Pieces of the Heart Summary

Pieces of the Heart

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

PIECES OF THE HEART: NEW CHICANO FICTION is a collection of fifteen stories by American writers of Mexican descent, about life in California, the Southwest, Chicago, New York, and overseas. The stories are about growing up Chicano or Chicana, searching for family roots, confronting prejudice, fighting in Vietnam, plumbing the mysteries of peoples’ personalities, and, in almost every case, witnessing family life in its darker aspects.

Often family life is not happy, as the editor points out in his introduction. Many of these writers find the backdrop of family life inescapable. Mexican American tradition respects the extended family, in which grandparents, godparents, aunts and great aunts, cousins and grandchildren—all relations—hold a primary place in the family topography. Thus, in Ana Castillo’s “La Loca Santa,” lies a wonderful metaphor for the strength of family ties. A mother’s child, although dead, magically returns to remain in the family. Events that follow are grim and richly magical. A similar mood inhabits the lead story by Alberto Alvaro Rios, “The Waltz of the Fat Man.” A huge and lonely butcher dances alone in his shop, crammed with clocks with which he has fallen in love. Sandra Cisneros, a master of voices, offers “One Holy Night,” set in Chicago. A young girl who sells mangos from a pushcart describes her ill-fated romance with “Baby Boy,” or Chaq Uxmal Paloquin, “descendent of Mayan kings.” Later, a few months pregnant, she sees his face in the paper and learns more than she cares to know.

These young brilliant Chicano writers, some of whom are just gaining recognition, will add fuel to the major renaissance in Chicano literature, as these vibrant, diverse stories show.