(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

This collection of sketches about Rolando Hinojosa’s fictional Belken County, situated just north of the Mexican border in Texas, was Hinojosa’s first major publication. Originally, it was rendered in Spanish with English translations by Gustávo Valadéz and José Reyna under the title Estampas del valle y otras obras/Sketches of the Valley and Other Works. Hinojosa himself translated it under the present title in 1983, adding some material and a set of photographs from his family album. The collection constitutes a novel by some definitions of the term, but it also is the first major segment of Hinojosa’s evolving multivolume “Klail City Death Trip” series. Hinojosa focuses on the area around his birthplace, Mercedes, Texas (Klail City in his series). In these sketches, he attempts to capture the ambience of the area and its people.

The Valley lacks the real plot, the dramatic climax, the carefully planned denouement, and the clearly identifiable protagonist found in conventional novels. Nevertheless, it contains pervasive characters, including the frequent narrator, Rafa Buenrostro, the biographical details of whose life closely approximate Hinojosa’s. It also presents Jehú Malacra, seen through many eyes at various stages of his development. The last pages of the book, “A Life of Rafa Buenrostro,” focus on Rafa.

Three early sketches—a total of twenty-three printed lines—focus on Rafa’s early school experience and evoke the sense of separation Mexican American children feel from their Anglo classmates and teachers. The three paragraphs that constitute these sketches are not directly related to one another. Rather, each provides a snapshot of something connected with that early school experience: the teacher, Miss Moy, is described in five lines; a Hispanic girl lies about what she had...

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(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Akers, John C. “From Translation to Rewriting: Rolando Hinojosa’s The Valley.” Americas Review 21 (Spring, 1993): 91-102. Akers analyzes The Valley, the English version of his first published fiction Estampas del valle y otras obras. He compares this novel with other Spanish works and their English versions, and presents a useful study of the structural, linguistic, and thematic aspects of the English version.

Hinojosa, Rolando. “Chicano Literature: An American Literature in Transition.” In The Identification and Analysis of Chicano Literature, edited by Francisco Jiménez. New York: Bilingual Press, 1979. Hinojosa contrasts the interest in black writing to that in Hispanic writing. He foresees a developing interest in Chicano literature. His predictions have proved accurate.

Hinojosa, Rolando. “This Writer’s Sense of Place.” In The Texas Literary Tradition: Fiction, Folklore, History, edited by Don Graham, James W. Lee, and William T. Pilkington. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983. Hinojosa discusses how he transformed the area where he grew up into his fictional county. One senses here the dichotomy he felt as a part of two cultures. Schooled to value his heritage, he could not, however escape Hispanic-Anglo tensions.

Leal, Luis. “History and Memory in Estampas del valle.” In The Rolando Hinojosa Reader: Essays Historical and Critical, edited by José David Saldívar. Houston: Arté Publico Press, 1985. Deals with how Hinojosa structured his memories of childhood to formulate his novel. Also shows how local history infuses Hinojosa’s writing.

Hinojosa, Rolando. “Our Southwest: An Interview with Rolando Hinojosa.” In The Rolando Hinojosa Reader: Essays Critical and Historical, edited by José D. Saldívar. Houston: Arté Publico Press, 1985. In this interview, Hinojosa talks about the evolution of his work. He acknowledges his debt to Tomás Rivera, who encouraged him to offer his work for publication. The piece is valuable in that it traces the progression of Hinojosa’s writing.

Saldívar, José D. “Rolando Hinojosa’s Klail City Death Trip: A Critical Introduction.” In The Rolando Hinojosa Reader: Essays Historical and Critical, edited by José David Saldívar. Houston: Arté Publico Press, 1985. This essay provides an overall assessment of the “Klail City Death Trip” series and illustrates how Hinojosa conceives of his work. Useful for Hinojosa’s comments on local color.