As Carlos Cumpián points out in the introduction—the writers assembled in this anthology hail from diverse places and bring their regional spices to add to the literary salsa that is Cuentos Del Centro —California, Colombia, Texas, Peru. This was a revealing volume for me to read, since I’ve only experienced Latino culture on the American coasts: Puerto Rican, Colombian, and Cuban culture on the East Coast and Mexican and Central-American in the west—with sprinklings of others. The stories in this book were composed by writers in the Latino Writers Collective, which is based in Kansas City, Missouri.
Chato Villalobos’s opening story “Barrio Angels” begins, “Barrio Angels. That’s how we referred to our sistas from the barrio that were on the honor roll but liked kicking it with us bad boys when their papis weren’t watching.” The tales begin here and weave through myriad experiences and perspectives, from Xánath’s Caraza’s mystical and erotic fiction account “At the Café on Huanjue Xiang Street” (It traversed her; it lightly brushed her nipples and sex until it made her lose consciousness), to the very serious and enraging “Hijo con Filo” by Miguel M. Morales, which studies the inner-world of a young field worker whose family gets sprayed with pesticide, thanks to a cruel crop duster’s pilot.
Some of the stories discuss intergenerational themes (Whitney Boyd’s “No Tengas Vergüenza” and Linda Rodriguez’s “Why I Can’t Draw”); others recall toxic youth and folly (Maria Vasquez Boyd’s “Lucy in the Sky”). José Faus’s “El Regreso” is a haunting an introspective look at the longing felt for fathers who travel afar to work for too long, and Nathalie Olmsted’s “The Farmhouse” illustrates the terrifying crossroads where humanity and racism intersect, as witnessed by a Mexican family seeking refuge in a white family’s farmhouse, as tornados threaten to wreak destruction and terror on the open plains of Kansas.
Cuentos Del Centro features many other works I wish I could elaborate upon, and is a must-read for any collector of original Latino fiction, as it’s written by very different writers in varying phases of their craft and career. I’m looking forward to more, guys!
To purchase this book, click here: http://www.amazon.com/Cuentos-del-Centro-Stories-Heartland/dp/0979129125
Charlie Vázquez is a radical Cuban-Puerto Rican writer born and raised in the Bronx. He maintains an author website and blog at http://www.firekingpress.com and is a literary event organizer in New York City.
Story by Charlie Vázquez