cover image Capirotada: A Nogales Memoir

Capirotada: A Nogales Memoir

Alberto Rios. University of New Mexico Press, $19.95 (221pp) ISBN 978-0-8263-2093-3

A master of the coming-of-age story, R os is the author of several short story collections (The Iguana Killer, etc.). Fans of his fiction will recognize the origins of numerous stories in this short memoir of growing up in a small Arizona border town. The Nogales of R os's childhood shared a virtually open border with Nogales, Mexico: business was conducted casually between the two towns and playmates wandered back and forth. Now there is a solid steel wall separating the communities. ""This is not the border,"" R os writes. ""It's something else, something underscoring the difference between danger and grace, which is not something that separates people. It's something that joins them, as they face the same border."" The wall forms a dark subtext to this otherwise delightfully innocent memoir, which is magnified when R os and his first grade ""gang"" rush home to take midday baths after the sewage treatment plant contaminates the town's one dry riverbed. Later, effluents from unregulated maquiladoras (foreign-owned factories) create a stream that can bleach blue jeans on contact. Now Nogales has the highest rate of lupus in the U.S. But R os's memoir is not an environmental diatribe. Rather, it is an extremely personal family history filled with small anecdotes and finely drawn landscapes. As a literary autobiography, it is perhaps too true to its title (capirotada is a kind of catchall Mexican bread pudding): a collection of memories that fails to match the power of R os's fiction. (Oct.)