Son of Two Bloods

Vincent L. Mendoza, Author University of Nebraska Press $30 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8032-3188-7
In his spare memoir Mendoza recalls a life lived between two cultures (his father is Mexican, his mother is Creek Indian) but never entirely comfortable in either. Early on, he says, ""I envied my Indian cousins and Mexican cousins, for they were one race. They knew where they belonged."" Unfortunately, this is one of the few insights in this first work, winner of the 1995 North American Indian Prose Award. Born in Tulsa in 1947, Mendoza was content playing saxophone in his uncle's mariachi band. Then his best friend was killed in Southeast Asia, and Mendoza joined the Marines and set off for several months in Vietnam. Encounters with overt discrimination were fewer than might be expected in this less enlightened time, although he does recall offhand racist remarks (one teacher told a white classmate, ""Never, ever, stand next to an Indian... He's a dirty, stinking Indian!""). The prose is artless and the anecdotal style at first seems charming, but wears thin as each successive yarn goes nowhere. There is little depth and the reader never gets the sense of knowing the author. Yet there is a sweetness and straightforwardness that is refreshing in this simple recounting of the tragedies and joys that delineate an American life. Ultimately, it's not that it's a bad book, it just isn't much of a book. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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