“A book of great lyrical power, Names on a Map is a heartbreaking mirror for our own time, about an American family torn apart by an unjust war. In Ben Saenz’ dexterous, tender hands, this novel is a salve upon the wounds of both then and now.” —Ruben Martinez, award winning author of Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail
A haunting novel from award-winning author and poet Benjamin Alire Saenz, about a family of Hispanic immigrants handling the psychological effects of a war they don’t feel is theirs to fight
In 1967, at the height of the Vietnam War, the Espejo family of El Paso, Texas, is just like thousands of other American families coping with a war they feel does not concern them. When Gustavo, the eldest son—the “bad boy” of the family—is told to report for basic training, his ideology and sense of patriotism is put to the test.
Opting to flee to Mexico and avoid the draft, Gustavo soon realizes he is no more culturally connected to his ancestral homeland than he is to the America that called him to war. Poignant and insightful, Names on a Map explores with complex detail the harsh nature of immigrant life in the United States—and the emotional tug-of-war experienced by all those with allegiance to more than one country.
In S enz's lyrical sixth novel, Octavio Espejo leads an ordinary life in multiethnic 1967 El Paso: he sells insurance and is raising three children with his wife, Lourdes. Octavio was brought to the U.S. from revolutionary Mexico as a child and talks about the family's roots across the border, but on the whole the family has silently Americanized. The Vietnam War and the counterculture, however, begin to change how his children conceive of themselves and their lives teenaged twins Gustavo and Xochil in particular. Gus must make choices about facing the draft; Xochil, a rape victim when she was 12, attempts to reconcile the era's passions with internal bitterness. S enz shifts perspectives fluidly among the family, relatives and friends. The climax is given away early, keeping the focus on the manner in which the characters come to know themselves or fail to. The result is a beautiful mosaic of the borderlands as women's liberation and the Chicano movement gain traction.