Eddie, a young Mexican American, fights to make something of himself in Fresno, California. Reeling from the death of his father, his best friend, and his cousin, he must wage a constant battle against negative community influences (guns, drugs, lack of opportunity, cultural stereotypes). Facing his own ennui, he often feels there is no hope. In the beginning chapters, friends and relatives coax him to pick up guns and avenge his cousin's death. Yet, Eddie is determined to survive in this world where all seems against him. Turning against the world of drugs and violence, Eddie vows to take the straight and narrow path, even if it means struggling at temporary manual labor jobs. Having already failed at his community college studies, Eddie's success appears doubtful through much of the book. When he takes a landscaping job for a white man across town and the man's truck is stolen from the front of Eddie's apartment, Eddie is accused of the theft. To compound his troubles, he is continually harassed by young hoodlums. As he and a friend attempt to recover the missing truck, Eddie's friend is stabbed. Eddie realizes that to survive he must escape the constraints of the barrio. In his desperation, Eddie contemplates joining the military. As the story ends, Eddie knows that his persistence, and his refusal to give in to adversity, mark him as a survivor.
Although Buried Onions provides no easy answers for persistent social problems, Eddie finds hope in the fields surrounding Fresno, and a growing awareness that he needs others to survive in the barrio. Few adolescent novels present such an uncompromising look at the difficulties of surviving in a central California Mexican-American community. Although as many of Eddie's dreams end as begin, he continues to look for opportunities. Buried Onions is a unique portrait of an older adolescent in a world where the complexities of finding an occupation and making ends meet are never ironed out.