cover image Elegy on the Death of Cesar Chavez

Elegy on the Death of Cesar Chavez

Rudolfo A. Anaya. Cinco Puntos Press, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-938317-51-7

Chicano novelist Anaya pens an impassioned poem about the legendary labor leader (1927-1993) that gets bogged down in flowery metaphors. Anaya depicts Ch vez as ""a wind of change"" whose name is ""a soft breeze to cool the campesino's sweat,"" and describes Ch vez's opponents as ""arrogant hounds of hate"" living in ""a land grown fat with greed."" The verses move from grief to hope to a rousing call to action, honoring Ch vez's words in a refrain (""Rise, mi gente, rise!""), and are most effective when rooted in the specific (references to the San Joaqu n Valley and Sacramento where he organized members of the National Farm Workers Assoc., etc.). The abstract imagery unfortunately detracts from the poem's main thrust (""The future opens itself like the blossom/ That is his soul, the fruit of his labor./ He calls for us to share in the fruit""), and most of the facts are relegated to a note from the author and a chronology at the end. Threaded through with Christ imagery and references to Shakespeare and Shelley, this challenging work--despite its picture-book format--may be best suited for middle and high school-age students. Enriquez's surreal collage illustrations, presented as a series of old snapshots, convey interesting details but lack subtlety: Ch vez marches through oversize heads of lettuce, followed by a crowd of boycotters; the tendrils from a cluster of grapes twine around a policeman's gun as well as his handcuffed captive's wrists. A timeline poster on the back of the dust jacket captures key events in Ch vez's life. Ages 9-12. (Nov.)