Shedding profound natural light on the inner lives of migrant workers, Jaime Cortez’s debut collection ushers in a new era of American literature that gives voice to a marginalized generation in the West.
His first-ever collection of stories, Jaime Cortez’s Gordo is set in a migrant workers camp near Watsonville, California, in the 1970s. A young boy named Gordo fights back tears underneath a wrestler’s mask as he is forced to fight other boys and grow into his father’s expectations of manhood. As he comes of age, Gordo learns about sex, poverty, and discovers the wrenching divides between documented and undocumented immigrants.
Fat Cookie, high schooler and resident artist, uses tiny library pencils to draw murals of graffiti flowers along the camp’s blank walls, the words CHICANO POWER boldly lettered across, before she runs away from home one day with her mother’s boyfriend. Los Tigres, the perfect pair of twins who show up to Gyrich Farms every season without fail, are champion drinkers until one of them is rushed to the emergency room after a brawl, bloody and slumped in a tattered easy chair on the back of a pick-up truck.
These scenes from Steinbeck Country seen so intimately from within are full of humor, family drama, and a sweet frankness about serious matters—who belongs to America and how are they treated? Written with balance and poise, Cortez braids together elegantly tragicomic and inviting stories about life on a California camp, in essence redefining what all-American means.