Ballad of a Slopsucker
Alvarado Valdivia, Juan. (2019). Ballad of a Slopsucker. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.
This collection of 12 short stories starts off with a bang - a story of man who believes he has been blessed by God to kill bicycle thieves. The stories all revolve around male characters and their personal experiences of identity and home - a young widower, a young man delves into the work world, another faces death as well as respect for the dead, men fight their inner demons, and men come to terms with who they are not just how the world around them sees them.
The stories extend between dark and light and are powerful in their themes, contemporary and strong.
My favorite story is the last, "Hear My Train a Comin'". This story of a young teen, Agustín, just out of middle school, shows us his pain and frustration of growing up with a single, alcoholic mother in West Oakland where his aunt's home and reading are the only solace from his mother, her rotating assortment of boyfriends, street violence, and the bullies ready to pounce at any given moment. Agustín decides work through his fear and travel outside of the neighborhood to visit the library in Berkeley. It is a bit of a struggle, but with the assistance of a kind stranger, he navigates the BART and makes it to Berkeley, the whole while learning more about himself and what else is available to him outside of West Oakland.
Review by: Cassandra E. Oserloh, NHCC Librarian
Available at the NHCC Library PS3601 .L86667 B35 2019