THE SHORT SWEET DREAM OF EDUARDO GUTIRREZ

Jimmy Breslin, Foreword by . Crown $22 (208p) ISBN 0-609-60827-4

In November 1999, an itinerant worker—an illegal Mexican immigrant—drowned in a pool of concrete at a Brooklyn construction site. His story went all but unnoticed by the local press; what made headlines was the violation-prone developer's ties to the Giuliani administration. In this penetrating account, Breslin rescues the young man from the footnotes of history. Echoing his famous interview with the gravedigger at John F. Kennedy's funeral (and, in his title, a Hemingway short story), Breslin recounts Gutiérrez's time in Mexico and in America, where he "put up his young life to come to this curb and look for work to build a house for his future, and to buy book bags for his sisters in San Matías." The veteran journalist re-creates the harsh realities of migrant labor: the dangerous and costly border crossings, the overcrowded city apartments, the daily search for jobs, the backbreaking work, the meager pay, the discrimination, the pining for home. Through Gutiérrez's story, Breslin explores U.S. immigration policy, drug smuggling, political life in New York City, labor exploitation and the often corrupt and complex world of the building industry. Breslin's research is thorough, his writing seasoned and heartfelt—at times nothing short of poetic. Though Gutiérrez's tale can get obscured by the reportage and the myriad tangled relationships Breslin describes, in the end the narrative is loyal to its title. For it is about the dream—not only of Eduardo Gutiérrez, but of countless immigrants, legal and otherwise—and the ugly realities. (Mar.)

Forecast:Fans of Breslin's strong, punchy prose will be pleased to see it on full display here, and the book's consideration of immigration and xenophobia—issues infusing the current national dialogue—could give it an even wider resonance.

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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