Thursday, April 16, 2015

Chicanonautica: The Mirror is Smoking . . .

I don't usually read YA. Maybe it's because I'm old. I remember when the category first appeared, and I wasn't impressed. It all seemed to be the bullshit stuff they had in the school library that was approved by church and municipal authorities. Why should I bother with that when I could read underground comix, Vampirella, and Harlan Ellison?

David Bowles' The Smoking Mirror is different, right up my weird artifact-littered alley – we've got hero twins (a boy and a girl), nagualism (shape-shifting in gringospeak), and all kinds of pre-Columbian mythology that dovetails in with gritty realities of modern life on the border, like drugs and gangs. Not only is this an exciting page-turner that will tear the kids away from their video games, but it could be used by clever teachers – and other gurus – as an introduction to our mythology for the new generation.

If there were books like this in my school library, I would have gone for them.

Bowles really knows his stuff, being a scholar who translates Nahuatl poetry. He also knows how to tell an exciting story. There are places in the book where I could smell Mexico.

Kids will love this Orpheus-like journey of a brother and sister, as they discover their shape-shifting nagual-powers, into an Aztec/Mayan underworld to find their mother. And they have fantastic adventures among places, things, and creatures the likes of which Harry Potter never encountered. And Tezcatlipoca himself showes up.

It's cleverly packaged with manga-like art. Not my cup of pulque, but the target audience will dig it.

It's subtitled Garza Twins: Book One, so more are in the works. Who knows, after a few years the young readers might prefer this to Harry what'shisname . . .

Ernest Hogan owes it all to Tezcatlipoca. His books are not recommended for childern. Please don't confuse  David Bowles' The Smoking Mirror with Ernest Hogan's Smoking Mirror Blues (to be republished as Tezcatlipoca Blues, but that's another story . . . and Tezcatlipoca is probably responsible for that, too).

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