cover image They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid’s Poems

They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid’s Poems

David Bowles. Cinco Puntos, $18.95 (160p) ISBN 978-1-947627-06-2

Growing up as a Mexican-American “border kid, a foot on either bank,” the 12-year-old narrator of Bowles’s skillful, moving novel-in-poems details his seventh-grade year. Güero, so called for his rusty-colored hair and pale, freckled skin, enjoys life with his large family in a home that “glows warm with love,” but at school, he’s taunted about his complexion and bullied by enormous classmate Snake Barrera. With humor and sensitivity, Bowles (The Hidden City) mixes family scenes—such as Fourth of July celebrations and older relatives’ frank, enraging accounts of discrimination—and junior high concerns, including Güero’s relief when he and his friends (“diverse nerds and geeks”) take refuge in the library and his astonishment when he learns that brave, tough Joanna likes him back. The selections employ an impressive range of poetic styles and rhythms to amplify meaning and emotion: Joanna gets an appropriately romantic sonnet; “Borderlands,” with its thin strip of lines, is almost a concrete poem; a marching beat and rhyming couplets in “Sundays” echo the repetitive sameness of a family’s weekend routine. An achievement of both artistic skill and emotional resonance, Bowles’s volume is both a richly rewarding tour through many borderlands, including adolescence itself, and a defiant celebration of identity: “no wall, no matter how tall, can stop your heritage.” Ages 10–14. (Sept.)