The Molino

A Memoir

Melani Martinez (Author)
Hardcover ($26.95), Ebook ($26.95) Buy
Set in one of Tucson’s first tamal and tortilla factories, The Molino is a hybrid memoir that reckons with one family’s loss of home, food, and faith.

Weaving together history, culture, and Mexican food traditions, Melani Martinez shares the story of her family’s life and work in the heart of their downtown eatery, El Rapido. Opened by Martinez’s great-grandfather, Aurelio Perez, in 1933, El Rapido served tamales and burritos to residents and visitors to Tucson’s historic Barrio Presidio for nearly seventy years. For the family, the factory that bound them together was known for the giant corn grinder churning behind the scenes—the molino. With clear eyes and warm humor, Martinez documents the work required to prepare food for others, and explores the heartbreaking aftermath of gentrification that forces the multigenerational family business to close its doors.

The Molino is also Martinez’s personal story—that of a young Tucsonense coming of age in the 1980s and ’90s. As a young woman she rejects the work in her father’s popular kitchen, but when the business closes, her world shifts and the family disbands. When she finds her way back home, the tortillería’s iconic mural provides a gateway into history and ruin, ancestry and sacrifice, industrial myth and artistic incarnation—revealing a sacred presence still alive in Tucson.

A must-read for foodies, history lovers, and anyone searching for spiritual truth in the desert, this is a story of belonging and transformation in the borderlands. 

“Melani ‘Mele’ Martinez provides an in-depth look into the daily workings of El Rapido, a once-celebrated Tucson restaurant known for making the best tamales. Through heartfelt essays and pensamientos, Martinez’s portrayal of how it took a village to sustain the molino, which, in turn, nourished the community, is both captivating and enlightening. I highly recommend this informative and beautifully written book.”Lydia R. Otero, author of In the Shadows of the Freeway: Growing Up Brown and Queer

“Melani Martinez’s sumptuous words sizzled in my gut! The Molino is a feast, a gripping story about food, family, and ghosts that doubles as a microhistory of downtown Tucson. Martinez’s lyrical prose will keep you coming back to taste—and learn—more and more.”Daniel José Camacho, writer and former editor at Fortress Press and Sojourners 

“A powerful, visceral, and sometimes bitter and humorous memoir of heritage, identity, assimilation, and loss through gentrification.”—Patricia Preciado Martin, author of El Milagro and Other Stories

“Melani Martinez’s poetic vignettes about life inside her father’s molino business are so palpable, you can almost feel the volcanic stone. But what really captivates is her gentle rumination on what it means to be home, the forces that shape us, and the ghostly memories that we can’t shake, no matter how hard we try.”Lesley Téllez, author of Eat Mexico
“Martinez’s words provide a sensorial history and a vivid portal into Tucson’s Mexican past and present. The desert imagery and the warmth and grit of the kitchen shape every page. These precious and intimate family stories beautifully capture the memories and imagination of a Tucson daughter.”—Michelle Téllez, author of Border Women and the Community of Maclovio Rojas
“Astonishingly gorgeous and one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Melani Martinez combines storytelling and lyricism with such power and precision, The Molino becomes an urgent page-turner, a work that transforms haunt, loss, and elegy into the wisdom of the seer, the self-proclaimed knowledge of being, and of having been, a tamaléro’s daughter. This is as much a familial history as it is of neighborhoods in downtown Tucson, where poverty and gentrification intersect to reveal that grinding labor can never overcome the consuming demands of inexhaustible hunger, where sacrifice and luck buy little against death and sorrow, where house and home are lost to social factories that erase thought, dreams, and the possibility of sleep—but where the telling results in the triumph of the teller who, in love, raises her own true spirit while laying phantoms to rest.”—Gina Franco, author of The Accidental

“Step into the enchanted world of Martinez’s evocative prose and poetry, where the aroma of freshly made tamales spins a tale of love and a familial legacy within Tucson’s El Presidio neighborhood. Martinez intricately crafts a vibrant portrayal of a family deeply entrenched in tradition, their lives interwoven with the vibrant tapestry of Barrio Menlo’s streets. Martinez’s book has a level of intimacy previously unavailable to others, yet she delivers an unfiltered view into familial history, capturing ‘remembering as an anchor in an ocean,’ from Nana’s whispered tales to Tata’s enduring presence. These haunting vignettes shape a moving coming-of-age story, guiding a young Mexican woman on a journey of self-discovery that honors the heartfelt communion of shared feasts and the resilience of family bonds.”—Diana Marie Delgado, editor of Like a Hammer Across the Page: Poets Writing Against Mass Incarceration

The Molino
272 Pages 5.5 x 8.5
Published: September 2024Hardcover ISBN: 9780816552610
Published: September 2024Ebook ISBN: 9780816552627

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