I wish I had read Oscar Casares’s debut collection of stories when I was living in New York and feeling homesick; I read this in one sitting! Set in Brownsville, Texas, Brownsville definitely captures the essence of life in the Rio Grande Valley. The Texas-Mexico border is at times a world all of its own, and Casares certainly uses this to his advantage throughout his work.
The protagonists in each of the stories vary widely, from a little boy working at Mr. Z’s fireworks stand, to an older woman whose prized bowling ball is stolen. Yet each of these characters are so incredibly recognizable to people living in south Texas. I was especially delighted at the language and incorporation of local pronunciations of Spanglish (some of it is hysterical).
My favorite stories were “Mr. Z” (about the little boy working at the fireworks stand), “Domingo” (about the old man working in the U.S. to send money back to his wife in Mexico), and “Big Jesse, Little Jesse” (about a man whose son was born with a slight deformity).
After reading this collection of stories, I very much look forward to reading Casares’s debut novel, Amigoland.
Brownsville: Stories was released in 2003 by Bay Back Books.