Winner of this year’s PEN / Faulkner Fiction Award

 

Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

These stories, set in the conjoined metropolitan area of El Paso, Texas and Cuidad Juarez, deal with borders and the way they divide us. Borders of identity: Mexican/gringo/or mixed; borders of desire: gay/straight/or bisexual; borders of territory: the relative safety of the streets of El Paso vs. the threat of death – or, worse, disappearance in Juarez. Characters are also separated by their education, their aspirations, their class. Love is a painful thing in most of these stories with characters so damaged they can rarely accept what is offered. Characters understand that love can sometimes only be shown with money, rules, or fists – and yet Alire Sáenz often offers a sense of hopefulness: a school counselor gets an abused teen to safety, a classmate loans a former enemy his hard-earned money to escape the wrath of his homophobic father, a teen believes enough in himself to go away to college, a family’s love helps a teen attacked in a hate crime find the will to live.

Highly recommended.

Submitted by Nancy S

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