View all 11 comments. Oct 19, Erasmo Guerra rated it it was amazing. Having grown up in the Rio Grand Valley of South Texas, along the Texas-Mexico border where the bulk of this coming-of-age story is set, I swooned with vertigo at the dizzying accuracy of the landscape, people, culture, politics, violence, poverty, and dark humor that Domingo Martinez depicts in his stunning memoir "The Boy Kings of Texas.
All at once, within these pages, I was back home and feeling all the compli Having grown up in the Rio Grand Valley of South Texas, along the Texas-Mexico border where the bulk of this coming-of-age story is set, I swooned with vertigo at the dizzying accuracy of the landscape, people, culture, politics, violence, poverty, and dark humor that Domingo Martinez depicts in his stunning memoir "The Boy Kings of Texas.
All at once, within these pages, I was back home and feeling all the complicated emotions of being there. At times, especially in the beginning, the story suffered from an unsympathetic, I'm-better-than-everyone-here adolescent tone.
He was a smart-ass who, even more infuriating, really was smart. He was a Mexican-American Holden Caulfield from the undeveloped colonias. So he came off as a bit of a so-called "necio" with his posturing, F-bombs, and chillando about being alien in both cultures. But he was never a bore. I always wanted to hear more. I've often wondered, as someone who also writes about the border, if escape is THE narrative of the region. But, without question, Martinez's is perhaps the best one that I've come upon that captures so awfully and so well that I-can't-breathe-until-I-get-out-of-here panic attack.
While I sometimes bristled at how there was so little love for the region, I understood why he felt as he did as the brutal story unfolded. My one problem was with the end. How could he just leave us there? I wished the story had ended with the epilogue. View 1 comment. Sep 11, Gabriela Caballero rated it did not like it. I'll be honest and say I was only able to get just a fourth into the book before I had to put it down.
I was really excited when I had first heard of the book. I'm also from South Texas and reading narratives about home that have actually made it to mainstream is incredible. Talk about a place in the world that has almost zero representation. This book, however, was very hard for me to digest.
To start with the bare bones, the writing style of the book didn't work for me. It felt like it hadn't I'll be honest and say I was only able to get just a fourth into the book before I had to put it down. It felt like it hadn't seen an editor. A lot of sentences left me confused because the narrator would change tenses midway through a sentence and not really in a way that read as purposeful, so much as, especially poor editing.
The narrative itself is not good either - there's a lot of really basic plot with glib commentary without any more profound thoughts, complex plot development, or more structured musings about his experiences. I could have gotten over all of these things, except the narrator's voice is so, so negative and narrow-minded. The author also makes a lot of general assumptions about South Texas and states them as if they are current facts. I grew up 20 years after him and working class but, I don't know anyone who bartered their children, for example, and the book asserts that this is common practice in South Texas without qualifying it as his opinion that it was a common practice in Martinez's barrio in Brownsville 30 years ago not that I particularly find him credible as his narration and generalizations are so unreliable.
This book frightens me because so many people who already have a lot of opinions of what the border looks likes are going to continue to view our communities as savage or less than human, which are opinions that are already too rampant of Mexican-Americans and South Texas.
The author's perspective isn't nuanced or complex and lacks a lot of structural awareness. I feel guilty for having such a negative opinion of the book when I haven't been able to read all of it and I will try to try to pick it up now and then to finish because I don't want to simply shut down Martinez's perspective because it's so radically different than my own. I really was excited to read this book, and still want to give a chance, but ultimately I feel every time I try to read another chapter I become only more disappointed and honestly, disgusted by the conclusions he's drawing.
Jul 29, Silas Hansen rated it it was ok Shelves: memoir. I wanted to love this book -- I heard an excerpt on This American Life and awaited the publication date -- but I just couldn't. The writing almost never went beyond anecdote -- little reflection, few explorations of complications, etc. It just wasn't what I had hoped. Nov 18, Colleen rated it liked it. Reading this book was like eaves-dropping on someone's therapy session, which proved to be both moving and frustrating at the same time.
I loved the memories of childhood - playful, innocent, sad, angering - so engaging and real in the way June Domingo relives some of the happier times and the brutal times. I really had the sense of a child's innocence being chiseled away, big hunks at a time. The teen years were just as moving and maddening. The adults in June's life continue to sabotage his Reading this book was like eaves-dropping on someone's therapy session, which proved to be both moving and frustrating at the same time.
The adults in June's life continue to sabotage his chances of developing a healthy self image and a switch in schools complicates his path. By the time June graduates from high school, he's completely aimless with a boat load of untapped talent. The ensuing years are a sad and pathetic rendition of dead-beat grown men coasting through life because they had worthless male role models in an environment that stifled any kind of maturity.
If that last sentence seems harsh, it's because that's when I struggled to maintain the same level of empathy for June that I had during the childhood and teen years. As the book progressed through June's life, the story-telling became less engaging, less sympathetic. In fact I was quite frustrated with the adult June. However, taking a step back, I can refocus and see that this memoir is indeed part of the process of his healing, thus, the book his therapy session.
And one can't critique another's therapy session, that's just plain wrong. And it's reassuring knowing that this "dead-beat" man found the inspiration, energy and courage to write his memoir. I just wish the last third of the memoir was as engaging as the first two-thirds. Jun 21, Willard's Epiphany rated it it was amazing.
This is an excellent and very funny read. Epiphany, A Literary Journal published the first three chapters of this book. We are proud that we helped to launch Domingo's writing career. His success is our success. He had never published before we pulled the first three chapters from the slush pile. He is a warm, funny and wonderful human being. Congratulations and good luck Domingo This is an excellent and very funny read.
Congratulations and good luck Domingo. Nov 24, Teresa Mayfield rated it liked it. I heard about this book through the This American Life story about Mr. As I am from Texas and spent my elementary school years in El Paso, the story sounded interesting to me. And it is interesting, but also a sad commentary on more than a few communities, cultures, families, and the state of Texas and Mexico for that matter. Much of this memoir comes off a bit too movie scene ready, but I feel that some of the story rings with truth. I did not experience directly any of Mr.
If you are from a mixed culture or first generation immigrant family or grew up in the thick of a melting pot, I would guess that you will be able to relate to many of Mr. Otherwise, you might find the whole thing just too hard to swallow. Two of the things that bothered me most about the book and make me feel that perhaps much of it is too movie scene ready are misstatements of facts. These are facts that Mr. Martinez or any of his editors could have bothered to Google and included the truth rather than what Mr.
Martinez thought was true in the memoir. At the very least he could have made the statement that what he was relating was what he thought was true at the time. The first fact comes from his tale of rattlesnakes killed by his grandmother and the length of their rattles. Sorry Mr. Martinez, but every amateur Herpetologist knows the following: A Rattlesnake cannot be aged simply by counting the number of rattles on its tail.
The tip of the tail of a new born Rattlesnake ends in a smooth rounded, slightly pear-shaped, "button," which is the first segment of the future rattle. As the young snake grows it sheds its skin, usually several times a year. Each shed skin adds a new, loosely overlapped and interlocked segment to the rattle. Shedding twice a year will add two segments to the rattle. Shedding three times a year will add three segments to the rattle. The more a Rattlesnake sheds, the more segments are added to its rattle.
Florida Museum of Natural History Not to mention that the rattles are broken off quite often. The second fact has to do with red tides. Unfortunately for me, these editorial issues really make me question the truth in the rest of the memoir, especially because Mr. This feels less like a memoir and more like a tragic screenplay.
Martinez had experiences that informed this book, but I do doubt that his editors were very thorough and I feel that for easily verified facts, the author should take five minutes and Google it rather than just spreading misinformation. At more than pages, the personal remembrances may prove wearisome, even as the narrative brims with candid, palpable emotion. Still, Martinez lushly captures the mood of the era and illuminates the struggles of a family hobbled by poverty and a skinny Latino boy becoming a man amid a variety of tough circumstances. A finely detailed, sentimental family scrapbook inscribed with love.
Sep 23, Book Concierge rated it it was ok Shelves: texas , latino-literature , memoir , concierge , library. This is a memoir of growing up in Brownsville Texas, near the border with Mexico, in a poor barrio, with few opportunities and even less hope. There are parts of this memoir that are engaging and funny. But I could not connect with the acting out that the boys engaged in — the fighting, drinking, and drugs.
By way of backgroun This is a memoir of growing up in Brownsville Texas, near the border with Mexico, in a poor barrio, with few opportunities and even less hope. By way of background, I grew up in a Mexican-American household, with a father who was born in Mexico, and a mother who was born in a border-town on the Texas side of the Rio Grande — the same town where I was born and where my grandparents and most of my aunts and uncles stayed to raise their families.
I recognized some of the setting, traditions, and cultural mores Martinez relates. But on the whole I felt as disenfranchised from the experiences he relates, as he states he felt. The families I knew were cohesive; the parents working menial jobs, perhaps, but staying together in love and faith to raise children who would succeed. I kept waiting for some insight, and never got it. I felt I was reading the rambling notes of a journal his therapist suggested he keep, rather than a cohesive memoir.
Mar 28, Nick rated it liked it. No one I know of has written more astutely of machismo, perhaps because, for much of the book, it is seen from a child's perspective. Car horns blare it, and I used to see the last line painted in red Gothic letters on windshields.
The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir
It captures an attitude: "see, I may have failed, but I'm still proud. Domingo Martinez did not grow up in Mexico, but instead in a place as close to it as any in the United States: a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Brownsville, Texas, itself a poor city. He has little to say about the stereotype of the close Hispanic family.
Instead, his was suffused with the theme of the "king" and he links it not just to his father and assorted uncles but even, implictly, to his grandmother. Not everything is serious: he is hilarious but not cruel on the subject of his upwardly-striving sisters. The narration is a pleasure in itself, both energetic and perceptive. However, like many propulsive narratives, it reaches a natural end and keeps on going. Possibly a quarter of the book, the last portion, really belongs to the sequel he is probably writing.
Jun 07, Christina rated it it was ok. I really wanted to enjoy this book. I heard a few excerpts on public radio, and when I finally was able to find the book on Overdrive, I was excited to finally take a crack at it. In this memoir, Martinez recounts his childhood in Brownsville, Texas, a border town where my own husband's family, like Martinez's has been rooted for generations before the existence of the actual border, in fact. Unfortunately, not all of the anecdotes in this book were as amusing as those broadcast on NPR, the wr I really wanted to enjoy this book.
Unfortunately, not all of the anecdotes in this book were as amusing as those broadcast on NPR, the writing style was often sloppy and the tone was inconsistent. The theme of racial injustice and stratification was woven into this book- race relations among Mexican-Americans and between Mexican-Americans and "Anglos" differ greatly than what is seen here in California, and I was curious to gain a deeper, more nuanced understanding of these differences. Although Martinez's memoir offered up some perspective, these dynamics were not fully explored, yet were referred to often.
This memoir had potential; perhaps a few more drafts and revisions were in order.
THE BOY KINGS OF TEXAS by Domingo Martinez | Kirkus Reviews
View 2 comments. Jan 01, Jessica rated it it was ok. I don't know, y'all. Maybe memoirs aren't my thing. Maybe this memoir is not my thing. Although the first story or which ever one it was about the dog made me sad, I thought I could get into it. And I did for some of the stories. But certainly not all of them. So this guy had a bad childhood. And he grew up way faster than any child should.
And I guess that's part of the makings of a good memoir. I guess that's why Pollyanna didn't have a memoir.
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But it got to a point when it was just Too Much f I don't know, y'all. But it got to a point when it was just Too Much for me. It was too much cussing for me and I love a good F-Bomb. And too much sad and upsetting stuff. But that's part of it. I get that. Maybe I wasn't in a place to read stuff like that. Some of the stories seemed clunky and I found myself skimming paragraphs just to get through.
I'd have a hard time recommending it to others. Nov 05, Rachel rated it really liked it. I had a hard time getting into this memoir at first because the narrative style was informal to the point of feeling uneven. However, about a hundred or so pages in, I started getting a feel for the book's flow, and things took off from there. The prose is brutally honest and anything but self conscious--and the narrator's voice shines well beyond the book's apparent inconsistencies.
Somehow, Martinez manages to paint a vivid portrait of his particular experiences while still making them feel re I had a hard time getting into this memoir at first because the narrative style was informal to the point of feeling uneven. Somehow, Martinez manages to paint a vivid portrait of his particular experiences while still making them feel relatable to those of us who didn't grow up in the Valley. Aug 27, Ruth rated it it was amazing. Growing up on the Mexican border, I found this book to be very accurate. Martinez has a great creative use of words and ideas.
Favorite part was the intellectual discussion of "Where the Wild Things Are". I am amazed that I made it into adulthood. I'm glad that Domingo did and gave me this funny and sad story about life in Brownsville and Seattle. Keep writing. Dec 28, Aaron Million rated it liked it Shelves: memoir. Martinez's book strikes me as part confessional, part psychological release, part horror story, with frequently witty observations spiced in throughout.
I am struggling even to write a review of it as it has left me conflicted re: did I like the book or dislike it? I don't know that I can answer definitively either way, except to say that I respect Martinez's effort and final product. I think I will take a different approach in this review and make a few lists. His often astute obs Martinez's book strikes me as part confessional, part psychological release, part horror story, with frequently witty observations spiced in throughout. His often astute observations about the people, places, and things in his life and how his views on them change or stay the same over time.
The way Martinez admits that sometimes his recollections are hazy, and certain he cannot really remember accurately. I believe that all of us are this way, much as we would be loathe to admit it. The character portraits that he paints are vivid. I can identify with his intense desire to move away from home, and not just a little ways away, but to put considerable distance between himself and his childhood literally and figuratively.
I further admire the fact that he actually followed through on it. Many people will talk about leaving their hometowns, but never work up the gumption to really do it.
Martinez's recognition that he must move away or he will go crazy, and if didn't move when he did, he might never leave. The guts that it took to admit many of his failings, and even more so to basically air his family's dirty laundry for everyone to see. Martinez has a very lucid and descriptive way of writing.
He makes a few references to his therapist, but he never tells us why he ultimately decided to start seeing one, when he made that decision, and if those sessions have really helped him, and if so in what way. At times, he seems to blame his father and he absolutely has some justification in doing so for almost everything that has went wrong in his life. Was his dad a good father? Not even close.
Did he damage his son psychologically? Most assuredly so. But it seemed to me that, as Martinez fell into one vice after another, he was reluctant to admit that he himself was at least partially to blame. At one point almost at the end of the book, he admits to having an addictive personality. I am not sure that all of that can be pinned on his father, as bad as the man was.
He makes a few cryptic references to one of his girlfriends in Seattle, Rebecca, but she is never in the story. I would have liked to have seen him talk about his relationship with her, even if just a little bit to provide more context around what he did in Seattle. He skips past ten years of his life.
It makes me think of someone who you know very well, see on a daily basis, and suddenly for whatever reason that person is removed from your life for a decade, then just as quickly reappears. It is hard to just pick up the pieces where you left off at. What was the response to the long, somewhat defensive letter that he wrote to his sister Marge detailing his older brother Dan's fight?
He said it changed his relationships with his family members, while that began the erosion of his relationship with Dan. He goes in-depth concerning he and Dan, but says nothing about how his relationships changed with his sisters or mother. Despite him writing about it at length, I am still left somewhat puzzled by the way that he and Dan have cut each other off.
At the end, the book seems to almost be a plea to Dan to resume communication with him. Where does his relationship with his mother stand? At one point, I thought he was going to discuss it when he briefly mentions that they were driving to San Antonio after his parents divorced and he asked her about her possibly being raped , but that never really happens.
Any of the friends that he had in Brownsville basically disappear later on in the story, and it makes me wonder if he ever saw any of them again or heard from them. There is absolutely no question in my mind that he had a screwed up childhood, and it is no surprise that he did develop such personality and substance abuse problems as he grew up.
Yet, a few of the things that he does talk about like fights at school do not seem too much different from my childhood. Perhaps I am not fully appreciative of these instances; yet at times while I was reading I thought to myself "That or something very similar happened to me, although the setting was different. His frequent asides became sort of annoying. He would start a chapter on something or someone, but then get side-tracked and veer into a backstory for several pages before returning to the present. Doing that a few times did not bother me, but Martinez does it frequently and it started to - in places - make the book drag.
Along with 10, the pace at times seemed uneven. At certain points, I was engrossed in the book; other times I was almost bored. While writing this review, I had the rating at two stars. But I am changing it to three stars as perhaps I think that, at two stars, I am not being charitable enough to Martinez and appreciative of the difficult undertaking that writing this book must have been.
I can completely understand why someone reading this would really like it; I can also see why someone would not like it. Don't miss a story. Like us on Facebook. Get Unlimited Digital Access Your first month is less than a dollar. View Comments. Login to Comment or create an account Email. Login Forgot your password?
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