Book Review of America Libre, A Novel of Family, Country, and Revolution by Raul Ramos y Sanchez

America LibreI met Raul Ramos y Sanchez on a Latina writers’ group website, NuncaSola. I’m not sure how our contact occurred but all the same a pleasure to have made his acquaintance. I have since followed his public debut as a writer and marveled at his tenacity to publication. After five months as a self-published edition, Grand Central Publishing debuted a tougher, leaner, come-out-fighting, America Libre, A Novel of Family, Country, and Revolution. Raul Ramos y Sanchez could no longer avoid his position at the boxing ring, maneuvering through contentious issues such as race, immigration, and social politics.

A novel of family, una familia americana. A novel of country, a diverse homeland. And a novel of revolution, is it possible for human beings to initiate dramatic, idealistic change? Perhaps not. Raul Ramos y Sanchez writes a bleak and distressing plausible story that can anguish a few and enrage many. This is the most daunting. To read a story that can conceivably happen in today’s social climate and know how to discuss the issue and keep one’s emotions intact. Can a group of people protest peacefully? Can a public official manipulate the fear of a few and divide a diverse nation into an “us and them”? Can an idealist gather enough muscle to initiate a violent revolution? Yes, yes, and yes. How is this possible? Better yet, why is it possible? Ramos y Sanchez suggests that it is the result of societal misconceptions, and, as one of the novel’s goals, awareness is vital to the avoidance of such plausible outcome. However, how can a tense story enlighten all of us to look past the fear and rage that America Libre incites and calmly discuss such issues? I do not know. Perhaps readers will have to wait for the upcoming sequel, El Nuevo Alamo.

I shared this novel with my husband as I wanted to experience his cultural perspective. I’m a Mexican-American that studies the question of identity and mostly writes about cultural experiences by way of identity. He is a Texan, “who happens to be Anglo” and prefers not to include the issues of race and culture in the same conversation. In his point of view, race is rarely relevant and often times wrongly substituted for culture. So his perspective is one in which I’m often curious. And, once again, he brought up an interesting point. If in fact the goal of the novel is to answer and clarify the societal misconceptions of what is a Hispanic and/or Latino, then why introduce a novel that promotes a misconception of what is an Anglo. There is not one “good” Anglo in the story, at least not one that is sophisticated enough to see past the fear or one intelligent enough to ignore the babble of any politician. Why then use race, from the other extreme, to fight the notion that there is no useful definition of race in today’s reality? Which brings to my mind another question, is it possible to share a cultural experience without a severe lesson such as a violent revolution?

I invite you to read this novel and purchase your copy by visiting Dulce Bread & Book Shop.

On Teresa’s Reading Night Stand

America Libre

America Libre by Raul Ramos y Sanchez

After years of anti-immigrant backlash, anger seethes in the nation’s teeming barrios. The crowded streets bristle with restless youth, idled by a deep recession. When undercover detectives in San Antonio accidentally kill a young Latina bystander during a botched drug bust, riots erupt across the Southwest. As the inner-city violence escalates, Anglo vigilantes strike back with shooting rampages. Exploiting the turmoil, a congressional demagogue succeeds in passing legislation that transforms the nation’s Hispanic enclaves into walled-off Quarantine Zones. Citizens tagged Class H–those who are Hispanic, are married to a Hispanic, or have at least one grandparent of Hispanic origin–are forced into detention centers. Amid the chaos in his L.A. barrio, Manolo Suarez is out of work and struggling to support his growing family. But under the spell of a beautiful Latina radical, the former U.S. Army Ranger and decorated war veteran now finds himself questioning his loyalty to his wife–and to his country.

After five months as a self-published edition, America Libre was acquired by Grand Central Publishing (formerly Warner Books). As part of the same deal, Grand Central also acquired El Nuevo Alamo, the sequel to America Libre. The original edition of America Libre has been retired to make way for the revised Grand Central Publishing version to be released in July 29, 2009.