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The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir by Domingo…

The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir (edition 2012)

by Domingo Martinez

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Title:The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir
Authors:Domingo Martinez
Info:Lyons Press (2012), Paperback, 456 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir by Domingo Martinez


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I picked this up after hearing Martinez read a portion of it for a segment on "This American Life." Martinez is a gifted storyteller, and portions of his memoir about growing up in south Texas are gripping. But I had two pretty big gripes with the book. The first was the way that Martinez seemed to blame Mexican culture in general for all of the negative aspects of his childhood family life, particularly his father's abusiveness, which Martinez portrays as typical Mexican machismo. I found this to be lazy, offensive, and offputting. Second, either Martinez never learned to write in Spanish, or there isn't a single editor on staff at Lyons Press who can write it. Accent marks are sprinkled in randomly whenever there is Spanish dialogue, and at least 30% of all the Spanish words in the book are spelled wrong. So distracting! ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
This is a memoir of growing up in Brownsville Texas, near the border with Mexico, in a poor barrio, with few opportunities and even less hope.

There are parts of this memoir that are engaging and funny. I loved the story of slaughtering the pig to make the Christmas tamales, or his sisters dying their hair blonde, and trying to transform themselves into “white” teenagers. But I could not connect with the acting out that the boys engaged in – the fighting, drinking, and drugs.

By way of background, I grew up in a Mexican-American household, with a father who was born in Mexico, and a mother who was born in a border-town on the Texas side of the Rio Grande – the same town where I was born and where my grandparents and most of my aunts and uncles stayed to raise their families. I recognized some of the setting, traditions, and cultural mores Martinez relates. But on the whole I felt as disenfranchised from the experiences he relates, as he states he felt. The families I knew were cohesive; the parents working menial jobs, perhaps, but staying together in love and faith to raise children who would succeed.

I kept waiting for some insight, and never got it. I wanted to understand this all-consuming need to express machismo, but could only shake my head and think “not again!” So I’m left disappointed and dissatisfied. I felt I was reading the rambling notes of a journal his therapist suggested he keep, rather than a cohesive memoir. ( )
  BookConcierge | Sep 23, 2016 |
Heard two excepts from this book on This American Life which left me wanting to know the rest of Martinezs story... Looking forward to starting this when my non-fic wheel comes back around.
  GoldenDarter | Sep 15, 2016 |
I picked this book up in the San Jose airport a couple of weeks ago. It was good enough that I finished half of it on the plane. Took me a little while to finish the rest of it because I snuck Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson in, and I had a ton of homework to do. But I stayed up late last night and finished it.

The book was nominated for the National Book Award. That's not what made me pick it up though. I've been reading and thinking a lot about social justice. And since I happen to live in Texas where the Hispanic/Latino population continues to grow at a rapid pace, I thought a memoir about growing up poor and Hispanic in Brownsville would make for an interesting read. It did. Not an easy one, though Martinez is funny, and a great storyteller, because his story is tough. Lots of abuse. Completely dysfunctional family. Love and hurt coexist in Martinez's family in the same way they do for many people. Sometimes it's good to just know you're not alone in your feelings, so you put your story out there. I feel like that's what Martinez has done. Writing the book seems like it might have been therapeutic for him. And I'm sure it has resonated with a lot of readers.

Good book. Worth picking up if you like memoirs. ( )
  jennyo | Sep 25, 2015 |
Domingo Martinez grew up in Brownsville, Texas as part of an extended, dysfunctional Mexican-American family. In this engaging memoir he tells what it was like to have a “boy-tyrant” for a father and a grandmother he believed was the devil. She took life insurance policies out on all the young men in the family – and collected often enough that each time “was like winning the lottery again.”

As an adult Martinez moved to Seattle to “follow the rain” which reminded him of some of the best times of his “seasonally deficient” youth on the border, which featured one season – hot. Martinez knew early he wanted to leave Brownsville before he fell into the trap most young men did: “The boys never left home; they just brought their illegitimate children and unhappy wives along for the only ride they knew, the one that headed nowhere.”

Martinez tells of his later problems with addiction and alcohol and how his family life contributed. This is a witty, compelling memoir that doesn’t shy away from deep emotion and even embarrassing moments. ( )
  Hagelstein | Aug 1, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0762779195, Paperback)


A lyrical and authentic book that recounts the story of a border-town family in Brownsville, Texas in the 1980's, as each member of the family desperately tries to assimilate and escape life on the border to become "real" Americans, even at the expense of their shared family history. This is really un-mined territory in the memoir genre that gives in-depth insight into a previously unexplored corner of America.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:47 -0400)

"Domingo Martinez lays bare his interior and exterior worlds as he struggles to make sense of the violent and the ugly, along with the beautiful and the loving. Partly a reflection on the culture of machismo and partly an exploration of the author's boyhood spent in his sister's hand-me-down clothes, this book delves into the enduring and complex bond between Martinez and his deeply flawed, but fiercely protective older brother. It features a cast of memorable characters, including his gun-hoarding, former farmhand Gramma and "The Mimi's," two of his older sisters who for a short, glorious time, manage to transform themselves from poor Latina adolescents into upper-class white girls. Martinez delves into the complicated relationships between extended family and the inner conflicts that result when the desire to Americanize clashes with the inherent need to defend one's manhood in an aggressive, archaic patriarchal farming culture. He provides a real glimpse into a society where children are traded like commerce, physical altercations routinely solve problems, drugs are rampant, sex is often crude, and people depend on the family witch doctor for advice. Charming, painful, and enlightening, it examines the traumas and pleasures of growing up in South Texas, and the often terrible consequences when two very different cultures collide on the banks of a dying river"-- "A lyrical and authentic book that recounts the story of a border-town family in Brownsville, Texas in the 1980's, as each member of the family desperately tries to assimilate and escape life on the border to become "real" Americans, even at the expense of their shared family history. This is really un-mined territory in the memoir genre that gives in-depth insight into a previously unexplored corner of America"--… (more)

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