By Luis Alberto Urrea
Place: Publisher & Year: El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press, 2002
Genres: Short stories, general fiction, magical realism
Intended audience: Adult
Number of pages: 146 (includes an afterword)
Settings: Range from Rosario to the outskirts of the city dump in Tijuana, Mexico and various locations in the US, including the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
Time period: 1970’s – contemporary
Description: This collection includes six stories which are followed by an afterword: “Mr. Medoza’s Paintbrush”, “Taped to the Sky”, “First Light”, “A Day in the Life”, “Father Returns from the Mountain”, “Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses”, and “Amazing Grace: Story And Writer”. In the author’s words – “the book is some kind of downward spiral. It starts out all full of jokes and ends in fire and poverty and death. It reflects an early fascination with escape, then deals with returning, then staying put and dealing with it, whatever it is” (p. 145). While this is an accurate description of the collection, it’s not a depressing spiral, but rather an uplifting one. In the non-joking stories, Urrea’s characters find grace and beauty in their situations.
Pacing: Lively paced stories
Characterization: Most of the stories are written in first person – “Taped to the Sky” and “A Day in the Life” are the exceptions. There is a wide range of characters found in these stories and one character – Don Her Many Horses – shows up in two stories.
Language: Poetically written with vivid dialog and descriptions.
Frame: The title sets the frame for the book; each story is associated with the sky in different ways.
Tone: The first two stories are much lighter than the others, of which some have intensely sad aspects to them.
Story line: Funny and sad stories which deal with loss and hope.
Indians of North America — Fiction.
Mexican Americans — Fiction.
Mexico — Social life and customs — Fiction.
Sherman Alexie – The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and The Toughest Indian in the World
Sandra Cisneros – Woman Hollering Creek: And Other Stories
Barbara Kingsolver – Homeland: And Other Stories
Personal notes: I took my time with this book, savoring each story. Some made me laugh, while others were incredibly sad, and some were both funny and sad. This is an incredible collection of work.
Other (diversity, themes, websites): Diversity – Mexicans, Native Americans: Sioux & Mixteca