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List of Bookmarks

Dear Readers: As usual, I turn over a December edición of my column each year to new Chicano-Mexican books you should stuff into a tamale leaf and give to folks so they have something to unwrap. While 2016 was a horrible year politically, the Santo Niño de Atocha saved it with a lot of amazing titles. Here we go!

Mozlandia: Morrissey Fans in the Borderlands, Melissa Mora Hidalgo: I wrote the forward to this academic-yet-street take on the eternal question: why do Mexicans like Morrissey so much? But rather than offer tired ivory tower takes, Profe Melissa interviews fans, goes to Manchester, and talks about her own worship of Steven Patrick. Fun, instructive, SAVAGE.

Food, Health, and Culture in Latino Los Angeles, Sarah Portnoy. Another academic who isn’t afraid of leaving their laptop to do actual research, the University of Southern California professor does everything from talk to celebrity chefs to eaters, farmers to tianguis folks to give insight into the breathtaking scene that is Latino LA food.

Give Me Life: Iconography and Identity in East LA Murals, Holly Barnet-Sanchez and Tim Drescher . The University of New Mexico Press consistently puts out chingón titles about the Mexican experience in the American Southwest, but this late release was 2016’s best: a hefty coffee table book documenting the beauty (see the pictures) and tragedy (many of the highlighted murals no longer exist) of public art in East Los Angeles.

The Mexican Flyboy, Alfredo Vea. I usually don’t care for fiction, but couldn’t put down this fantastical University of Oklahama Press release: think Garcia Márquez meets Octavia Butler meets Oscar Zeta Acosta.

Uprooting Community: Japanese Mexicans, World War II and the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, Selfa A. Chew. I always love books that offer a chinga tu madre to gabacho perceptions of what a “Mexican” is, and this smart University of Arizona Press study does just that, examining the rich culture that emerged between Japanese and Mexicans in Southern California. True story: the man behind canned menudo was a Japanese-Mexican from Wilmington, California! Wilmas, presente!

The Tacos of Texas: The homie Mando Rayo and his writing partner Jarod Neece devote over 400 pages and 300 photos to Texan taco culture, and I’m giving it the highest compliment one can give food writing: after reading just two pages, I was pinche hungry.

Corridors of Migration: The Odyssey of Mexican Laborers, 1600-1933, Rodolfo F. Acuña. For my oldie-but-goodie pick, try this 2007 masterpiece by the godfather of Chicano studies. If you want to know why Mexicans ended up where they did in los Estados Unidos, Profe Acuña goes from the era of the conquistadors up to the times of The Grapes of Wrath to unspool a sobering, yet inspiring tale.


California Mission Landscapes: Race, Memory, and the Politics of Heritage, Elizabeth Kryder-Reid. Out here in California, we’re taught in elementary school that missions set up by Catholic missionaries during the Spanish era were necessary to save the Indians; in college, we’re rightfully taught they were basically concentration camps. This University of Minnesota Press libro is of the latter school, but takes on the fascinating prism of gardens to tell its enrapturing narrative.

Barrio Writers, Sarah Rafel Garcia, editor. This annual anthology of pieces by high schoolers enrolled in a nonprofit writing workshop that spans from SanTana to Nacogdoches, Texas is never a dull read, as authors contribute everything from poetry to first-person testimonials to essays on subjects ranging being undocumented to la vida loca to nerd shit. Buy for the palabras, contribute to el movimiento.


Ask the Mexican at [email protected], be his fan on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

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  1. I recommend “Adios, America”
    by Ann Coulter.

    • Agree: boogerbently
    • LOL: frayedthread
  2. try R. Lynn’s (2006) “race differences in intelligence!”

  3. on a more positive note, any book by the great mexican historian, dr. andres resendez – especially his “a land so strange: the epic journey of cabeza de vaca.” it certainly deserves a wider audience. alas, mexicans aren’t much for reading books.

    • Replies: @Hannah Katz
  4. … do you don’t recommend*

    the bigger ones.

    Dictionary español-english (murrican version), give me one too, if you want…

  5. @Egregious Philbin

    Some read comic books. Or at least look at comic books.

  6. One thing we don’t have to worry about Mexicans.

    They will never make good suicide-bombers.

  7. Wow Gus. What an open ended solicitation. (and invitation for personal amusement) let me get started and readers can expand my list:

    1- La Raza Cósmica (pre and post-WW II versions) by José Vasconcelos

    2- Brown Gumshoes by Ralph E. Rodriguez (Chicano lit.)

    3- Memín Penguín comics by Yolanda Vargas Dulché and Sixto Valencia

    4- Emilia Cruz Mystery Series novels by Carmen Amato

    5- Pobrecita Yo, La Rea Feota by Elva Esther Gordilla

    6- La Dictadura Perfecta (a movie, not a book but I don’t wish to exclude the illiterati) by Luis Estrada

    • Replies: @frayedthread
  8. I recommend Prescott’s “conquest of Mexico”.

  9. @Jim Bob Lassiter

    Emilia Cruz Mystery Series novels by Carmen Amato

    I might want to read those, if they are well written. Ms. Amato doesn’t look too Hispanic though. Any good ‘tec/suspense fic from Latin America?

  10. @frayedthread

    A lot of people who make big bucks producing and selling mass entertainment to Mexicans don’t “look Hispanic”. I don’t know how well written they are as I only gave a cursory scan of a critic’s review. In that review, the critic mentioned that these novels are somewhat allegoric in that popular/infamous real life players in high and low places of Mexican society are represented by certain characters. What is ‘tec/suspense ?

    • Replies: @frayedthread
  11. 1) George Romney, Mormon in Politics by Clark R Mollenhoff

    I’m from El Paso, Tx so I will recommend a native son.

    2) Ringside Seat to a Revolution: An Underground Cultural History of El Paso and Juarez, 1893-1923 by David Dorado Romo

  12. @frayedthread

    “Ms. Amato doesn’t look too Hispanic though.”

    From Carmen Amato’s website:

    Are you Latina?
    No. I grew up in an Italian family where going to church every Sunday was an Event. My extended family all lived in the same city and came together for every holiday. My grandfather’s home movies were all of people eating. I loved all the associated rituals: helping my grandmother set the table with her good china, arranging pepperoni, olives, and roasted red peppers for the antipasto, cranking the handle of my grandparents’ pasta maker to turn out homemade capellini.

    When I moved to Mexico so much was already familiar. Church, family, rituals of food, celebrations of the homemade. It was easy to make it all my own.

    Do you speak Spanish?
    My Spanish is a work in process. It is the Spanish of someone who has forgotten more than she has ever learned and had a tin ear to begin with. I’ll be a student for a long time to come.”

    Under her About link, she has an article about her great-grandfather who murdered her great-grandmother. She also has an article about her orphaned grandmother.

    • Replies: @E. A. Costa
  13. @Triumph104

    Every language is a work in progress, even among monolinguals who think their mastery of their mother tongue is: (1) a “racial” or genetically acquired characteristic; and/or (2) the only true language, Adamic, pre-Adamic, or otherwise.

    • Replies: @E. A. Costa
  14. @E. A. Costa

    What the hell, Jesús, if pellicles is allowed, why not the Santo and the Monsters Box Set, Vol. 1?

    For the more literate, if you can get your hands on any of the original comics in even close to good condition, they are rarities that will continue to appreciate as well as be appreciated.

    Get cracking through those attics and cellars in Texas and California now.

  15. “Distant Neighbors ” is great, although a bit dated since its 1985 debut.

  16. fitzGetty says:

    Books. Mexico.
    I don’t … understand …

  17. Whoever says:

    I recommend Los de Abajo and The Lawless Roads, as well as The Power and the Glory, the work of fiction that emerged from the non-fiction work. Both the Graham Greene books are not to be missed, and the Mariano Azuela book gives a bottom-up, inside-out look at revolution.

  18. Adar. says:

    “The Gringo Stole our Land”. “89 Million Mexicans Died at the Alamo”. ” Speak Spanish or Else!”. “Simplified Tacos 1-2-3″.

  19. Mexico: Biography of Power by Enrique Krauze

    1) It’s by a Mexican.

    2) It’s well researched.

    3) It’s well written.

    One drawback is, when you put the book down at the end, you’re left with the distinct impression a calculator would be a necessary tool to have kept track of how many people were lined up against walls and shot in chapel courtyards…

  20. J1234 says:

    Ask a Mexican:

    Who makes the best taco shells?

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