Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
The Espejo family of El Paso, Texas, is like so many others in America in 1967, trying to make sense of a rapidly escalating war they feel does not concern them. But when the eldest son, Gustavo, a complex and errant rebel, receives a certified letter ordering him to report to basic training, he chooses to flee instead to Mexico. Retreating back to the land of his grandfather—a foreign country to which he is no longer culturally connected—Gustavo sets into motion a series of events that will have catastrophic consequences on the fragile bonds holding the family together.
Told with raw power and searing bluntness, and filled with important themes as immediate as today’s headlines, Names on a Map is arguably the most important work to date of a major American literary artist.
This immensely moving novel confronts divisions of race, gender, and class, fusing together the stories of people who come to recognize one another from former lives they didn't know existed -- or that they tried to forget. Diego, a deaf-mute, is barely surviving on the border in El Paso, Texas. Diego's sister, Helen, who lives with her husband in the posh suburbs of San Francisco, long ago abandoned both her brother and her El Paso roots. Helen's best friend, Lizzie, a nurse in an AIDS ward, begins to uncover her own buried past after a mystical encounter with a patient. With Carry Me Like Water, Benjamin Alire Sáenz unfolds a beautiful story about hope and forgiveness, unexpected reunions, an expanded definition of family, and, ultimately, what happens when the disparate worlds of pain and privilege collide.
Benjamin Alire Saenz's stories reveal how all borders--real, imagined, sexual, human, the line between dark and light, addict and straight--entangle those who live on either side. Take, for instance, the Kentucky Club on Avenida Juarez two blocks south of the Rio Grande. It's a touchstone for each of Saenz's stories. His characters walk by, they might go in for a drink or to score, or they might just stay there for a while and let their story be told. Saenz knows that the Kentucky Club, like special watering holes in all cities, is the contrary to borders. It welcomes Spanish and English, Mexicans and gringos, poor and rich, gay and straight, drug addicts and drunks, laughter and sadness, and even despair. It's a place of rich history and good drinks and cold beer and a long polished mahogany bar. Some days it smells like piss. "I'm going home to the other side." That's a strange statement, but you hear it all the time at the Kentucky Club.
Benjamin Alire Saenz is a highly regarded writer of fiction, poetry, and children's literature. Like these stories, his writing crosses borders and lands in our collective psyche. "Poets & Writers Magazine "named him one of the fifty most inspiring writers in the world. He's been a finalist for the "Los Angeles Times "Book Prize and PEN Center's prestigious award for young adult fiction. Saenz is the chair of the creative writing department of University of Texas at El Paso.
Zach is eighteen. He is bright and articulate. He's also an alcoholic and in rehab instead of high school, but he doesn't remember how he got there. He's not sure he wants to remember. Something bad must have happened. Something really, really bad. Remembering sucks and being alive - well, what's up with that?
The first day of senior year:
Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.
Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?
The "Hollywood" where Sammy Santos and Juliana Rios live is not the West Coast one, the one with all the glitz and glitter. This Hollywood is a tough barrio at the edge of a small town in southern New Mexico. Sammy and this friends--members of the 1969 high school graduating class--face a world of racism, dress codes, war in Vietnam and barrio violence. In the summer before his senior year begins, Sammy falls in love with Juliana, a girl whose tough veneer disguises a world of hurt. By summer's end, Juliana is dead. Sammy grieves, and in his grief, the memory of Juliana becomes his guide through this difficult year. Sammy is a smart kid, but he's angry. He's angry about Juliana's death, he's angry about the poverty his father and his sister must endure, he's angry at his high school and its thinly disguised gringo racism, and he's angry he might not be able to go to college. Benjamin Alire Saenz, evoking the bittersweet ambience found in such novels as McMurtry's "The Last Picture Show," captures the essence of what it meant to grow up Chicano in small-town America in the late 1960s.
Benjamin Alire Saenz--novelist, poet, essayist and writer of children's books--is at the forefront of the emerging Latino literatures. He has received both the Wallace Stegner Fellowship and the Lannan Fellowship, and is a recipient of the American Book Award. Born Mexican-American Catholic in the rural community of Picacho, New Mexico, he now teaches at the University of Texas at El Paso, and considers himself a "fronterizo," a person of the border.
From award-winning poet Benjamin Alire Sáenz comes In Perfect Light, a haunting novel depicting the cruelties of cultural displacement and the resilience of those who are left in its aftermath.
In Perfect Light is the story of two strong-willed people who are forever altered by a single tragedy. After Andés Segovia's parents are killed in a car accident when he is still a young boy, his older brother decides to steal the family away to Juárez, Mexico. That decision, made with the best intentions, sets into motion the unraveling of an American family.
Years later, his family destroyed, Andés is left to make sense of the chaos -- but he is ill-equipped to make sense of his life. He begins a dark journey toward self-destruction, his talent and brilliance brought down by the weight of a burden too frightening and maddening to bear alone. The manifestation of this frustration is a singular rage that finds an outlet in a dark and seedy El Paso bar -- leading him improbably to Grace Delgado.
Recently confronted with her own sense of isolation and mortality, Grace is an unlikely angel, a therapist who agrees to treat Andés after he is arrested in the United States. The two are suspicious of each other, yet they slowly arrive at a tentative working relationship that allows each of them to examine his and her own fragile and damaged past. Andés begins to confront what lies behind his own violence, and Grace begins to understand how she has contributed to her own self-exile and isolation. What begins as an intriguing favor to a friend becomes Grace's lifeline -- even as secrets surrounding the death of Andés' parents threaten to strain the connection irreparably.
With the urgent, unflinching vision of a true storyteller and the precise, arresting language of a poet, Sáenz's In Perfect Light bears witness to the cruelty of circumstance and, more than offering escape, the novel offers the possibility of salvation.