Rev. of Fight Like a Man & Other Stories We Tell Our Children by Christine Granados

Original post by Michael Sedano found here:

Review: Christine Granados. Fight Like A Man & Other Stories We Tell Our Children. Alburquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2017. ISBN 978-0-8263-5792-2

Michael Sedano

What does that mean, “like a man”? The question runs through a reader’s head throughout the eleven chapter title novella that Christine Granados opens with. It’s an arresting story about a pregnant woman caught in a pair of love and sex triangles, mother issues, other-woman troubles, and trouble in general.

Moni’s husband seems a decent tipo who doesn’t deserve to be cheated on—does anyone? Her Sancho turns a drug deal that gets him murdered and dumped in a trash bin. The affair is common knowledge, though no one calls her a brazen hussy.

People from both sides of the El Paso border will be coming to the funeral, politely looking the other way. Así somos, I guess, maybe a case of women will be women. Or is it Moni is acting like a man and turnabout is what it is? Again, that provocative issue.

Members of the second triangle will be crossing over for the funeral. The mourners will be Moni’s half-sister’s mother. Half because Moni’s father had two familias. One on that side, the other on this side. There’s a lot of tension in this plot that readers will have to keep sorting out. Will Moni drink the curandera’s tea and abort? Will her father’s other wife like the daughter of her part-time husband? After all, Moni and her sister from another mother are compañeras. Can Moni defeat the anger that roils in her?

Is being tough and taking it—the pain, the angst, the guilt—‘fighting like a man”? Is having a husband and a lover “fighting like a man”? Is brazen treatment of a loving partner “fighting like a man”? Granados doesn’t spell it out and it’s up to her readers to figure it out. Or just sit there, read the words, and let stuff happen. Take it like a man, que no?

Much as that opening novella holds one’s perplexed interest, the short fiction comprising the book’s second half will enchant, delight, perplex, furrow brows. The rich variety of character and story in the  novella and the book’s seven short stories make Fight Like A Man & Other Stories a rewarding addition to the corpus of chicana literature. Indeed, here is a gem of Chicana literature.

The woman voice of the writer rings with the timbre of silver bells, clean, distinctive, and memorable. My favorite is “stupids.” The story is not the strongest in the collection—Granados and her editor bury “stupids” in the middle of the seven story lineup. But “stupids” takes one’s heart and thrashes it good.

Springing from Abelardo’s timeless masterpiece, “Stupid America,” the story introduces three special education students and a first-year teacher, a local product but of the westside, not the brown and poor part of town where the three “stupids” live.

Meet Turi, a hyperactive kid perpetually distracted by whatever grabs his momentary attention. Jimmy, who never talks and whom the first-person narrator, Jennifer, believes probably doesn’t speak English. He does. And Turi is curious and bright. Mr. Hernandez pulls that out of them.

Jennifer is six-foot-something, most gente would say, a big girl. The other kids call her manflora, dyke, Lurch. As a result—and a lot of other factors—Jennifer has a chip on her shoulder and no expectations of benefit from the classroom. She says she hates school. Then Mr. Hernandez asks her to get out of her uncomfortably confining schooldesk. Based on past experience Jennifer figures she’s being sent to the Principal.

Hernandez pulls the desk away and replaces it with a table and his teacher’s chair. For the first time in a long time, Jennifer has a comfortable seat that she’s not banging her shins on all scrunched up. Her attitude begins looking positive.

Go to college. Tactile learning. White people on teevee talking down to the brown gente of the city. White teachers in other classes talking down to the dumb kids. They learn the word “patronizing.” They learn about Oñate and the invaders from the south, that the first Thanksgiving was in El Paso, not back East. They learn. They have possibilities. These kids, if Mr. Hernandez can keep them moving in this direction, aren’t going “to die with one thousand masterpieces hanging only from his mind.”

Christine Granados has taken a line from another wondrous poem and made it heartfelt. I sure wish that abomination De Vos would read and understand “stupids” because she would see how beautiful they are, and be ashamed. Hernandez teaches the kids, the foreign reader, they–we–too, are America.

Order your copies of Fight Like A Man & Other Stories We Tell Our Children publisher-direct or have your local independent bookseller get your copies. For sure, get it into your local libraries. Fight Like A Man & Other Stories We Tell Our Children is a beautifully written work owing to its setting, characters, and interesting literary style, puro bicultural without half trying, and completely gratifying.


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