Monday, October 9, 2023

From The Bookshelves: Butterfly Boy by Rigoberto González


Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa is a new-to-me memoir by Rigoberto González, first published in 2006. González is a professor of English and director of the MFA Program in creative writing at Rutgers University–Newark. He has published, so far, SEVENTEEN books--including both poetry and prose.

Here's the pitch for Butterfly Boy:

Growing up among poor migrant Mexican farmworkers, Rigoberto González also faces the pressure of coming-of-age as a gay man in a culture that prizes machismo. Losing his mother when he is twelve, González must then confront his father’s abandonment and an abiding sense of cultural estrangement, both from his adopted home in the United States and from a Mexican birthright. His only sense of connection gets forged in a violent relationship with an older man. By finding his calling as a writer, and by revisiting the relationship with his father during a trip to Mexico, González finally claims his identity at the intersection of race, class, and sexuality. The result is a leap of faith that every reader who ever felt like an outsider will immediately recognize.

If you're curious about the poetry of González, let me recommend Unpeopled Eden, a work inspired by  Woody Guthrie's song Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportees). There's one stanza that really sticks with me. It's describing the transportation used to deport individuals:

A strand of hair pretends to be
a crack and sticks to glass. A piece
of thread sits on a seat, pretends
to be a tear. The bus makes believe
no one cried into their hands and smeared
that grief onto its walls. The walls
will keep the fingerprints a secret
until the sheen of oils glows by moon.
Rows of ghosts come forth to sing.


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