cover image Gordo


Jaime Cortez. Black Cat, $16 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-8021-5808-6

Artist and graphic novelist Cortez (Sexile) celebrates Chicano life in this exuberant collection. Stories such as “El Gordo” focus on the experiences of the title character, a child of migrant farm workers. Cortez then moves with ease from depictions of Gordo’s family to the intersecting lives of the inhabitants of Watsonville, Calif., in the 1970s. In “The Jesus Donut,” a heretical young girl becomes a hero after she shares a donut with other kids, offering bits of it as communion. In “Alex,” Gordo’s family helps out their injured butch lesbian neighbor, Alex, and the burgeoning friendship becomes a cover for Gordo’s mother to help Alex’s abused femme partner escape to safety. In “The Problem of Style,” bullied sixth grader Raymundo gains confidence when he decides to grow his hair out and become “artistic.” At their best, Cortez’s stories highlight the community’s functional and paradoxical stew of interpersonal relationships, brimming with threats as well as love. Cortez has a bright, clear voice that avoids stereotypes and navigates issues of identity with ease: “Raymundo tossed his hair, turned smartly on his heels, and crossed an unmarked border into a new country.” Readers will be delighted. (Aug.)