(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Dear Rafe is based on Rolando Hinojosa’s vivid experiences in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas from 1929 to 1946 as well as on his knowledge of the Korean War. Dear Rafe is a fictionalized portrayal of the area’s white power brokers and their attempts to control the economy in the lower Rio Grande Valley.

Dear Rafe is divided into two parts, forming a total of forty-seven chapters and a conclusion. The first part consists of twenty-three chapters made up of Jehu Malacara’s letters to Rafe Buenrostro. The second part is made up of twenty-four chapters that deal mainly with speculation on Jehu Malacara’s mysterious departure from Klail City First National Bank in Belken County.

The book begins with Jehu’s letters to his cousin Rafe, who is recovering in Belken County War Memorial Veteran’s Hospital from wounds incurred during the Korean War. Both are now employed; Rafe, although convalescing, is an attorney and a lieutenant of detectives in the district attorney’s office in Belken County, while Jehu is the chief loan officer of the Klail City First National Bank. Jehu tells Rafe of the political activities going on in the valley. He focuses on the subtle games played by the area power brokers, mainly Noddy Perkins and Ira Escobar. Jehu is indirectly involved in various political power plays, for he not only knows who is manipulating whom but is also in charge of money being lent to selected businesses that are subsequently taken over by Klail City First National Bank. During these socioeconomic and political fracases, Jehu becomes involved with two women, the beautiful Becky, the Mexican American wife of Ira Escobar, and the younger Sammie Jo, the spoiled daughter of Noddy Perkins. Ira is so caught up in his quest to be county commissioner—giving his undivided attention and services to Noddy, who can and does make his ambitions a reality—that he is not aware of his wife’s love affair with Jehu. Sammie Jo, who has been married before and who is known to be promiscuous, is also having an affair with Jehu, perhaps...

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(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Jussawalla, Feroza, and Reed Way Dasenbrock, eds. Interviews with Writers of the Post-Colonial World. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1992. Includes an informative interview with Rolando Hinojosa.

Lee, Joyce Glover. Rolando Hinojosa and the American Dream. Denton, Tex.: University of North Texas, 1997. Explores the cultural journey of Mexican Americans in search of a place of their own within the context of American life. Discusses several of Hinojosa’s works.

Passty, J. N. “Dear Rafe.” Choice 23 (January, 1986): 742. Passty emphasizes Jehu Malacara’s and Rafe Buenrostro’s roles in the Mexican American effort to restore “lost” lands to the descendants of the Mexican families that once owned them.

Salazar-Parr, Carmen. “La Chicana in Literature.” In Chicano Studies: A Multidisciplinary Approach, edited by Eugene E. Garcia, Francisco A. Lomelí, and Isidro D. Ortiz. New York: Teachers College Press, 1984. Useful in order to appreciate fully Hinojosa’s female characters. Salazar-Parr states that the reader must realize “that the mistresses and prostitutes do not necessarily symbolize bad’ women in Chicano literature.”

Saldívar, José David, ed. The Rolando Hinojosa Reader: Essays Historical and Critical. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1985. A helpful overview of Hinojosa’s career.

Tatum, Charles M. “Dear Rafe.” Hispania 69 (September, 1986): 560-561. Notes that the principal difference between Dear Rafe and Hinojosa’s prior novels is the focus on Anglo financial and political manipulations. Observes that the reader is given a bird’s-eye view of financial and political life in the Rio Grande Valley.

Tatum, Charles M. “Rolando Hinojosa-Smith.” In Chicano Writers, edited by Francisco A. Lomelí and Carl R. Shirley. Vol. 82 in Dictionary of Literary Biography, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989. Tatum analyzes six novels and one scholarly book by Hinojosa and also provides the reader with a biographical sketch. Notes that Hinojosa intends each of his works to form a part of a lifelong novel that he calls “Klail City Death Trip.” Dear Rafe is part of this fictional world.