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Western Avenue and Other Fictions

By Fred Arroyo

Publication Year: 2012

In these engaging and often gripping short stories, Fred Arroyo takes us into the lives of working-class Hispanic migrants and immigrants, who are often invisible while they work in plain sight across America. As characters intertwine and evolve across stories, Arroyo creates a larger narrative that dramatizes the choices we make to create identity, make meaning, and deal with hardships and loss. His stories are linked by a concern with borders, both real and imagined, and the power that memory and imagination have to shape and structure our lives.

Through his characters and their true-to-life situations, Arroyo makes visible both internal and external conflicts that are deeply rooted in--and affected by--place. A bodega, a university town, a factory, a Chicago street, some dusty potato fields: here is where we encounter ordinary people who work, dream, love, and persist in the face of violence, bereavement, disappointment, and loss--particularly the loss of mothers, fathers, and loved ones.

Arroyo's characters experience a strange wonder as the midwestern United States increasingly appears to be a place created by the Latinas and Latinos who remain out of the sight and minds of Anglos. In lyrical language weighted by detail, exquisite imagery, and evocative story, Arroyo imagines characters who confront the tattered connections between memory and longing, generations and geographies, place and displacement, as they begin to feel their own longings, "breathing in whatever was offered, feeling, deep in the small and fragile borders of my heart," as one character puts it, "that it came with a sorrow I could never betray."


Published by: University of Arizona Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-x

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Arrival, circa 1976, el Morro

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pp. 1-13

His memory arrives with the geography of this photograph: a black iron lamppost, a white globe circling above, the blue stone road, the forking paths and incandescent fountains, a labyrinth of arcades leading from the bright heart of the city to its darker...

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A Case of Consolation

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pp. 3-16

Boogaloo lived in a small quarter of the city, an indistinct district bordered by certain streets he never liked to cross, and where no one asked his name. Boogaloo—born Manuel Perez—lived in an old brownstone on the top floor, almost level with the El, where...

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pp. 17-18

My memories often go out and return like those waves, continuously circling around an island of images: my father standing in the yard with a bottle of beer or rum in his black, grease-stained hand, his tools glinting on a car’s fender. Asleep on the couch in the late afternoon without a shirt, missing a shoe, his head...

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Someday You’ll See

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pp. 19-34

I thought of the block as an art project because of the sailboat carved along one edge, a guitar along the other, and how the lines of each image were filled with black ink or paint. It must have been an art project, perhaps from when Lorime was in the first or second grade. A small four-by-six block of wood. No more...

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pp. 35-47

There seems to be only the foundation, the cracked and weather-softened pylons, a small rusted flywheel. A silver stream running alongside, catching against stones, foaming white, the stones suddenly tiny mountains shrouded with heavy mist. The banks overgrown— bushes, passion fruit vines, a flamboyant tree, some wild...

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pp. 37-44

My mother folded my shirt collar down, smoothed the lapels of my coat, and then straightened my tie one more time. She folded a handkerchief in half across her knee, doubled the fold. Knelt down in front of me, small streams of winter light entering the room, she folded each corner into the center until she had a small...

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The Shadows of Palms

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pp. 45-46

Abuela Monsa stands in her open kitchen. Steam rises with the little song she hums. She dances and sways to her song, moving back and forth from table to stove. Sunlight slants into the doorway, banana leaves shaking in the breeze, shadows entering in waves behind the sunlight and the leaves. A hummingbird flutters...

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First Love

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pp. 47-64

I was reading on the front porch when I heard Ernest and his father on the sidewalk, their shoes scraping under the mulberry trees, and as I looked up from the page they ducked under the drooping branches, their shoulders brushing against each other. Ernest slipped off his suit coat, folded it over his arm. He waved...

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Fallen Leaves, yellow, orange, green

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pp. 65-66

The dormitories are constructed of concrete blocks. Their exteriors painted white, their rusty tin roofs shaking the men out of bed when the fall rains seemingly drop without regret. They look to be about six and a half feet tall. Lined in even rows—six rows wide, six rows deep—inside the cannery’s barbed wire compound...

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In the Fields of Memory

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pp. 67-82

Tino is a good six corn stalks in front of me. His wrinkled, sweat-stained paper-sack hat knocking against the cream-yellow tassel tops of corn. Deep in the green, up ahead of me, Boogaloo’s voice rises from the wet field like the repetitious song of the coqui frog: ...

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Facing North, Facing South

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pp. 83-84

There is always a knife in his stories, a rose, the bloom of blood—or, at least, a bruise. Purple ribs of pain are where I find my father: that eternal story of his own father forcing him to quit school in the third grade so he could work in the fields, the silver of a machete glinting in the air, the flat of the blade striking his ...

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Exile’s Home

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pp. 85-90

When he woke it was to the smell of almonds floating in the sea. His father had laid him on the outer wall of el Morro, his suit coat folded under his head, a round stone pressing into the small of his back. At first, the mango piragua his father had bought him was sweet and cold in the deep pocket of his stomach, then the...

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Avenue of the Americas, circa 1952

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pp. 91-92

Standing against a wall, an immaculate white cloth draped over a tray, Changó, nine years old, stands military straight, a jagged straw hat cocked on his head, a tattered shirt smudged with dirt reaching just below his elbows. Coloring the pristine white cloth, three green and red mangoes, a pair of cow shanks and hooves, a...

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Western Avenue

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pp. 93-108

From the distance, the blinking lights of the ethanol plant’s blue smokestacks. In this November light the freshly turned fields glisten coal black, a few cornstalks still standing, their thin leaves rustling in the wind. In the summers the sweet smell of the surrounding mint fields. Now the stench of the refining ethanol...


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pp. 109-120

About the Author

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pp. 110-121

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599776
E-ISBN-10: 0816599777
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816502332
Print-ISBN-10: 0816502331

Page Count: 120
Illustrations: none
Publication Year: 2012