Hotel Juarez

Manuel Ramos, Author
Daniel Chacon. Arte Publico (www.latinoteca.com), $17.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-55885-770-4
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Chacon, winner of the 2007 Hudson Prize for Unending Rooms, returns with a collection of short fiction concerned with American and Mexican relations in which a world of race and identity politics emerges. Linked but never repetitive, these beautiful stories are fresh, with just enough Borges-ian magic to make them feel extraordinary. The specter of Juarez's problems is at the forefront, and Chacon references everything from fascist dictators to Harold and the Purple Crayon. Some characters spill into other stories, others vanish without resolution. A library in "Birds" becomes the entire world for a couple that doesn't know each other's names, and Joseph, a recurring figure, buys a book of poetry to take on the feminine voice as protection in Juarez, where drug dealers, as in the story "14", appear in the guise of old men interested in tortas. The young girl in "Tasty Chicken" is afraid that glitter will infect her, while in "Sabado Gigante", Bruno, despite his large size, is more interested in playing with dolls than playing sports. From drug trafficking to murdered and missing women, Chacon addresses major issues without feeling preachy or heavy-handed. The stories are rooms, images that you can walk into, taking the reader to wherever Chacon wants him to go. (Apr.)
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