The Brick People by Alejandro Morales
This engrosing historical novel traces the growth of California from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries by following in the development of the Simons Brick Factory. With an attention to historical reality blended with myth and legend, the prolific Morales recounts the epic struggle of a people to forge their destiny, along with Califonia's. From Publisher's Weekly: A wealthy woman prophesies that when she dies she will become an insect, never to leave the land she loves. Upon her death in 1878, the townspeople of Pasadena, Calif., find the remains of her clothing infested with hundreds of large brown bugs. This legend, related in its first pages, presages the subsequent events of this dramatic novel, as these indefatigable creatures appear repeatedly both as a portent and final evidence of death. In his first English work, Mexican writer Morales eloquently fuses the fantastic and the factual as he traces the growth of early California from 1892 to the late 1940s. Within this broad scope, the book intimately focuses on the families behind the establishment and success of the booming Simons Brickyardthe rich American brothers Joseph and Walter Simons and the hundreds of Mexican immigrants who have fled a tyrannical regime and feudal hacienda system. The vivid clan of Octavio and Nana Revueltas and Octavio's many brothers illustrates both the increasing material comfort and spiritual discontent of the workers who realize that they have merely exchanged one brand of feudalism for another, namely the Simons's paternalism. In the hopeful but unsentimental novel, amid the red dust of the brickyards and periodic earthquakes of California, "the place where paradise trembles," the Mexicans struggle to find acceptance and to claim their adopted land as their own.