As I've said before I don't review books here as much as reflect on them. One doesn't “review” a memoir.
“The List” was crowd-sourced in large part and The Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez came to me as a gift.
Some gifts are harder than others. Boy Kings is one such gift.
I had no knowledge of Mr Martinez or his writings before hand, but the purpose of the list was to expose myself to writers and thoughts I was unfamiliar with.
This writing accomplished that.
I will warn you right now: this is not a a mythology of Texas or a paean to those who yearn to be here. This isn't even Texas as most of us who live here know it but an other-worldly truly unique and hard-bitten existence known as the Border.
The author's upbringing in the barrio outside of Brownsville covers a lot of ground. Family, friends, school, religion, witchcraft all underwritten by the never-ending day after day agrarian existence of life as work. Worried about child labor in the third world? Solve it at the Border where ten-year olds are experienced mechanics and driving a stick before you're a teenager is expected.
You will not feel better having read this memoir. You will feel proud that Mr Martinez, et al, survived and went on to create their own kind of lives beyond the valley.
Parts of this work are truly horrific, interspersed with an occasional bout of humor but mostly the timeless weight of life as labor scratching out an existence in one of the poorest parts of America.
The underlying theme here is survival in the pathos known as border culture.
You may not know what the Border is really like and reading this book won't change that. If you do choose to read it suspend your own belief system about so many things to drink in the history of a life and a family growing up where one day there was just a hamlet and the next day the Border.
An unnerving, powerful and poignant work.