Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dagoberto Gilb

The Magic of Blood (1993) was first published not in New York, but in New Mexico, and, defying expectations, won the 1994 PEN/Hemingway Award, the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction, and was a finalist for the PEN Faulkner Award.  The book is now considered a classic not only of Chicano literature but of the American Southwest.  It also created a populist stir among those interested in the virtually abandoned American working-class, and made Gilb a voice of labor and unionism, once even as a headliner alongside legendary folk singer Pete Seegar.
The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuña (1994) has been compared more to European novels than American ones.  An experimental novel in style and approach, Southwestern in landscape, its speech is both Chicano and ordinary, while its condensed language and composition disguises a deeply layered complexity.  A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, the novel is well-known to those from Los Angeles to New York who teach cross-cultural "border" issues, be they metaphorical or real.
Woodcuts of Women (2001) has been Gilb's most media celebrated book.  A collection of stories about men obsessed with women, this collection overturns the idea that a man can't write stories about women that women will read, admire, and love themselves.   Popular and with wide appeal, it is also serious; stories in this volume had been published in The Threepenny Review, Ploughshares, The New Yorker, and Doubletake.

The Flowers
by Dagoberto Gilb
A 2008 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year

Published to rave reviews around the country, The Flowers is the latest novel from Dagoberto Gilb, winner of the PEN/ Hemingway Award for The Magic of Blood and most recently a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for his nonfiction collection, Gritos. Gilb, one of today’s most captivating and authentic fiction writers, is much admired for his compact style and socially brazen storytelling, and his fiction has been compared to Raymond Carver’s and Richard Wright’s. In The Flowers, Gilb has taken on the voice of a Chicano teenager looking at manhood. Sonny Bravo is a tender, smart Mexican American who has come to live at the Flowers, where he moved when his troubled and too beautiful mother Silvia remarried an Okie contractor named Cloyd Longpre. Sonny fills many days taking care of the building—sweeping the decks, taking out the trash, and entangling himself with the lives and stories of other tenants: Cindy, an eighteen-yearold druggie who is married and bored; Nica, a cloistered girl who cares for her infant brother; Bud, a muscled-up construction worker who hates blacks and Mexicans; and Pink, who sells used cars in front of the building. As Sonny observes a miniaturized world of prejudice at the Flowers, the neighborhood he lives in explodes with racial violence—and Sonny does what he can to save what’s good in his world. The Flowers is about rules that can be broken like wooden fences, and about the drive to find that which does not fall apart. Dagoberto Gilb, in his most commanding work yet, has written an inspiring novel about the want for love that transcends age, race, and time.

Book descriptions posted above are courtesy of Grove Atlantic Press website.

I read The Flowers last winter and from the first scene all the way to the end of the book Sonny is one of those characters who alternates between exhilarating you with his youthful, infectious energy for life and breaking your heart. He is a tough kid in a tough neighborhood, but Gilb manages to sweep away any stereotype one might bring with them into this reading and replace these notions with a concrete vision of humanity at its best—and worst. Sonny still resonates clearly in my mind as I reflect back on this brilliant novel, and along with the memory of Sonny comes a compassion and understanding that constitutes a void that I never knew I had until after I read this book. This is one of those important books that should be required reading for every American.

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I have enjoyed putting together our little bookstore up in Squaw Valley over the past four years. We love our bookstore and it has been your support that makes it all possible, so Thank You!

I have received many requests for an online SVCW Bookstore. Some who miss us when they are away, and others who are just tired of lugging all those hardcovers around on airplanes. There are also those writers who are honest about being broke and needing to purchase books at Amazon's discounted prices. As fellow writers, we understand your pain!

For these reasons I thought it would be fun to try our hand at a SVCW Books and Authors blog. I will track down our authors and past participants and post their books, news, reviews and information and link our SVCW books to Amazon. Ten percent of every book purchased through our blog will help support the bookstore. I am looking forward to building an online archive of the outstanding collection of books represented by authors who frequent the Community of Writers.

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Community of Writers Onsite Bookshop Manager