The Last Laugh and Other Stories

Hugo Martinez-Serros, Author Arte Publico Press $9.5 (198p) ISBN 978-0-934770-89-7
In these 11 fictions, nearly all about Mexican-American boys growing up in Chicago in the 1940s and '50s, Martinez-Serros fashions spare, unadorned prose to create a complete world, an evocation of one minority group's struggles in a specific time and place. Significant characters, settings and themes recur throughout: cruel teachers; shrill, competitive schoolboys; volatile, exacting fathers and tolerant, nurturing mothers; and pervasive poverty and prejudice. Several powerful pieces focus on one family, the Riveras, particularly the father Jose Maria and his two youngest sons Lazaro and Jaime. In the lyrical, gentle ``Distillation,'' which first appeared in Chicago magazine, Jaime recalls a family trip when he was five to the city dump to gather scraps of edible food, the terrifying hailstorm that strikes and Jose Maria's god-like protection of the boys. ``Victor and David,'' the book's longest work, is a taut, piercing tale of the Moreno brothers, who are tragically estranged by societal pressures and biases. Martinez-Serros's debut is not always graceful, and his voice is sometimes unremarkable. But he is unfailingly devoted to his characters, and the strongest stories burn with a gritty, intense realism. (July)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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