Ernesto GalarzaIntroduction by Ilan Stavans
Barrio Boy is the remarkable story of one boy’s journey from a Mexican village so small its main street didn’t have a name, to the barrio of Sacramento, California, bustling and thriving in the early decades of the twentieth century. With vivid imagery and a rare gift for re-creating a child’s sense of time and place, Ernesto Galarza gives an account of the early experiences of his extraordinary life—from revolution in Mexico to segregation in the United States—that will continue to delight readers for generations to come.
Since it was first published in 1971, Galarza’s classic work has been assigned in high school and undergraduate classrooms across the country, profoundly affecting thousands of students who read this true story of acculturation into American life.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the publication of Barrio Boy, the University of Notre Dame Press is proud to reissue this best-selling book with a new text design and cover, as well an introduction—by Ilan Stavans, the distinguished cultural critic and editor of the Norton Anthology of Latino Literature —which places Ernesto Galarza and Barrio Boy in historical context.
“Galarza’s classic speaks louder now than when I read it as an undergrad in 1970 during the early formation of Chicano Studies at UCLA. The novel’s triple metaphors of the rooster versus the vulture, the boy versus the bull and the village versus the city braid into a whip of power in bold relief—colonization, displacement and exploitation. The painful transitions from the familiar to the strange and from the harmonies of the village to the existential vacuums of the metropolis are given to us to reconsider and behold—brutal forces that may have gained momentum in our millennium. Yet, there is fragile beauty, inescapable synthesis, and leadership burning out of a new voice shifting between home and homeland. You must take this book and treasure it, walk with it, converse with it and carry its most human story in your heart—so you will live and act fully. A cultural classic yesterday, a riveting, fiery illumination today.”
— Juan Felipe Herrera, University of California, Riverside
“To re-encounter Barrio Boy by Ernesto Galarza is to indulge in deja vu from the early Chicano Movement concerns about acculturation and identity construction. The genuine story about a boy’s journey reminds many of us of our own trajectory and how we had to negotiate a new ethnic self. The lessons are moving and heartwarming as markers of a collective perseverance and survival. The story embodies a key phase of immigration when the barrio becomes our first community to embrace or overcome. After all is said and done, the ‘barrio boy’ stays true to himself as an apprentice to Americanism without sacrificing his origins. He proves that being bicultural and bilingual are positive qualities worthy of upholding.” — Francisco A. Lomeli, University of California, Santa Barbara
“. . . Galarza witnessed the Mexican Revolution and the Civil Rights movement and he draws on long traditions of labour solidarity, His uncles’ uncomplaining treks from job to job and his mother’s work as a seamstress give the memoir an understated dignity. Barrio Boy was published at the height of the Chicano Power movement but Galarza is never strident in his claims for Mexican-American identity. He doesn’t need to be.” — Robert Anasi, Times Literary Supplement
“A useful introduction by Ilan Stavans and Galarza’s original preface accompanies this fortieth-anniversary edition of Barrio Boy. The book is well known within Chicano literary scholarship. It belongs to the genre of autobiography, certainly an empirical genre, a form of personal history, but also a self-portrait, a story that may serve as an example for readers.” — Journal of American Ethnic History
“Galarza’s book is about growing up—first in Mexico, then in America. To this reader, it is on the same artistic level as Black Boy or Call It Sleep or even Huckleberry Finn. . . . As with Wright and Roth and Twain, we are given a near-perfect tale of rising from absolute poverty to middle-class security, but instead of a woeful recounting, it is filled with the joy of discovery: from living in the lively muddy streets of a small village in Nayarit to surviving, wide-eyed, in the lively and noisy barrios of Sacramento.” — RALPH: The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities
Reviews of the original edition
“Ernesto Galarza has written a long and vivid memoir of his childhood. The only disappointment in the book is that it does not go on for another couple of volumes to recount its author’s rare career in redefining America.”
— The New York Review of Books
“With its suspense, humor, and occasional sadness, Barrio Boy is splendid reading.” — American Anthropologist
“Galarza’s proud and moving book is a testament to who he is, where he came from, and to the country which received him and in which he has devoted his life fighting for both la justicia and justice.” — Social Education Journal