Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Brick People, Alejandro Morales’s fourth novel, is undoubtedly his most personal in that it is a fictionalized account of his parents’ life. Unlike his earlier texts, which often have a fragmented structure, The Brick People is organized as a relatively straightforward historical novel; it follows the chronology of the early twentieth century with references to key events such as the Great Depression and World War II. The combination of historical fact and elements of fantasy places the novel in the Magical Realist tradition of contemporary Latin American literature associated with Alejo Carpentier, Gabriel García Márquez, and others.

Morales was one of the first Chicano novelists at a time (the late 1970’s) when Chicano literature was not yet accepted as an important area of American studies. Chicano texts were not included in the curriculum of major universities; Chicano writers and scholars in many English and Spanish departments were greeted with outright hostility. In a real sense, Morales’s role in the U.S. academy was to be one of the founders of an emergent discipline. By the time The Brick People appeared (written entirely in English), Chicano literature enjoyed an international readership and academic respectability, and Morales was counted among the most influential Chicano critics and writers of fiction.