CBR16SweetChallenge #New (representation in my reading)
They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid’s Poems came to my attention because there was an online reader copy of the companion novel, They Call Her Fregona: A Border Kid’s Poems and I realized that while it might not need to be read in order, it might be a good idea to get this first one. Author David Bowles has a story that was new to me (after all I thought I didn’t know them, but I had read Ancient Night by David Alvarez and Bowles). I have read diverse books, but seem to be drawn to Asian-based stories, not Hispanic. And when I have read them it is usually about a kid who is solid in Mexico and living there, with the troubles they must face, and/or trying to come to the US. Or it is a solid “in the States” and dealing with those issues (deportations, racism, poverty, lack of self-esteem, trying to “stick it” to society, etc.) story. But this is different. Guero is a kid who has a foot in all the worlds. He literally lives on the US/Mexican border and can cross over relatively easily (yes, there are issues, but he can legally cross knowing he should be able to return). And he has a foot in the world of his family and a foot in the world of school. He has a foot in the “looks department” too. He takes after the Irish side of the family, with his red hair and light skin. Which means, he will be more likely to be able to have a door opened for him, and his job is to keep it open for the next person (like his uncle who should have gone to college to be a lawyer, but of course, had the doors locked).
Yet, it is not dwelling on that, or the things we usually see. This time we are seeing “The Day in the Life” of the narrator-by the narrator. In prose poetry (of mixed styles and formats), Guero’s life unfolds. The trips with just him and his mom, the family building a house (literally) and building a home (figuratively), the antics and trouble he gets into with his cousins, the dynamic he has with his sister and brother, the connection with his father, even the type of music his family listens too and the vehicles they drive and how both fit their personality. Yet there are also poems about how he likes poetry, the culture his teachers bring into the classroom, the representation of all the types of kids who live on the border (from different countries, biracial, languages, etc), how he stands up to bullies, how he gets a girlfriend, how he makes friends, the loss of his beloved dog, and yes, some racism. Plus there is some historical context as well (the era/setting and the history of the area, the people who live there). There are a few slurs used and sometimes the language is not completely clear as I backtracked trying to “grab” the point, but just take your time reading this sweet story about a middle school boy, his friends, and his family.
Though it is written as poetry, the text reads as a novel. They are shorter poems (only a few pages each, but the library book I had was a small mass market sized book) and therefore read quickly, but they pack a ton of goodies inside. They paint a picture of what is happening, even the feelings (I could see the last moments of the dog, the basketball game where the chants of “we**ack” and “build the wall” are hollered, the kids running in the desert, the bottle rocket incident, coming home after a Father’s Day outing and his father going to spend time with “the other children” but Guero knows he is the one his dad loves the best). It is oddly cozy, also familiar and relatable. Bowles does not get “lofty” or “artsy” with their work, but there is a poetic flow of things.