Loteria: And Other Stories

Ruben Mendoza, Author Buzz Books $12.95 (128p) ISBN 978-0-312-18129-1
The images that appear on the popular Mexican tarot-like card game of Loteria take on emblematic significance in the 11 stories of this rather scattershot first collection. At their best, Mendoza's stories reveal passionate characters facing problems common to Chicano characters in contemporary Southern California. But too often, these tales dissolve into highfalutin sentimentality or oddly old-fashioned, clunky ""gotcha"" endings. The title story is the longest of the collection and in many ways its keynote--a maudlin tale of orphanhood and incest told by Vida, a young girl whose mother, Esperanza, died giving birth to her. The last story chronicles Esperanza's hard, short life, while others have more tenuous connections to Vida and Esperanza: various family members are on a quest for ""golden pears and pearls"" or have nostalgic memories of the scent of ""warm rain and orchids."" Perhaps if Mendoza didn't strain quite so hard to sound literary (the last two pages quote T.S. Eliot and e.e. cummings), he would have found stronger, heavier ties to bind his tales together. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/02/1998
Release date: 03/01/1998
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