Tuesday, July 10, 2007

From Here You Can Almost See the End of the Desert

Michael Sedano

From Here You Can Almost See the End of the Desert. Aaron Michael Morales. Momotombo Press. Later 2007.

It speaks volumes for multiculturalism that a Nicaraguan volcano, the state of Indiana, and a big football school like Notre Dame can contribute to the world of chicano literature. Momotombo Press, hosted at Notre Dame University in South Bend, publishes Latina Latino literature that offers a reminder of the "all-American" nature of chicana chicano writing.

Momotombo specializes in chapbooks, small collections of mostly poetry or prose that bring new writers to a readership. The chapbook offers a taste of things to come, a teaser, of future work. Six titles available now are at the publisher's website, linked above. Coming soon is a seventh, Aaron Michael Morales' "From Here You Can Almost See the End of the Desert."

Aaron Michael Morales edits the journal, "Indiana English," for the Indiana Council of the Teachers of English. Morales is also a soon to be published novelist of Drowning Tucson , three of whose chapters comprise the Momotombo chapbook "From Here...".

Based on the chapbook, I'm looking forward to seeing what Morales does with his novel. The three stories in "From Here..." include the perverse and the perversely hopeful--a mother drowns her baby, an easter egg hunter turns murderous, a gay teenager escapes to his own life.

The purely perverse story of the suicide is a heartbreaker. A woman is stuck in a dead-end life with her wife-battering alcoholic husband. She feeds her baby a last meal of menudo, dresses the baby in his cutest dinosaur outfit, then drives into the Arizona desert in a monsoon. Her last sight is a floating little dino sock. 

Just as perverse but offering a different intensity is the battered little white boy who wants to capture the golden egg and give it to his resentful drunken father. A little girl gets the egg first and to please Dad, the boy attacks the girl, drowns her in the duck pond, but he gets that golden egg and what happens next?

The perversely hopeful story begins with a battering, a gay boy is kicked to the ground and whipped with steel chains. The Sheriff labels the attack an accident. The dead boy had just been kissing a boy whose father pummels for being a gay son. This son walks two days in heat, from Ft. Huachuca to Tucson, to escape that world.  A blast of refrigerated air  and thirteen dollars are all he needs to know he's free, doesn't matter what comes next.

I look forward to learning how the author connects the three stories into a novel. Battering seems to play a major role in characters' lives, how sad. I was a little surprised when the battering asshole's name from the first story pops up out of nowhere in the easter story, along with a racist's unflattering take on Rogelio Nuñez' wife, and Mexicans generally, and wonder how it could be the same Rogelio? Arizona clearly is the setting for two of the stories, two of the three characters are probably Mexican immigrants or Chicanos.

So, it's not entirely Indiana, and I suppose it's an unfair stereotype to be surprised to find good writing coming out of the heartland. After all, aren't Lisa Alvarado and Ana Castillo from Chicago?

Early July already! Looking for something new to read? Contact Momotombo and order the chapbooks, including "From Here You Can Almost See the End of the Desert". La Bloga will have publication data on Aaron Michael Morales' novel, Drowning Tucson, when it is available. 

As always, La Bloga welcomes your comments on every column, and encourage writers to join us as a La Bloga Guest Columnist. Joining as a guest is tan facil. Just send an email to a Bloguera Bloguero or click here right here. Until next week, then, hay les wachamos.



Anonymous said...

M - A great review of what is not an 'easy" read, a book about human loss and acts of cruelty, but still stories we need to know.

And sir, your caballerismo is intact! Thank you for mentioning the Chicago hometown girls, although I'm not in the same category as Ana Castillo, but it's nice to see my name so close.

Lisa Alvarado

Francisco Aragón said...

Dear Michael:

Thank you for advanced publicity on Aaron's forthcoming Momotombo Press chapbook. It's roughly slated for a spring 2008 release as there are two titles slated before his.

Momotombo Press is part of Letras Latinas---the literary program of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame.