From This Wicked Patch of Dust
By Sergio Troncoso
University of Arizona Press: Camino del Sol series (1-800-426-3797)
Publication date: September 1, 2011
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 family’s hardscrabble origins are just the beginning of this sweeping new novel from Sergio Troncoso.
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. 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 father’s old apartment buildings, serving as cheap labor to fuel the family’s 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 husband’s health begins to fail.
This backdrop is shaken to its core by the historic events of 2001 in New York City, which send 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-shared dreams be enough to hold together a family from Ysleta, this wicked patch of dust?
Advance praise for From 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 Hummingbird’s Daughter and Into the Beautiful North
“From This Wicked Patch of Dust sweeps through a tumult of time from the mid-60s and through 9/11 and its aftermath. As the novel whirls in and out of expanding cultural identities —Mexican and American, poor, ambitious, and smart, Catholic, Muslim, and even Jewish— and yet stays centered on a family in the borderlands of Ysleta, it details a past that is more the cultural future. El Paso deserves big books, and Sergio Troncoso gives us one here–in a voice that is both his and ours.”
—Dagoberto Gilb, author of The Magic of Blood and The Flowers
“From the very first page, when a young mother and father move with their four small children into their unfinished house on the outskirts of El Paso to protect it from being stripped by drug addicts, Troncoso draws the reader into the life of the Martínez family, spanning nearly 40 years from 1967 to 2005. He tells this powerful story from the perspectives of all six family members, and his narrative style embodies the close family ties as well as the internal turmoil as those ties begin to fray. Troncoso has a keen sense of the telling details that reveal complex truths. This gripping family saga is rooted in culture, community, and history; leavened with humor; and made poetic through Troncoso’s intertwining of English and Spanish.”
—Lyn Miller-Lachmann, author of Gringolandia and Dirt Cheap
“An irresistible read, this compelling novel explores a family’s conflicted desires: to honor the past that connected them closely to one another and to embrace the future that launches them toward separate destinies–to belong and to be free. Sergio Troncoso delivers a moving and unforgettable story of Cuauhtémoc and Pilar Martínez in search of a better life for their four children, despite the dawning apprehension that pursuit of such a dream might ultimately cost a family much more than relentless self-sacrifice and unflinching toil.”
—Lorraine Lopez, author of The Gifted Galbadon Sisters and Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories
A graduate of both Harvard College and Yale University, Sergio Troncoso is 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.