Jesusita is the story of immigrants—legal and illegal—trying to survive in California in the years after World War II. Jesusita, alone and impoverished, struggles to keep her four young children together. Though she finds support from Padre Montes at St. Teresa’s Catholic Church, her faith won’t solve her problems, especially those with her daughter, Paulina. Far from home, Filipino laborers are denied by law any contact with white women. Angie, the young daughter of an illiterate and unmarried mother, knows only one way to make money. And Felix, abandoned by his mother and separated from his only brother, is placed in a foster home on an isolated ranch. The interrelated lives of these people provide a complex, sometimes violent, and often tragic image of American poverty within the nation’s postwar boom.
Author: Ronald L. Ruiz
Genre: Literary Fiction / Historical Fiction / United States / Hispanic American
Publisher: Amika Press
Release Date: May 14, 2015
Source: Author via iRead Book Tours
FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of Jesusita from the author and iRead Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review. Opinions expressed are mine.
In 1945, a widowed Mexican immigrant faces powerfully difficult conditions in Ruiz’s (A Lawyer, 2012, etc.) latest novel… Ruiz vividly displays his knowledge of the harsh conditions experienced by Mexican immigrants.… Jesusita…rarely expresses affection for her children, instead seeing them as just a burden to be borne. She feels no remorse for her beatings of Paulina, believing that they “weren’t sins.” But in this novel, things are hard for everyone… A bleak look at a bitter life that may be too much for readers to bear. — Kirkus Review
Often I will select a book based on its cover or the language on the back cover. But when you’re reviewing books, often the cover art or design and the blurb from the back cover are not available. You receive the description or synopsis, and sometimes a cover image. You make a decision and hope it’s a book you’ll enjoy reading.
When I received my copy of Jesusita, I looked at the cover and said to myself, “I probably would not have picked this up in a bookstore.” However, I had committed to read and review Ronald Ruiz’s new novel, and I would.
Ruiz is a gifted writer. With prose describing even the most subtle of nuances, he writes Jesusita’s story. It is the story of every immigrant crossing into America in the 1940s and 1950s. Some farmers provided food, housing, and clothing for these migrant workers. Others lived on the ranches and farms where they worked. Jesusita’s story begins in 1945.
Jesusita’s story is not a pretty one, not a story that will make you feel warm and fuzzy. Filled with raw images of parents beating their children, abusing them with words and emotions, Jesusita’s story plays out for the reader in a depth of reality often hard to accept. Having grown up in an abusive situation, my body cringed and my heart broke at times and tears flowed. But I had to keep reading. Why?
Ruiz wants us to know the history of our country and of the people who came here hoping for a better life. Not all received that better life. Some did fortunately, but others were deported or the goodness they hoped to find never materialized for them. Ruiz doesn’t dabble with the history of the situation; he tells it just like it was in 1945 and forward.
A well written and inspiring story despite the raw and brutal truth found between the covers of Jesusita deserves your attention. I hope today I have caught you with something that makes you want to read this part of our country’s history. And the history of our neighbors to the south, the Hispanic Americans who still fight for a better life. I highly recommend Jesusita.
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Meet Ronald L. Ruiz:
After reading Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment at the age of 17, I knew I wanted to be a writer. But I knew nothing about the craft. My first novel, Happy Birthday Jesús, was published 36 years later. Surprisingly, it received good reviews
For many years, I was a criminal defense attorney and at the end of my career a prosecutor, but I always managed to find time to write. What I saw and experienced during those years often serves as a basis for my writing. For me, learning how to write has been a long, continuous and, at times, torturous process.
Now retired, I try to write every day and I feel fortunate that I have found something in writing that sustains me. I’m glad I persevered during all those years of rejection. More than anything, writing about what I see and experience in life has given me a sense of worth.