there is a noble tradition in memoir writing, a tradition that is basically never violated, and that tradition is that you have to leave the reader withere is a noble tradition in memoir writing, a tradition that is basically never violated, and that tradition is that you have to leave the reader with something that is not abject misery. however much travail and pain you go through, there must be something at the end that is good and solid and a glimmer of hope.
Butterfly Boy does follow the tradition but only just. this book starts off with serious pain and traces a life trajectory of pain. what makes it not a painful book to read is that it's fucking beautiful. i mean, it's gorgeous.
pain marks the narrator's personal story of queerness, and the slow reveal that masochism was built into his queerness from the start. the extraordinary scenes in which the narrator describes his first sexual experiences with older men are both brutal and tender. he needs to be owned, and fucked, and abandoned. he doesn't tell us why (he doesn't tell us many whys) but his life has been hard and poor and fraught with abandonment, and sometimes being owned and fucked is the best love one can get.
there is tremendous longing here, for a mother, for a father, for a lover, for a country, for financial security, for a culture, for belonging. chicano literature at its finest. repeated border crossings with families spread all over the place. crushing poverty. exploitative labor. rough family loving. cerveza. absent fathers who still love but whose love one doesn't know how to digest. silent but present grandmothers. gonzález doesn't sugarcoat one damn thing. he's always running, and you ache at this running because it's not even remotely good.
the mariposa is both the chicano queer and the restless butterfly, doomed to early death. it keeps on being reborn, but each new birth just lands it in the same miserable patch of dusty desert land.