Reading Life 29

This Migrant Earth: Rolando Hinojosa's Rendition in English of Tomás Rivera's …y no se lo tragó la tierra

I knew this version of the Chicano/migrant laborer classic existed, and it's about time I got hold of it because I am a huge fan of both Rivera's work and of Hinojosa as consummate writer. So when around a week, week and a half ago I got my very own copy of it in the mail, I relished it. Took it slowly, because though it's a shortish work, it's deep (in the original Spanish, and in this rendition (which is to say, it's not a translation but, as Christopher Myers does visually with his picture book Jabberwocky, something completely new yet connected to the old). It's pure poetry, how Hinojosa re-envisions an already poetic book. It's about the language, too. How each section of the story I can hear as though it were being spoken. I imagined myself even speaking or acting parts of it on a stage. My personal favorite that I was able to do this with was the chapter titled "With This Ring," in which the narrator is talking to someone "off stage," but there never the less, about his ultra-horrible experience staying on with Don Laito and Doña Bonny: how the old man's laugh exposed both gold-capped teeth and rotten ones, how he wiped his hands under his sweating armpits and then without washing begin to knead dough for pan de dulce, how the old woman fixed dinner for the boy out of rotten meat, how they stole, how they killed and made him dig the hole to bury the Wetback in after. It's a beautiful retelling of a classic. Would that Arte Público would rerelease it.

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