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Retablos: Stories from a Life Lived Along the Border
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Retablos: Stories from a Life Lived Along the Border

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4.21  ·  Rating details ·  78 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Seminal moments, rites of passage, crystalline vignettes--a memoir about growing up brown at the U.S./Mexico border.

The tradition of retablo painting dates back to the Spanish Conquest in both Mexico and the U.S. Southwest. Humble ex-votos, retablos are usually painted on repurposed metal, and in one small tableau they tell the story of a crisis, and offer thanks for its s
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Paperback, 168 pages
Published October 23rd 2018 by City Lights Books (first published October 16th 2018)
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4.21  · 
Rating details
 ·  78 ratings  ·  20 reviews


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Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
These vignettes about growing up a child of Mexican immigrants along the US/Mexico border were charming and touching and full of life. He is a beautiful writer and these stories flow easily. 4.5⭐ ...more
Lisa
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
With this collection of richly reconstructed scenes from his childhood and youth, Octavio Solis has created a vibrant collage of memories with an energy that reverberates throughout the reading experience. Passing through remembrances and thus musings on familial love and conflict, young passion and lust, a child's sense of freedom and constraint, racial conflicts across and alongside the border, one leaves this book a little wiser and also wondering about the lessons buried in our own stories.
Sarah
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I discovered Octavio Solis when Retablos was staged by Word for Word at a LitQuake event at the Elbo Room. The stories immerse you with their engaging prose, the universality of their familial characters, and small glimpses into Mexicanidad on the border. The author manages to infuse affection toward his bicultural identity and home, even when the reality was that he was growing up bicultural.ly on the border in a pretty racist environment given its proximity to Mexico and the continuous presenc ...more
David G
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great one day read. Poetic,honest,emotional,funny...everything a life (or 20 years and the reminiscence of those two decades)should be. But also present is the environment, the threads of the tapestry, or the shades of paint. Octavio Solis is a master writer, he uses sentences and words in so many different ways. To keep the painting metaphor it is a little realism, a little avant grade,a little impressionism and a little Pollock....
Great book.
Great book.
Trevor Boffone
Nov 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I wish I had time to formally write something but, in the meantime, I just wanted to say how I much I enjoyed reading Octavio Solis's memoir, "Retablos: Stories from a Life Lived Along the Border." The book is a perfect companion to Norma Elia Cantú's landmark "Canicula." Rather than Laredo, we get snapshots from Solis's memories in El Paso at a time when the border was more fluid and life was simpler (even if things were complicated at times). While Solis is best known as a playwright, this boo ...more
Chuck Kramer
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“A retablo is a devotional painting, usually laid on a small, thin plate of cheap, repurposed metal,” Solis writes in the introduction, “in which a dire event is depicted — an accident, a crime, an illness, a calamity, some terrible rift in a person’s life, which they survive thanks to the intercession of the Divine. They are ex-voto, that is, “from a vow,” commissioned and created as a form of thanks. At once visual and literary, they record the crisis, the divine mediation and the offering of ...more
David Lozano
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A damn good book. When I finished, I closed the book firmly and dropped it on the table with the force of a heartfelt hug. Octavio’s vignettes inspired by his childhood and youth in El Paso are raw and explosive. He made me feel like I was right there with him. I felt like I knew those places, the people and the difficult relationships but it takes a great writer to remind us of the unexpected richness and complexity of those times in our lives. Poetry, darkness and the hard living of this Chica ...more
Jennifer Burk
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The writing was spectacular and witty and fresh.

- Instead of letting it go, what I do like an idiot? I gather up all my hurt into this nasty little fixation and suck it up like a drug.

- Then come these black moods that I fall into like manholes.

- I find my dog-eared Brontë on the dresser. It’s assigned to us for English I, but right now I’m reading it for Biology.

-The greasy smell of gorditas frying on the skillet lends a little grace to the moment, but only a little. We’re both tense as fuck s
...more
Ruth
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved these stories. I had to take time in between them because they were so moving, so powerful. Solis captures such small details and makes them so real. I liked the 'growing up' aspect of the stories - El Paso is where he lived - and many of the dynamics of family are universal. Add the backdrop of 'the wall' and current politics and his stories take on all kinds of deeper meanings.
Bonnie Mcclellan-Broussard
An excellent collection of well-drawn stories. Each one of them stands on its own and yet they all gain from being grouped together. I particularly loved the book's introduction, it expressed something essential and resonant about the nature of family stories and Mr. Solis' motivation for writing them down. A true pleasure to read once and I feel certain that I will enjoy reading them again.
Ginny
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This sensitive portrayal of growing up in El Paso's lower valley captures the rich emotions and complex culture of life on the border during the 1960s and 1970s. Solis beautifully evokes the contradictory forces that shaped life for many of us during that bittersweet time of change in a harsh environment softened by a community's kindness, humor, and perseverance.
Monty
Jan 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Excellent memoir in 2-4 page chapter format with topics that informed of the El Paso/Juarez culture, especially lower income, border issues, coming of age, family closeness and strife, survival and more.
Sergio Troncoso
An excellently written series of vignettes about growing up in El Paso, which mixes memory and fiction. A homage in tightly written prose to familias and best friends and the Lower Valley and those of us who loved growing up in El Paso, however poor, despite the pain and confusion, and certainly because of the adventure and independence of being a young brown kid on the border.
Bj
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Portraits of immigration along the southern border. Many leave a lasting impression.
Donna Hester
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely stunning.
Pauline
Mar 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting stories of a childhood about the same time as mine but far away geographically and culturally.
Constance Palaia
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I want this book in my life for the rest of it
Stunning
Debbie Harmon
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Great writing. Vivid storytelling. The vignette about Diary of Anne Frank reminded me of everything I love about theatre and brought me to tears.
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