Laura Avellaneda-Cruz's Reviews > Growing Up Latino

Growing Up Latino by Harold Augenbraum
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Oct 04, 11

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Read from December 20, 2010 to October 03, 2011

I only have 1 hand right now so this review will say less than I'd like.

Some of the stories in this collection were breathtakingly good. Some were good. Some made me wonder about the editors' judgment.

My favorite story in the collection is "First Communion" by Edward Rivera, a hilarious and painful recounting of Catholic school culture and religious lessons. What I like about this story, just as I do with "Silent Dancing" by Judith Ortiz-Cofer and "Pocho" by José Antonio Villareal, is the child-eye-view in which adult religious instruction is narrated. In "First Communion," the 8-year-old narrator writes:

"As if she had suddenly lost the lower half of her legs, she dropped to her knees--we all did--and bowed her covered head...while Father Rooney up front held the chalice over his head and turned burgundy to blood with the magic of Latin. Then he repeated the razzle dazzle with the "unlivened" wafers, and the tintinnabulator went into a fit of ring-a-lings as if the spirit of Saint Vitus had entered him; and the rest of us in the pews, and Sister in the nave, stared down at the ground, having ourselves a good dose of awe and other important emotions...Then Father Rooney lowered the cup called a ciborium, and the altar boy with the bells shook them again to inform us that the tasteless wafers had been turned...into Our Savior's flesh, fit for human consumption. Some of us cannibals back in the pews couldn't wait to get our teeth into Him." (p. 241)

(The cannibal word refers to what they were taught in class about the indio ancestors of the Puerto Rican students, like him.)

In Villareal' story, the pensive little protagonist wonders and is troubled by questions of God and creation and what was before God, then consoles himself b/c "he remembered that one does not question God.." but still considers to wonder and ask, and then thinks, "Someday he would ask, when he could ask it without getting mixed up; he was certain someone would tell him." (p. 166)

The stories explore religion, family, growing up in hostile and alien territory, lots of fighting, memory, youth-and-elder relationships and many more.

I question the (both male) editors' judgments in having included some stories that reek of machismo and a complete lack of understanding of women and girls, and no stories about the difficulties female immigrants faced with regard to bullying, etc. However, to their credit, they did include many great selections from women writers, such as a chapter from Sandra Cisneros' "The House on Mango Street," and Helena Maria ViraMontes' "The Moths, as well as very reflective and thoughtful stories by male authors such as Ed Vega's "An Apology to the Moon Furies."

I recommend this book for the richness and diversity (in terms of era, national origin, experience, narrative style) of its stories/memoir pieces, though I might skip a few stories if I were to read it over again.
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09/06/2011 page 85
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