In the story we are introduced to fourteen-year-old Yolanda Sahagún as she is excitedly helping her large family - nine siblings in all - prepare a "welcome home" party for her favorite brother, Chuy, who has just returned from fighting in Vietnam. Of course, Chuy re-enters this modest, albeit cozy, domestic scene in south San Diego irrevocably changed. His erratic and often scary behavior inflicts frequent emotional wounds on family members, neighbors, and friends — especially Yolanda, who still cherishes loving memories of his earlier self. Most of the time Chuy is off on his motorcycle, his long hair flying in the wind. This broken man is headed for a disaster, and the whole family knows it.
The sequel, Ghosts of El Grullo, was released last spring. In this second installment (Santana intends to complete a trilogy on the Sahagúns), Yolanda is getting ready to head off to UCSD, and she's more than a little excited about finally living on her own--away from her domineering father. Yet not long after school starts, the unexpected death of her mother pulls Yolanda home again. Eventually, she travels back to her ancestral town - El Grullo, Mexico - in search of answers about her mother's identity. And as she looks through this lens, she begins to bring her own sense of self into better focus. Meanwhile, the seventies are in full swing, nudging her to explore identity politics, feminism, and sexuality in ways her more traditional relatives find disconcerting.
If you are interested in learning more about Patricia Santana's recent book, try listening to the following interview on KBOO Radio in Portland, Oregon. Or see her in person as she discusses Ghosts of El Grullo at Grossmont College (Griffin Gate) on Wednesday, November 5 at 7:00 PM. For more information, please call 619-644-7486.