Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

It has been said that in Rolando Hinojosa’s writings, war is simply symbolic of other matters that concern the author. Discuss how Hinojosa uses war symbolically.

Authors create small worlds, microcosms, in which they unfold their stories. Discuss how Hinojosa uses Belken County to unfold his stories and to present his social philosophy.

Does Hinojosa present an objective and balanced view of the non-Hispanic people in the region about which he generally writes? Are they rounded or flat characters?

Can you think of a non-Hispanic author who deals with some of the same social and political issues that concern Hinojosa?

Writers usually depend heavily on the use and presentation of sensory detail. Does Hinojosa draw more heavily on one or two of the five senses than on the others? Does he ignore any of the senses?

Literature that endures does so because it deals with universal questions and problems. Do you find such universals in Hinojosa’s writings?

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Rolando Hinojosa (ee-noh-HOH-sah) is known primarily for his long fiction in both English and Spanish. He has also written a verse novel, Korean Love Songs from Klail City Death Trip (1978; printed 1980). Hinojosa produced the book Agricultural Workers of the Rio Grande and Rio Bravo Valleys in 1984.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

After the death of Tomás Rivera in 1984, Rolando Hinojosa became considered the dean of Mexican American belles lettres and selflessly advanced Mexican American literature throughout the United States, Latin America, and Europe. His works have been translated into German, French, Italian, English, and Spanish, and they have been anthologized by numerous presses. He has received many accolades and awards, including the Premio Quinto Sol in 1972, the Casa de las Américas Prize in 1976, and the Lon Tinkle Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Texas Institute of Letters in 1998. In 2007, Hinojosa, along with Dagoberto Gilb, received the prestigious Bookends Award at the Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas, in recognition of his lifetime literary achievement. He has lectured and read from his works widely, and scholars—both in the United States and abroad, particularly in Europe—continue to write Ph.D. dissertations and master’s theses about his works.

Hinojosa’s distinctively concise literary style, in English and Spanish (or a combination of the two), is marked by irony, satire, stark realism, and an extraordinary cutting wit. While his works are often quite experimental, Hinojosa has masterfully incorporated various genres into his novels, including sketches, reportage, epistles, poetry, journal entries, and murder mysteries. Among all Mexican American authors, he is without question the most accomplished and versatile.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Rolando Hinojosa is the highly regarded American author of the Klail City Death Trip series. Written in Spanish and English, this series emphasizes the consolations of close family or community bonds in a troublesome world that eludes human understanding. Hinojosa highlights the mysteries of life by fashioning a collage of multiple narrative viewpoints, different cultural identities, various generational time periods, and miscellaneous anecdotal stories that are variously comic and serious. He also experiments with dissimilar types or genres of writing, including police procedurals.

Two of the novels in the Klail City Death Trip series, Partners in Crime (1985) and Ask a Policeman (1998), are detective novels. These novels are noteworthy for how they depart from what readers might commonly expect from such works. Instead of sharply individualistic characters dramatically applying exceptional capabilities, Hinojosa’s police officers are thoroughly human. They tend to approach a case casually, and often they acknowledge the tedium of following routine procedures. They succeed because of or in spite of their human foibles, but equally often they benefit from or are set back by pure luck.

Hinojosa revised the crime novel formula by stressing that societal well-being is maintained less by the heroic actions of extraordinary individuals than by basic forms of everyday cooperation, especially supportive familial interactions. His detectives prevail precisely because they are ordinary people of diverse backgrounds and experiences who have learned how to work well together.

Hinojosa’s career as a novelist has been remarkable. His interest in fiction was stirred when, at the age of fifteen, he was awarded an honorable mention in a creative writing contest. His first published book, Estampas del Valle y otras Obras/Sketches of the Valley, and Other Works (1973; English revision, The Valley, 1983), was awarded the Premio Quinto Sol prize for best novel. His second book, Klail City y sus alrededores (1976; Klail City: A Novel, 1987), received the Casa de las Américas award for best Spanish American novel. In 1982 the Southwest Conference on Latin American Studies selected Hinojosa for the Best Writing in Humanities prize, and in 1998 the University of Illinois honored him with an Alumni Achievement Award. He has also received the Lon Tinkle Lifetime Achievement Award (1998), and in 2006 he was installed in the Texas Literary Hall of Fame.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Calderón, Héctor. “Texas Border Literature: Cultural Transformation and Historical Reflection in the Works of Américo Paredes, Rolando Hinojosa, and Gloria Anzaldua.” Disposito 16, no. 41 (1991): 13-27.

Hepworth, Candida. “Chicano/a Fiction.” In Beginning Ethnic American Literature, edited by Maria Lauret. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 2001. Offers a detailed reading of Hinojosa’s The Valley, which includes Rafe Buenrostro’s childhood memories. Indexed.

Hernández, Guillermo E. Chicano Satire: A Study in Literary Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991. Hernández argues that Hinojosa’s narrative fragments preserve cultural history and interconnect in ways that sustain a people’s identity. Indexed.

Jussawalla, Feroza, and Reed Way Dusenbrock, eds. Interviews with Writers of the Post-Colonial World. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi Press, 1992. Focuses on why Hinojosa’s books include two languages.

Lee, Joyce Glover. Rolando Hinojosa and the American Dream. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1999. A good book-length work in English on Hinojosa’s works. Attempts to bring a biographical and psychological analysis to the Klail City Death Trip series.

Márquez, Antonio C....

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