Author Benjamin Alire Sáenz is the chair of the creative writing department of University of Texas at El Paso. Poets & Writers Magazine named him one of the fifty most inspiring writers in the world.
A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.
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.
Benjamin Alire Sáenz’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 Juárez two blocks south of the Rio Grande. It’s a touchstone for each of Sáenz’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. Sáenz 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.
The “Hollywood” where Sammy Santos and Juliana Ríos 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 his 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; the memory of Juliana becomes his guide through the difficult year ahead. 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 Sáenz, 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.