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Music of the Mill
Synopses & Reviews
In a stunning literary achievement — with a power and scope in the tradition of John Steinbeck and Theodore Dreiser — Luis J. Rodriguez captures the soul of a community and a little-known era in America's history in his epic novel about love, family, workers' rights, industrial strife, and cultural dislocation.
When the Salcido family departs for the United States, their flight is hardly different from the journeys of the indigenous tribes who roamed America for tens of thousands of years, or immigrants who sailed across entire oceans, or countless others who have left their native lands behind for the promise of a better life.
Traveling mostly on foot, Procopio Salcido and his future wife, Eladia, leave Mexico for the United States to escape the bleak realities of their homeland.
Finally settling in Los Angeles, the young couple discover that the hopes they have for their children must now be weighed against the backdrop of the mighty Nazareth steel mill, their engine for survival, which will eventually become the lifeblood of their own American dream.
Spanning sixty years and three generations, Music of the Mill is set in the industrial boom of post-World War II Southern California, where jobs seemed plentiful, communities thrived, and racial harmony prevailed. However, while postwar prosperity seemed to supply jobs to many migrant African American, Mexican, and poor white workers, in reality there was great struggle and racial discord — low-paying, backbreaking labor and the cruel manipulation by manufacturers who pitted groups of workers against one another.
For the Salcidos — especially for Procopio's idealistic son, Johnny, and his young family — the hard knocks of life often resound louder than their own sense of hope. When their aspirations have long since lost their luster, retaining their dignity and sense of worth becomes the family's greatest challenge.
Destined to be a classic of American literature, Music of the Mill, the long-awaited first novel by Luis J. Rodriguez, portrays the journey of one family caught in a web of politics, racial polarization, and corrupt unions' power struggles, revealing the drama, pain, joy, and humor of working-class life.
"Rodriguez chronicled his youthful days in an L.A. gang in his 1993 memoir, Always Running, and while his latest novel ends with a cautionary portrait of a gang soldier locked away for life, it focuses on diverse characters living, loving and just trying to get by in the L.A. barrios over a period of 60 years. Within the multigenerational saga of the Salcido family and its deep ties to the Nazareth Steel Mill, Rodriguez's main character is 20-year-old Johnny, a second-generation mill worker who tries to fight the abusive powers-that-be inside the operation's corporate and union hierarchies. The novel hums with intensity as Rodriguez passionately dramatizes the battle the mill's minority workers wage against the often-violent, KKK-aligned white mill workers in the 1970s. Rodriguez also does a wonderful job describing the cacophonous, overheated, smoke-filled plant: 'From the parking lot, Johnny sniffs the sulfur and limestone smells, the iron and coal dust, and he realizes what a powerfully sensual world the mill is.' Positive, uplifting messages woven into many scenes can make the book feel didactic, however. Rodriguez's heart is in the right place, but his ambitious, engrossing novel would have been more melodious had he taken a more subtle approach to the book's politically and socially progressive agenda. Agent, Susan Bergholz. 6-city author tour. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
From the author of "Always Running: La Vida Loca" comes an epic novel about three generations of an American family who have built their lives around the decaying steel industry of the late 20th century.
About the Author
Luis J. Rodriguez is the author of several critically acclaimed books, including Always Running, The Republic of East L.A., and Hearts and Hands, as well as poetry and books for children. He lives with his family in California.
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