Rolando Hinojosa Long Fiction Analysis
In 1970, Rolando Hinojosa began publishing fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, primarily in small Mexican American presses and journals. His major work comprises a series of short novels that he entitled the Klail City Death Trip series after publishing Korean Love Songs from Klail City Death Trip, which he has referred to as a novel in verse form. The Klail City Death Trip series is distinguished by the fact that it includes several novels published in both Spanish and English, but the different language renditions do not always represent exactly the samenarrative. Significant differences between the two versions or renditions of a given novel exist in the narrative sequence of chapters, with some chapters deleted, others added, and others rearranged. One should thus read both language editions of any of the novels to gain a comprehensive and fully accurate understanding of the Klail City Death Trip series. Some of the novels, moreover, suffer from egregious publishing errors, owing to the failure of Arte Público Press to submit the texts to copyediting before going to press; in some cases large passages are repeated and in others significant passages are completely left out. The most conspicuous of these errors occurred when the publisher omitted the climactic chapter at the end of The Useless Servants.
The works in the series were not published in strict chronological order. Fair Gentlemen of Belken County, the fourth serial entry of the Klail City Death Trip series, for instance, was written prior to Dear Rafe but was published after it.
With The Valley, Hinojosa begins his serial project by introducing a host of characters, some of whom are extensively developed in succeeding novels. This novel is made up of four loosely connected sections of sketches that give readers a wide sense of the character of the Mexican Texan people inhabiting the fictional Belken County in “the Valley,” the area north of the Mexican border in South Texas. Here, the people of various towns are shown at home, in their communities, carrying on with their daily lives. Two cousins, Jehá Malacara and Rafe Buenrostro, are introduced for the first time; the lives of these characters are examined in greater detail in later novels. Both are orphans, with Jehú being raised by various people unrelated to him while Rafe and his brothers are raised by their uncle Julian.
Klail City continues with the same format and purpose as The Valley, with three sections of sketches. Hinojosa continues to develop his two main characters’ lives, but with this novel, he develops a theme that permeates the entire series: the historical conflict between Anglo-Texans and Mexican Texans over the land and the laws governing their lives. In this novel, readers are informed of the cause of Rafe’s father’s death, murder by a member of a rival Mexican American clan, the Leguizamóns. While Jesús Buenrostro’s murder is avenged by his brother Julian, the clans’ animosity toward each other remains undiminished as the Klail City Death Trip series progresses. Also introduced in this novel is a greater conflict, the Korean War, which will later affect the main characters’ lives, especially Rafe’s.
The Useless Servants
The Useless Servants, in prose, extensively shows Rafe’s day-to-day life in the war. The masterfully written realism of the battlefield makes both Korean Love Songs from Klail City Death Trip and The Useless Servants extraordinary testaments to the horror and senselessness of war. One fact that does not escape Rafe and other Mexican Texan soldiers in Korea, however, is that even while defending their country, they are still subjected to racism by their Anglo-American counterparts.
Dear Rafe jumps ahead in the serial narrative and portrays Jehú as a principal, though elliptical, character. Incorporating the epistolary and reportage genres, Hinojosa provides multiple perspectives...
(The entire section is 1680 words.)