Growing Through the Ugly: A Novel

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9780393333466: Growing Through the Ugly: A Novel

“This funky, disturbing, lyrical, coming-of-age novel covers more ground―emotional, social, terrestrial, and celestial―than its brevity suggests. Focusing on how it could have felt to be a kid, Tex-Mex, sexually mixed-up, hip yet dumb, dangerously uncool, and terminally romantic in the very early sixties, Diego Vázquez has given us the unforgettable Buzzy Digit, whose voice sounds like no one else in recent American fiction.” ―Al Young, author of Heaven: Collected Poems, 1956-1990

Growing Through the Ugly begins: "This is my first day of being dead but I want to return to my abuelita's house." Even though the protagonist, Buzzy Digit, a child-turned-soldier, is dead, his memory is still alive. In lyrical, colorful, and haunting prose, drawing on elements of magic realism, we are transported to the 1960s town of El Paso, Texas, where we relive Buzzy's memories of his life with his extended family on the border between Mexico and America. The border where people speak two languages.

Abandoned first by his father, then by his mother, and growing up in an erotically charged household filled with cousins, aunts, and uncles, Buzzy's world is defined by loss, loneliness, and sexual confusion. Eventually Buzzy falls in love with his destructive cousin Red, and finds that his only escape from the claustrophobia of home is what might make him a hero―or kill him: the war in Vietnam.

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Review:

Growing Through the Ugly by Diego Vazquez Jr. begins with a death and then proceeds to examine a life. Both the corpse and the life belong to Buzzy Digit, a casualty in the Vietnam War whose coffin is being transported back to his hometown of El Paso, Texas. As the plane carrying his body takes off, Buzzy's soul also takes flight, reviewing the events of a short life scarred by abandonment, sexual molestation, and fear. Despite these early setbacks, Buzzy learns to transcend his troubles with the help of his cousin, Red. The knowledge of Buzzy's eventual fate invests his struggles to find a place for himself with a bittersweet quality that lingers after the book is done.

About the Author:

Diego Vazquez, Jr. teaches in the Compass Writers and Artists in the Schools and the Minnesota State Arts Board, Artists in Education programs. His work has been anthologized in Speaking in Tongues, A View from the Loft, Instant Coffee, and New Chicana/Chicano Writing. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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