Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Roll Out the Collection: Chola Debut

Review: Estella Gonzalez. Chola Salvation. Houston: Arte Publico, 2021. ISBN: 978-1-55885-914-2 

Michael Sedano 

I took a photograph of author Estella Gonzalez during a 2008 book festival at Cal State LA. 
It was her debut as an anthologized writer. 

Soon thereafter, I got to hear Estella read again from Latinos in Lotusland, at the 
Autry Museum (link). 

The next year, when 2010's Yesterday•Today•Tomorrow Festival de Flor y Canto came to the University of Southern California, in a reunion of the historic 1973 floricanto, Estella clearly had to take the lectern on the festival's Tomorrow line-up.

Tomorrow arrives in 2021, for Estella Gonzalez at any rate, with publication by Arte Publico of Chola Salvation, her debut collection of short fiction.

People are going to make noise about this book. Some will be parents outraged at Gonzalez' dispassionate descriptions of sexual functions, of ugly sexual abuse. Some will be kids, adolescents like the 12-year old Beto who has no idea of his identity and no role model to figure things out. Others will be kids like the 16-year old Mireya who wants to efface herself behind maquillaje. 

Hopefully, some will be teachers and counselors handing the book to youth and saying, this is adult stuff that a lot of people your age face. Think about this in your world. 

Kids--YA--should read Chola Salvation and not because the kid's a chola or cholo, but because they're a kid. Stuff happens. You adults read it first.

Some of this stuff you hope not. But you gotta laugh at those monjas getting into a barfight.

This is fiction, remember. There's a lot of ugliness in this world.  Estella Gonzalez sets most of these stories in East LA. But Gonzalez isn't much concerned with place so much as the sordid, the hopeless  pain, the senselessness of abuse and its result in anomie, and the general worthlessness of some men. Or worse, sexual abuser men.

"Angry Blood" takes place in an El Paso hotel. A mother and daughter work as housekeepers. On the side, the mother whores for the soldiers from Ft. Bliss and traveling salesmen. Mother breaks daughter into the trade. In an Erendira-like turn, the daughter pulls in big money and it gives Mom second thoughts. People will scream about this one, for criminy sake! There's salvation in the story, so relax.

Here is Estella Gonzalez reading an early draft of a story that she turned into "Angry Blood." This powerful story is a good reminder that a writer can make even the worst things happen in fiction and it's up to the reader to watch her do it.


1 comment:

ndeneco said...

A review that compels one to buy the book. Well done. On my list, EM. Thank you. Nicki De Necochea