Synopses & Reviews
In the border shantytown of Ysleta, Mexican immigrants Pilar and Cuauhtémoc Martínez strive to teach their four children to forsake the drugs and gangs of their neighborhood. The familys hardscrabble origins are just the beginning of this sweeping new novel from Sergio Troncoso.
Spanning four decades, this is a story of a familys struggle to become American and yet not be pulled apart by a maelstrom of cultural forces. As a young adult, daughter Julieta is disenchanted with Catholicism and converts to Islam. Youngest son Ismael, always the bookworm, is accepted to Harvard but feels out of place in the Northeast where he meets and marries a Jewish woman. The other boys—Marcos and Francisco—toil in their fathers old apartment buildings, serving as the cheap labor to fuel the familys rise to the middle class. Over time, Francisco isolates himself in El Paso while Marcos eventually leaves to become a teacher, but then returns, struggling with a deep bitterness about his work and marriage. Through it all, Pilar clings to the idea of her family and tries to hold it together as her husbands health begins to fail.
This backdrop is then shaken to its core by the historic events of 2001 in New York City. The aftermath sends shockwaves through this newly American family. Bitter conflicts erupt between siblings and the physical and cultural spaces between them threaten to tear them apart. Will their shared history and once-common dreams be enough to hold together a family from Ysleta, this wicked patch of dust?
“One reads From This Wicked patch of Dust and can only pause for a moment to say, ‘Yes. Sergio Troncoso writes with inevitable grace and mounting power. Family, in all its baffling wonder, comes alive on these pages.” —Luis Urrea, author of The Hummingbirds Daughter
"Troncoso is clearly adept at his craft, telling a story filled with rich language and the realities of family life. With its skillful pairing of conflict over religious and familial obligations with the backdrop of a Mexican-American family’s love for one another, Troncoso’s novel is an engaging literary achievement." —Kirkus Reviews
"From This Wicked Patch of Dust, Sergio Troncosos new novel, is the story of the Martinez family; the parents who leave their home in Mexico in search of a new, better life across the border; their children - three boys and a girl - who grow up between cultures, who struggle to find, understand and ultimately claim their own place in this world. The novels structure is elegant and seemingly simple - chapters arranged chronologically, snippets of life, at times fully dramatized in vivid scenes, at others condensed in efficient summary. The pages turn, the children grow up, their parents grow old. The bordertown changes. What is it to be American, Mexican, Catholic, Jewish or Muslim? What is it to struggle - for sustenance, for the freedom to choose who you want to be? Effortlessly, with elegance of style, Troncoso weaves a tapestry of lives, of human beings who by the end of the book feel not just real, not just intimately close, but undeniable, inescapable, a part of ourselves."—Judges' Comments, Fiction, PEN Texas Award for Fiction
Spanning four decades, this is a story of a family's struggle to become American and yet not be pulled apart by a maelstrom of cultural forces.
About the Author
Sergio Troncoso is a graduate of both Harvard College and Yale University and the author of The Last Tortilla and Other Stories and The Nature of Truth: A Novel, the former also published by the University of Arizona Press.