cover image Western Avenue and Other Fictions

Western Avenue and Other Fictions

Fred Arroyo. Univ. of Arizona, $15.95 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-0-8165-0233-2

Arroyo’s short stories depict the daily life of migrant workers in the U.S. struggling with identity and trying to find self-worth within the industrial world that thrives on their anonymity. Alternating between longer narratives and brief sensory glimpses of work, relationships, and memories, these stories confront characters with consistent bouts of failure, withering ambition, and separation from their homes and families. While the circumstances may differ, an overarching atmosphere of loneliness and longing comes to unify what at first seems disconnected. Arroyo returns intermittently to the same characters: we first meet Boogaloo in “A Case of Consolation”; having lost contact with his friends and family, he’s working at a Caribbean restaurant in Chicago. Arroyo (The Region of Lost Names) reintroduces him later, in “Acceptance,” intertwining him into accounts of Chango and Evelyn, a married couple who’ve lost their connection. Chango and Evelyn’s son, Ernest, is another recurring narrator; having been raised in hopeless conditions, he has little memory of the past to salve his present, working from field to factory. In the title story, Ernest dreams of finding a chance to leave—a dream that is always just out of reach for his relatives. A melancholy read, Arroyo’s stories paint a vivid picture of the migrant class, shining light on those frequently forgotten. (May)