Hope for the future in memories and lessons ingrained at the Texas-Mexico border

SHORT STORIES

Sergio Troncoso

A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant’s Son

Cinco Puntos Press

Paperback (also available as an e-book), 978-1-9476-2733-8, 224 pgs., $16.95

October 15, 2019

 

Tiresome arguments still break out over this aging literary question: Is the short story dead? Then a book shows up providing a clear and definitive answer: absolutely not.

 

El Paso native Sergio Troncoso’s excellent new short story collection, A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant’s Son, takes the reader far, yet not far at all, from the currently troubled Texas-Mexico border. The prizewinning author focuses most of his well-written tales on the lives, conflicts, and contemporary situations of several Mexican Americans who have achieved degrees of success and assimilation in twenty-first-century New England and on New York’s Wall Street. They keep discovering that they are unable to leave behind their South Texas roots, the lessons and cautions they were taught by their parents and other relatives, and their shared experiences of being brought up near the border.

 

In one of the book’s thirteen stories, “This New Now,” a woman named Galilea who grew up in El Paso County is living with her Jewish architect husband, Ben, in an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “She had never expected to be living in New York,” Troncoso writes. “Yet, because she had left the border, she had found the Hudson River, she designed websites with a creative edge, and she did not have to explain herself, or what she did, to anybody. In New York, as long as one paid the bills and was relatively quiet, no one cared what god a person followed, if she followed any god, what religion she practiced, if any, or what she did at night, if she did anything at all.”

 

Galilea’s comfortable New York life, however, is spun in new directions, first by a chance meeting at a Cinco de Mayo party at Columbia University for “El Pasoans in Exile” and then by a devastating loss.

 

Several border-related themes are integral to Troncoso’s stories. Racial differences, interracial relationships, incidents of machismo, and feelings of being a stranger in a strange land sometimes affect the characters’ lives and relationships. At the same time, the characters also face concerns that are more universal, such as aging, love, marriage, death, self-reflection, and adapting to new places and new circumstances far from home.

 

The book’s final three stories are darkly futuristic yet imbued with borderland recollections and ghosts. They also raise important questions regarding what our nation and culture are becoming.

 

Troncoso’s writing credits include another short story collection, The Last Tortilla and Other Stories, an essay collection, and two novels. He teaches at the Yale Writers’ Workshop, is Vice President of the Texas Institute of Letters, and is a member of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Alumni Hall of Fame. His literary honors include the International Latino Book Award, the Premio Aztlan Literary Prize, and the Southwest Book Award.

 

In A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant’s Son, Sergio Troncoso tells skillfully nuanced stories from the perspective of a poor immigrants’ son who has found success within the world of America’s elite universities and financial power, yet still feels adrift and alienated and seeks deeper meanings.

 

Where he finds hope for the future, his and the world’s, is in the simple yet wise words of his now-departed relatives and in memories and lessons ingrained in him at the Texas-Mexico border.

 

Sergio Troncoso is the author of The Last Tortilla and Other Stories, Crossing Borders: Personal Essays, and the novels The Nature of Truth, From This Wicked Patch of Dust, and the forthcoming A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant’s Son. He co-edited Our Lost Border: Essays on Life. Among the numerous awards he has won are the Premio Aztlan Literary Prize, Southwest Book Award, Bronze Award for Essays from ForeWord Reviews, International Latino Book Award, and Bronze Award for Multicultural Fiction from ForeWord Reviews.

 

For many years, Troncoso has taught at the Yale Writers’ Workshop. He is a member of the board of councilors and vice president of the Texas Institute of Letters. He was inducted into the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Alumni Hall of Fame and the Texas Institute of Letters. He also received the Literary Legacy Award from the El Paso Community College.

 

The son of Mexican immigrants, Troncoso was born and grew up on the east side of El Paso, Texas in rural Ysleta. Troncoso graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College and received two graduate degrees in international relations and philosophy at Yale University. He won a Fulbright scholarship to Mexico, where he studied economics, politics, and literature. The El Paso City Council voted unanimously to rename the Ysleta branch public library as the Sergio Troncoso Branch Library. Later the author established the annual Troncoso Reading Prizes for students in Ysleta. You can visit him online here: http://sergiotroncoso.com/.