Sergio Troncoso will be at After-Words books on June 23, 2011 at 6 p.m. reading from and signing copies of his book This Wicked Patch of Dust (University of Arizona Press $17.95). Reception to follow.
In the border shantytown of Ysleta, Mexican immigrants Pilar and Cuauhtemoc Martinez strive to teach their four children to forsake the drugs and gangs of their neighborhood. The family’s hardscrabble origins are just the beginning of this sweeping new novel from Sergio Troncoso.
Spanning four decades, this is a story of a family’s struggle to become American and yet not be pulled apart by a maelstrom of cultural forces. As a young adult, daughter Julieta is disenchanted with Catholicism and converts to Islam. Youngest son Ismael, always the bookworm, is accepted to Harvard but feels out of place in the Northeast, where he meets and marries a Jewish woman. The other boys--Marcos and Francisco--toil in their father’s old apartment buildings, serving as cheap labor to fuel the family’s rise to the middle class. Over time, Francisco isolates himself in El Paso, while Marcos eventually leaves to become a teacher but then returns, struggling with a deep bitterness about his work and marriage. Through it all, Pilar clings to the idea of her family and tries to hold it together as her husband’s health begins to fail.
This backdrop is shaken to its core by the historic events of 2001 in New York City, which send shockwaves through this newly American family. Bitter conflicts erupt between siblings, and the physical and cultural spaces between them threaten to tear them apart. Will their shared history and once-shared dreams be enough to hold together a family from Ysleta, this wicked patch of dust?
Troncoso is the author of The Last Tortilla and Other Stories, which won the Premio Aztlan and the Southwest Book Award, and The Nature of Truth, a novel about a Yale research student who discovers that his boss, a renowned professor, hides a Nazi past.
He graduated from Harvard College, and studied international relations and philosophy at Yale University. He won a Fulbright scholarship to Mexico and was inducted into the Hispanic Scholarship Fund's Alumni Hall of Fame. He is a member of PEN. He writes the blog www.ChicoLingo.com, about writing, politics, and finance. Visit his list of recommended books at www.LiteraryLatino.com.