Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood

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9780938317814: Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood

The “Hollywood” where Sammy Santos and Juliana Ríos live is not the West Coast one, the one with all the glitz and glitter. This Hollywood is a tough barrio at the edge of a small town in southern New Mexico. Sammy and this friends—members of the 1969 high school graduating class—face a world of racism, dress codes, war in Vietnam and barrio violence. In the summer before his senior year begins, Sammy falls in love with Juliana, a girl whose tough veneer disguises a world of hurt. By summer’s end, Juliana is dead. Sammy grieves, and in his grief, the memory of Juliana becomes his guide through this difficult year. Sammy is a smart kid, but he’s angry. He’s angry about Juliana’s death, he’s angry about the poverty his father and his sister must endure, he’s angry at his high school and its thinly disguised gringo racism, and he’s angry he might not be able to go to college. Benjamin Alire Sáenz, evoking the bittersweet ambience found in such novels as McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show, captures the essence of what it meant to grow up Chicano in small-town America in the late 1960s.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz—novelist, poet, essayist and writer of children’s books—is at the forefront of the emerging Latino literatures. He has received both the Wallace Stegner Fellowship and the Lannan Fellowship, and is a recipient of the American Book Award. Born Mexican-American Catholic in the rural community of Picacho, New Mexico, he now teaches at the University of Texas at El Paso, and considers himself a “fronterizo,” a person of the border.

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About the Author:

BENJAMIN ALIRE SÁENZ was born in his grandmother's house in Picacho, New Mexico--on the outskirts of Las Cruces, New Mexico where Juliana in Hollywood is set. He was the fourth of seven children and was brought up in a traditional Mexican-American Catholic family. His family spoke mostly Spanish at home, and it was only through his education in the public schools that he learned to speak and write in English. He entered the seminary in 1972, a decision that was as much political as it was religious: he was heavily influenced by such Catholic thinkers as Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, César Chavez and the Berrigan brothers. After concluding his theological studies at the University of Louvain, he was ordained a Catholic priest. Three and a half years later, he left the priesthood. At the age of 30, he entered the Creative Writing Program at the University of Texas at El Paso. He later received a fellowship at the University of Iowa, and in 1988, he received a Wallace E. Stegner Fellowship in poetry from Stanford University. In 1993 he returned to the border to teach in the Bilingual MFA program at the University of Texas at El Paso. His most recent book of poetry, Elegies in Blue, was published by Cinco Puntos Press in 2002. This is his first book for young adults.

From AudioFile:

In Hollywood, New Mexico, 16-year-old Sammy Santos falls in love with Juliana, a girl with dark secrets and fire in her eyes. The novel is far more than a coming-of-age story as Sammy deals with first love, poverty, the War in Vietnam, drug overdoses, murder, and racism. Robert Ramirez's performance captures Sammy's introspection, honesty, and moments of poetic lyricism, creating a living, breathing teenager on the edge of awareness. Ramirez is just as at home handling street language and poetry. Liberal sprinklings of Spanish are read so skillfully that the non-Spanish-speaking listener understands the gist of what's being said. Gritty as the unforgiving New Mexican desert, Sammy's story makes compelling listening for older teens. S.J.H. © AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

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Saenz, Benjamin Alire
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