Books

The Importance of a Piece of Paper

Genre: Fiction; Author: Jimmy Santiago Baca

Both in his poetry and his prizewinning 2001 memoir, A Place to Stand, Baca has recalled a difficult youth spent in an orphanage, on the streets, and in prison. In this collection of short fiction, he continues to mine his experience, exploring conflicts between the rich traditions of Chicano culture and a modern world impatient with them. Baca’s themes have the makings of great stories, but implausible plot turns and incompletely drawn characters sometimes squander their potential. His imagery, however, is always striking: In ”Runaway,” an orphaned boy praying for his sick grandmother places a church’s wooden statue of the Virgen de Guadalupe under his shirt (”clutching her close against his naked chest”) so she might hear him better.

Originally posted March 26 2004 — 12:00 AM EST

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