Seminal moments, rites of passage, crystalline vignettes—a memoir about growing up brown at the US/Mexico border.
The tradition of retablo painting dates back to the Spanish Conquest in both Mexico and the US Southwest. Humble ex-votos, retablos are usually painted on repurposed metal, and in one small tableau they tell the story of a crisis, and offer thanks for its successful resolution.
In this uniquely framed memoir, playwright Octavio Solis channels his youth in El Paso, Texas. Like traditional retablos, the rituals of childhood and rites of passage are remembered as singular, dramatic events, self-contained episodes with life-changing reverberations.
Living in a home just a mile from the Rio Grande, Octavio is a skinny brown kid on the border, growing up among those who live there, and those passing through on their way north. From the first terrible self-awareness of racism to inspired afternoons playing air trumpet with Herb Alpert, from an innocent game of hide-and-seek to the discovery of a Mexican girl hiding in the cotton fields, Solis reflects on the moments of trauma and transformation that shaped him into a man.