem Sinai in Midnight's Children, but in a synesthesic form. Sonny is fifteen, and Mexican-American in a racially mixed but racist-ly charged Los Angeles. His mother marries a white bigot with a rifle collection for the financial security, but Sonny sees the move as only temporary, not bothering to make friends or adjust to his stepfather's apartment as his home. We experience Sonny's small-time criminal activity, bre ...more
Nov 06, 2009 Belinda is currently reading it
I got an early copy of this book. It is scheduled for release later in February.

This is Gilb's first novel, I think. The rest of his work being short story collections and essays. His slim volume is packed with his always ferocious, yet surprisingly tender energy. In this case, we follow a lonely young man (pre-adolescent? it's unclear) who discovers the lives of others when he moves into a small apartment complex in LA. I've barely started the novel. I think what moves me is how sweet and sour
It's nice to read adult novels about Hispanic kids. But this book didn't wow me. Instead I kept reading it to see what was going to happen, but not too much did. The kid grew up. Sonny Bravo is a smart kid who follows his slutty mother around. She marries a white man who owns apartment buildings and he ends up being the errand boy--painting, taking out the trash, etc. In the process he meets everyone in the apartment building and they all teach him a lesson of some sort. One teaches him about lu ...more
Oct 17, 2008 Manatee rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: teenage boys who are reluctant readers
Good , but not great. Sonny's voice is interesting and compelling . I loved certain things about the novel;the use of English and Spanish, the characters of the twins, and the very strong Mother/Son bond not often seen in literature written from the point of view of teens.

I really loved the strong beginning and the real sense of displacement and loneliness that you got from Sonny, the main character. I also loved the very real, very authentic and strongly conveyed feeling that you got from Sonn
An adolescent boy moves with his mother to an apartment complex in Los Angeles because his mother has recently remarried. Her new husband owns the apartments. The boy works for his stepfather, painting, weeding, sweeping, and he gets to know the residents. One is a lonely married girl about his age who lures him into her apartment while the husband is at work. Another is a racist man who keeps tabs on a man who sells cars out of his apartment. The most touching is the illegal immigrant girl who ...more
A rambling character study of a Mexican American teenage boy who lives and works in a run-down apartment building owned by his red-necked stepfather. Kirkus Reviews compared it to The Outsiders, which is a far superior book in that it has a compelling storyline. Gilb just wanders around in an uneven narrative that, while full of interesting characters (the down and out inhabitants of the apartment building) never goes anywhere then ends abruptly with no real conclusion. Frankly, I wanted more st ...more
The NY Times review said, "The prospect of reading a novel narrated in run-on sentences, fragments, Spanish phrases, and street slang might seem daunting," and then goes on to say, basically, but not when you read this book. Well, truthfully, I found it daunting when I read this book, too. The story is good and the picture it presents of a Mexican kid growing up in LA is, I presume, very real, but the above mentioned things wore on me some.
I found this one difficult to rate, almost gave it 4 "*"s... really interesting protagonist, chicango teenager, coming of age in the midst of cultural, racial, ethnic turmoil, not to mentions "sex, drugs, rock n' roll" - okay no rock n' roll. I liked him a lot, and found myself rooting for him. There's a sweetness to this story in the midst of all that was disturbing... as well as a small love story.
narrated by a Chicano teenager named Sonny, this book is easy to read and fast-paced. It deals with Sonny's life with his mother when she remarries and they move into an apartment building owned by her new husband, a bigoted hick whiteguy. the characters in the building all have their own issues and problems, and one of the central themes is race relations in LA. it's a moving and funny story.
The more that I read this the more I realized that I just had to put it down. I never thought that the main character's voice was genuine. In the end, I just thought it was a very average book by someone who is acclaimed as a great new voice of his community. Hopefully, he finds that voice again in future works.
Dago does it again. Wonderful, fresh, alive language, a powerful mother-son relationship in unusual circumstances, the microcosm of an apartment complex in L.A., a confused teenager trying to make sense of his world, the racism of culture against culture, all the way to a fiery climax, this short novel delivers.
Bookmarks Magazine

Dagoberto Gilb, winner of the PEN/Hemmingway award for his 1994 short story collection The Magic of Blood, hasn't written a novel since The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acu

Meg - A Bookish Affair
I had a hard time getting past how much meandering this story seems to do. There are interesting characters in the book but no action. It couldn't hold my attention...
His world is one I haven't lived in, but I have met some of his characters. I liked the stream of conscious feel of the book.
Read my review at my blog.
This sad excuse for a 'coming-of-age' novel might be amongst the worst books I've read in the past five years.
If you liked House on Mango Street, I think you would like this book.
There's an endearing repetitiveness to the pov character's speech that I loved.
Dec 21, 2008 Judith marked it as to-read
NYT best of '08 lower class honor; coming of age in urban america
great quick read. Loved Sonny. Great kid! Kind of weird ending.
This book was supposed to be funny, but I din't find it funny.
Feb 05, 2008 Sophie rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sophie by: Latina Magazine
Deceiving despite mild poetic and social attempts.
Max P
This is the Chicano "Catcher in the Rye."
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Dagoberto Gilb was born in the city of Los Angeles, his mother a Mexican who crossed the border illegally, and his father a Spanish-speaking Anglo raised in East Los Angeles. They divorced before he began kindergarten. He attended several junior colleges until he transferred to the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he studied philosophy and religion and graduated with both bachelor'
More about Dagoberto Gilb...
The Magic of Blood Woodcuts of Women The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuña Gritos: Essays Before the End, After the Beginning

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