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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book review: 'Boy Kings of Texas' highly recommended


I picked up this book from my favorite shelves, the new non-fictions, at my favorite public library, Fairfax County's. 

I have always loved memoirs.  This is a memoir.

That it was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award certainly attracted my attention.  That award is more creditable than, say, the New York Times' picks for the year, since I believe those editors don't pick the best, they pick their friends' books.  But, anyway...different subject.

The Boy Kings of Texas is all about growing up Mexican American in the 1970s and 1980s in Texas, Brownsville, Texas, with a cruel father who mistreated his children, and a mother who stood by and watched.  It's about family love with lots of humor scattered in-between the tales of drugs, sex, rock and roll, and fights.   It's a first-person account of fights, and I just hope my sons don't fight like this.  Or do drugs. Domingo Martinez describes what hard drugs can do to you and the worlds they reveal.  High school adventures, skipping school, all his different friends, and their abilities to "get by" are his life. 

The book becomes a mea culpa, a love song to his older brother, Dan. 
It's heartbreaking when Martinez leaves behind his little brother, Derrick.  But the sisters turned out all right, and who will ever forget the "Mimis" ?  What a hoot.

The author's move to Seattle become part of his darker story, nearer the end which digresses more into the hell of life as he mixes in day-to-day living with the jobless, the down-and-outers, the people who float in and out of our lives, and their effects upon us.  While I was reading, I kept thinking what a fantastic movie this would make, and now I see HBO has optioned it.

Boy Kings is excellently written, gripping, and very sad.  Why do people treat each other so cruelly? How Martinez was able to escape the madness of his upbringing mentally and emotionally is left unsaid.  Because he hasn't?

It's eye-opening for those of us who may have little or no contact with this segment of society, and it creates sensitivity (I hope) which was not there before.  Once you know a little about someone's background, there's not as much explaining to do. Kudos to the book's cover designer, Diana Nuhn.

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