What Books On Mexicans Should I Buy This Christmas?
DEAR READERS: Behold your favorite Mexican's annual Christmas-gift guide, in which I give shout-outs to some of my favorite books that deserve your money this holiday season! And for once, I won't recommend my books—¡Ask a Mexican!, Orange County: A Personal History and Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America—as gifts. . . . Oh, wait, I just did! In all honesty, while I always appreciate ustedes buying my libros and handing them out as regalos, the following items are just as chingones, if not more so.
Juan In a Hundred: The Representation of Latinos on Network News: It won't be published until early January, but preorder this masterful analysis of the paucity of Mexis on la tele and the laughable representations who do make it through. Author Otto Santa Ana is a UCLA profe who boils down reams of data into a clear, well-written analysis that will have you rooting for the demise of the networks.
Anything on Cinco Puntos Press: You might've read a recent New York Times story decrying the lack of Latinos in children's books. And while you don't necessarily need Mexis in a book to get Mexi kids reading (although I must admit, I always thought Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing was set on a Zapatista commune in Chiapas), the Times article was wrong: There are a chingo of children's and young-adult books featuring Mexis, and some of the best come from Cinco Puntos Press in El Paso. Run by my amigo Bobby Bird, one of the most Mexican gabachos you'll ever meet, Cinco Punto's books are wonderfully illustrated, hilarious—and there's also great nonfiction for adults. Find more at www.cincopuntos.com.
Anything by Lalo Alcaraz or Sam Quinones: I plug these guys every year for a reason—not only are they amigos and mentors, but they're also the titans of their respective fields. Alcaraz, of course, draws awesome cartoons, but this year also saw the advent of his pocho.com, what The Onion would be if it were Chicano and funny (recent story: "Realization: Man watches telenovelas for boobs, not to learn Spanish"). And Los Angeles Times reporter Quinones just happens to be one of the best narrative reporters in the country, with his books, True Tales From Another Mexico and Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration, the best takes on Mexico since Insurgent Mexico—and you should buy that one, también!
Tex(t)-Mex: Seductive Hallucinations of the "Mexican" in America: Another annual plug because it deserves it, this scabrous take on Mexicans in the American imagination is penned by the eternally brilliant, eternally cochino William Nericcio. Rumor has it his next desmadre appears next year—grab that one, too.
Barrios to Burbs: The Making of the Mexican-American Middle Class: Shout-out to las mujeres! USC professor Jody Agius Vallejo penned a brilliant look into the Mexicans whom Americans don't want to acknowledge: those who aren't poor or cholos. She makes her fluid arguments with stats, great citations and amazing anecdotes—the opening scene in her book is a taut surprise, written sans academia's stultifying pedantry.
An Atlas of Historic New Mexico Maps, 1550-1941: This gorgeous coffee-table book published by the University of New Mexico Press presents images of all sorts of maps, along with brief histories of them and detailed close-ups. Perfect for the nerd in your family—and you know every Mexican family has at least two.
And remember folks: when you wrap up these books, make sure to stuff them and some underwear in Xbox 360 boxes to trick the recipient—it's the Mexican way!
This column appeared in print as "Special Navidad-Gift Edition."