The Plum Plum Pickers
Set in California’s Santa Clara County during the summer and fall harvest season, The Plum Plum Pickers takes place in and around the fictional town of Drawbridge and more specifically at the Western Grande Company’s migrant housing project. The novel presents the dehumanized conditions of the mostly Mexican plum plum, or prune, pickers at the hands of the fruit company representatives, Mr. Quill, the grounds boss, and his superior and company owner, Mr. Turner. The squalor of the migrant camps is a major element of the narrative and enhances the brutalized relations between not only Anglo bosses and Mexican laborers but also between different groups within the farmworkers’ Mexican community. The harsh reality of conditions is brought to the forefront in large part by the contrapuntal techniques employed in the narrative (which allow for contrasting views of the same topic) and the frequent attributing of animal qualities to individual characters.
Barrio published The Plum Plum Pickers privately in 1969. Its publication coincided with the unionizing activities of César Chávez, and the book appeared to illustrate the very conditions that Chávez sought to improve. The book was therefore an immediate popular success, although it received little critical attention, perhaps because of the poor quality of print and paper employed in its first printing. The novel has since maintained its position as one of the key novels of the Chicano movement of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. A major reason is Barrio’s use of an unusual narrative form, which incorporates such items as newspaper...
(The entire section is 686 words.)