Monday, June 17, 2013

The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir

File this one under: Messed Up Family Dramas That Are Impossible to Put Down.  And why is it that I find myself drawn to these whack-a-doodle life accounts?

Answer:  Because there's humbling comfort in, "Dang.  I really need to stop bitchin'.  My life could have been SO MUCH worse" (not that I'm really complaining).

Domingo Martinez opens wide the doors to his childhood and shares intimate details about the often harsh reality of growing up in the Mexican border town of Brownsville, Texas.  The Boy Kings of Texas is a personalized education in the clashing of Mexican and American cultures.  Martinez reflects on the comical and sometimes painful family dynamic that reared him.  The memoir introduces us to a variety of colorful family members including a bad ass grandma, two diva sisters, and a bed hopping abusive father.  However, the core of the memoir focuses on the love-hate relationship between Martinez and his older brother Dan and Martinez's struggle to come to terms with their faltering connection.  

For a young boy, growing up in the "barrio" is one big machismo test.  Practically from diapers little boys are faced with the question, "Are you man enough?"  Martinez is not excluded.  He is forced to find his way through a very threatening, macho, male-oriented world that leaves little room for love and security.  Even his own grandmother is made of steel and carries a loaded gun, always living on the defense.  No matter where he turns, Martinez is faced with aggressive male dominance and has very few outlets for his introspective and self-affirming ideas and emotions.  The one exception is Dan.

Dan is Martinez's older brother.  He's intense, protective, and ignitable.  Dan finds himself in multiple fights growing up that always stem from the need to defend his family roots, regardless of their flaws.  Meanwhile, Martinez plays the loyal little brother who stands on the sidelines supporting, fearing, and praying.  The brothers' relationship is a classic one.  They tease, conspire, compete, irritate, protect, depend, and admire.  However, as they mature they find themselves wallowing in the same dark realization of where they came from and how they were raised.  This is anything but therapeutic.  In fact, it's the final fracture in their slowly deteriorating relationship.

Martinez is a natural storyteller.  He captures an area of American life very few are privy to.  His experiences  illustrate the contrast of defending the Mexican family culture while longing to be Americanized.  Martinez's  writing is straight-forward, honest, and charming and his page-turning memoir explores the all-human desire to escape and discover oneself.  

Quality Rating (out of 5 stars):
Happy Reading!