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Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Getting Out of Dodge City, Heading for L.A. on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe is a short novel that reads like a memoir and that will appeal to those interested in black American history and the dynamics of poor black American families from the early 1800s to the 1960s.

The story begins in 1821 with our narrator talking about the origins of the Atchinson, Topeka and the Santa Fe railroads, how they replaced the old Santa Fe Trail, and the impact they had on the people of Dodge City, Kansas. Author Clifton E. Marsh describes the city as “the dust bowl queen of America,” a dry place where “the wind and sand blew so hard a man could catch sand pneumonia.” It is in the heart of this city where our narrator’s family come from, starting with General Burnie, the imposing grandfather who was a laborer at the railroad. The tale spans three generations, from the grandfather to his beautiful daughter Marguerite who eventually moves to Los Angeles and marries Clifton, to her two sons, Jesse and Hugo, born from different fathers and who both live different painful lives that reflect the lives of other Black men during the 50s and 60s. Homelessness, street gangs, sexual and drug abuse are just some of the subjects explored in this story. 

Because it has lots of narration and exposition and very little dialogue, Getting Out of Dodge City, Heading for L.A. on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe reads more like a memoir than a novel. I was a bit put off by several punctuation mistakes and by the use of purple prose in some love scenes, but on the whole, this is a poignant, honest and heartfelt account about a black family trying to survive and improve their lives in the midst of a decaying society that is full of obstacles. 

This review originally appeared in Blogcritics Magazine.

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Award-winning, first-time novelist Marisel Vera pens an honest, heart-felt, often sad tale of an idealistic, naïve Puerto Rican girl named Felicidad who goes to America to be with the man she loves.

The story, told from an author omniscient point of view, begins in the early 1940’s in the Puerto Rican countryside and ends about ten years later in Chicago. It follows Felicidad’s life from the time she’s a young jíbara living in appalling poverty in the mountains to the time she gets married and moves to America.

Young Felicidad lives in a tiny shack with her parents and siblings. Her father works in the fields and can barely support them. At times, Felicidad must be happy with only one meal a day. Their living conditions are so deplorable, she must tie her locks in a bun so that flying roaches in the latrine will not make a nest in her hair. Her sister dies because they can’t afford medical care. But worst of all, her mother is losing her mind. Unable to face the situation they’re in, one day her mother climbs naked onto the roof. The priest, of course, says she’s possessed by the devil.

Then Felicidad is sent to another town to live with her uncle and his wife, who own a panaderia. Though her uncle is kind and quiet most of the times, her aunt finds every opportunity to criticize Felicidad and treat her like a servant. Felicidad, naïve and good-natured, does her best to put up with her. She slaves in the panaderia and remains submissive, but she dreams of a prince who will love her and ‘rescue’ her one day. Years pass and Felicidad doesn’t hear a word from her family. She misses them terribly and would like nothing more than to visit them, but she wonders if the feeling is reciprocated and, afraid of rejection by her own flesh and blood, she stays away from them.

One day, a handsome man walks into the panaderia and Felicidad is swept off her feet. Aníbal Acevedo, a man of the world as far as women go, is taken by Felicidad’s innocent beauty. To everyone’s shock, a few days later, he asks her to marry him. Felicidad is ecstatic, filled with idealistic illusions of happiness, but is Aníbal capable of fulfilling his dreams, when he has another woman waiting for him in Chicago?

Marisel Vera’s prose flows beautifully. In a skillful, often blunt manner, she paints a painfully realistic picture of the jíbaro. In a way, Felicidad’s story is a Cinderella story but with an unusual twist. The two protagonists, Felicidad and Aníbal, come to live through the pages, each one so very distinctive from the other. It is especially fascinating to be inside Aníbal’s mind and see the world from his perspective, a brutal contrast to Felicidad. Their love story is bitter sweet. But most of all, the author gives us a powerfully sad glimpse of the jíbaro in the 1950’s in Chicago, their difficult lives and tribulations, the prejudice they had to confront. Vera is definitely a new Latina voice to be reckoned with, and I look forward to reading more of her work.

IF I BRING YOU ROSES
By Marisel Vera
Grand Central Publishing
http://www.HachetteBookGroup.com
ISBN-10: 0446571539
ISBN-13: 978-0446571531
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages: 351
Price: $13.99/$15.50 in Canada
General Fiction

Visit the author’s website at http://www.mariselvera.com/

Purchase from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/If-I-Bring-You-Roses/dp/0446571539

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Christine Amsden’s second novel, The Immortality Virus, raises an intriguing question: Is it really all that wonderful to find the secret of immortality and live forever?

It’s the 21st century and the world is being ruled by The Establishment, a totalitarian government made of an elite few. People don’t age anymore. As a result, overpopulation has created poverty, hunger, violence, and chaos. People don’t even have empathy for their fellow human beings anymore and cruelty and murder abound. Only the elite few can afford to eat normal food; the rest feed on suspicious, high-protein nutri-bars believed to be made up of human flesh.

At the beginning of the story, our feisty 130-year old PI protagonist, Grace Harper, is hired to complete a mission: she must discover the whereabouts of Jordan Lacklin, the scientist responsible for the ‘virus’ that started The Change about 400 years ago while working on the cure for Alzheimer’s. The secret mission puts Grace’s life in danger. On one side, there are those who want to undo The Change to improve the quality of life and the world; on the other side, there are those who want to keep living forever because they have the means to live in luxury… and they’ll go to extremes to make sure Grace doesn’t complete her mission.

The Immortality Virus is an entertaining, dystopian/science fiction novel with an interesting premise. Grace Harper is a sympathetic, kick-ass heroine: strong, spirited and opinionated. She also has a kind heart that stands out in the cruel society she inhabits. I personally loved her witty comebacks and quirky sense of humor. Although the story gets a bit slow somewhere around the middle, Amsden offers enough action, twists and turns to keep most readers turning the pages. The dialogue is crisp and natural and helps to keep the pace moving. Amsden uses a lot of dialogue and action scenes, and keeps description and narration at a minimum. She also throws in a bit of romance for good measure. I also enjoyed the way she depicts the future, presenting us with a grim and realistic glimpse of what society could become as a result of greed and medical technology. If you love dystopian novels with strong heroines and you’re attracted to the subject of immortality, I recommend you give this one a try.

Title: The Immortality Virus
Author: Christine Amsden
Author web site: http://www.christineamsden.com
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
url: http://twilighttimesbooks.com/
ISBN: 978-1-60619-003-6
Genre: Science Fiction
Format: trade paperback & ebook
Chapter excerpt:
http://twilighttimesbooks.com/ImmortalityVirus_ch1.html

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