Before the End, After the Beginning

Dagoberto Gilb, Author
Dagoberto Gilb. Grove, $24 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2000-7
Reviewed on: 08/15/2011
Release date: 11/01/2011
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-8021-4599-4
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PEN/Hemingway Award–winner Gilb’s 10 new tales, many written as the author recovered from a 2009 stroke, take on family ties, poverty, labor, and prejudice at the country’s borders, but defy racial and geographic boundaries even when they provide the principal conflict. In “Hacia Teotitlán,” a Mexican immigrant raised in L.A. struggles to resolve his dual identity; “Uncle Rock” finds an Americanized child trying to bond with his mother’s culturally naïve boyfriend. Financial divisions abound, as in “Willows Village,” where the shiftless Guillermo visits a wealthy relation, and the wonderful “Cheap,” the prescience of whose subjects—immigration policy and underpaid laborers—is rivaled only by the explicit address of Arizona’s immigration crackdown in “To Document.” And yet the most affecting story may be “please, thank you” for its depiction of a proud man recovering from a stroke and working his way back into language, as Gilb himself was forced to do. This new collection (after The Flowers) demonstrates that the author has more power than ever in addressing the conditions and contradictions of being split across cultures, and reminds us that every American, native or immigrant, is the product of a society that must learn to share or risk losing its founding graces. (Nov.)
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