Uncivil Rights & Other Stories

Nash Candelaria, Author
Nash Candelaria, Author Bilingual Press/Editorial Biling-Ue $13 (128p) ISBN 978-0-927534-83-3
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
American Book Award-winner Candelaria describes the life of Alfonso Pena, the antihero of his title novella, as ""[a] pair of muddy shoes that left its tracks everywhere."" Written out of his mother's will, in danger of being evicted from his home by his own siblings, unemployable thanks to his past as a union organizer, Alfonso angrily holds everyone but himself responsible for his failures. Bit by bit, a pivotal event in Alfonso's past comes to light. In the 1970s, an ill-conceived rally speech at a teachers' demonstration led to fatal violence. Haunted by this event, Alfonso longs nevertheless for the lost excitement of the Movimiento. Instead of redirecting his energies toward a family or profession, throwback Alfonso tries to stage a demonstration at a local trial, but his efforts fall dismally flat. In this novella, Candelaria's skillful storytelling, wry humor and lack of sentimentality bring sympathy and interest to the plight of an unlikable character. What follows this strong opening is often far less complex. ""Radio Waves,"" about a disturbed child's increasing detachment from reality, is simplistic in its indictment of the boy's parents, who seem morality-play representations of materialism. On the other hand, in ""Dear Rosita,"" a story composed of letters from a working-class father in New Mexico to his Ivy League daughter, the father's sacrifices and love for his daughter bring the story to the border of saccharine. Clearly, Candelaria can create compelling characters, can write masterful tragicomic scenes and has considerable insight into Latino life in New Mexico; here he employs these admirable gifts only erratically. (Nov.)
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