In the novel, Eddie lives in a poor Mexican-American neighborhood in Southeast Fresno, California.
The neighborhood is surrounded by sagging fences and poorly painted houses. The general atmosphere is one of poverty, neglect, and privation. Eddie relates that the "poor, ignorant, unemployable people" hang their laundry out in the open. Meanwhile, old men sit on porches fanning themselves, young Mexican men with no jobs work on their cars, and young mothers carry on conversations as they rock their babies' strollers back and forth. The babies are always fussy, and their mothers never seem to be able to sooth them.
Eddie contends that there's very little to live for in his impoverished neighborhood. His own apartment is sparsely furnished and cheaply decorated. Even his mail slot is rusty and leaves reddish stains on his fingers when he checks for mail.
Eddie maintains that he must be careful as he goes about his way in his neighborhood. Ferocity is a celebrated trait on the streets of his neighborhood, and many young men like himself live under the shadows of gang-inspired violence. The local playground itself is a haunt for various gangster groups. So, in all, Eddie's neighborhood is an impoverished one; many get by with subsistence-level income, and there is little hope for advancement.