Notes from an American Life
Here’s a story about a family that comes from Tijuana and settles into the ‘hood, hoping for the American Dream.
. . . I’m not saying it’s our story. I’m not saying it isn’t. It might be yours. “How do you tell a story that cannot be told?” writes Luis Alberto Urrea in this potent memoir of a childhood divided. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and an Anglo mother from Staten Island, Urrea moved to San Diego when he was three. His childhood was a mix of opposites, a clash of cultures and languages. In prose that seethes with energy and crackles with dark humor, Urrea tells a story that is both troubling and wildly entertaining. Urrea endured violence and fear in the black and Mexican barrio of his youth. But the true battlefield was inside his home, where his parents waged daily war over their son’s ethnicity. “You are not a Mexican!” his mother once screamed at him. “Why can’t you be called Louis instead of Luis?” He suffers disease and abuse and he learns brutal lessons about machismo. But there are gentler moments as well: a simple interlude with his father, sitting on the back of a bakery truck; witnessing the ultimate gesture of tenderness between the godparents who taught him the magical power of love. “I am nobody’s son. I am everybody’s brother,” writes Urrea. His story is unique, but it is not unlike thousands of other stories being played out across the United States, stories of other Americans who have waged war—both in the political arena and in their own homes—to claim their own personal and cultural identity. It is a story of what it means to belong to a nation that is sometimes painfully multicultural, where even the language both separates and unites us. Brutally honest and deeply moving, Nobody’s Son is a testament to the borders that divide us all.
American Book Award winner!"Energetic and darkly humorous memoirs about a childhood divided between Mexico and the United States. . . . The essential tone is of self-deprecating humor about the challenge of explaining a dual identity, a task he accomplishes with passion and understanding." Library Journal"A candid personal statement, simple, warm, and at times outright moving . . . The book has insight, affords a happy offering of lyrical phrases and images, and yet manages to be a smooth and effortless read. Young readers of mixed background, searching for self-definition in environments that define them as 'other,' will likely find comforting company in these pages. But I suspect it will take mature readers to appreciate some historical and political comments, the pervasive but subtle sense of humor that accompanies the reflective hindsight, and above all, the simple beauty of the writing. . . . Highly recommended." Multicultural Review"Urrea's staccato phrases build up to a vivid, often brutal image." Publishers Weekly"A bruising, powerful memoir. . . . He cuts through the thicket of language and cultural contradictions, offering up both humorous looks at his life and troubling memories. . . . Urrea's honest personal account will trigger anyone's memories of growing up where culture, ethnic identity and language clash. In today's America, that's nearly everyone." San Diego Union Tribune"Urrea ia not simply a great writer and a wonderful storyteller; he is completely enamored with words and language." Booklist"Lyrical and often painfully funny snapshots of a family damaged as much by alcohol and poverty as by the push and pull of cultures in conflict." Dallas Morning News"Nobody's Son is an engaging reflection of life, conflict and spirit. It shows how Urrea applies lessons learned to his own development in his continued search for self." Rocky Mountain News"Colorful narratives of family history, boyhood vignettes and social commentary that are at once funny, sad, tough and tender." Arizona Republic"The cross-cultural conflicts of Urrea's youth are grist for his literary mill, and he writes about them in a compelling, vivid style laced with self-deprecating humor. His love of the English languagehis second languageis as obvious as his mastery of it." Christian Century