Winner of the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction! Benjamin Alire Sáenz's stories reveal how all borders--real, imagined, sexual, human, the line between dark and light, addict and straight--entangle those who live on either side. Take, for instance, the Kentucky Club on Avenida Juárez two blocks south of the Rio Grande. It's a touchstone for each of Sáenz's stories. His characters walk by, they might go in for a drink or to score, or they might just stay there for a while and let their story be told. Sáenz knows that the Kentucky Club, like special watering holes in all cities, is the contrary to borders. It welcomes Spanish and English, Mexicans and gringos, poor and rich, gay and straight, drug addicts and drunks, laughter and sadness, and even despair. It's a place of rich history and good drinks and cold beer and a long polished mahogany bar. Some days it smells like piss. "I'm going home to the other side." That's a strange statement, but you hear it all the time at the Kentucky Club. Benjamin Alire Sáenz is a highly regarded writer of fiction, poetry, and children's literature. Like these stories, his writing crosses borders and lands in our collective psyche. Poets & Writers Magazine named him one of the fifty most inspiring writers in the world. He's been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and PEN Center's prestigious award for young adult fiction. Sáenz is the chair of the creative writing department of University of Texas at El Paso. Awards: PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Lambda Literary Award Southwest Book Award
“[…S]even stories set on the south Texas border of El Paso and Juárez. […The] Club […] provides a guiding thread for the collection, acting alternately as backdrop, touchstone, and oasis for a humane set of characters who struggle with the impossible ambiguities of borders Sáenz […] presents a rendering of reality that is lush, tender, expansive, inclusive and profound. [He] takes stunning care with language—English, Spanish, and the languages of sunlight, daylight, dimlight, night light—twisting and tumbling with the whispered language of the human heart. Sáenz also devotes impressive attention to rendering communities on the borders of the United States and Mexico, on the boundaries of sensual and sexual expression, on the edge of despair, and on the cusp of redemption.” —A.J. Verdelle, judge of the 2013 Pen/Faulkner Award
Here are the questions we discussed, Wednesday, July 1, 2015.
- “He Has Gone to Be with the Women”
Is this story better than the other ones? What made it better?
- “The Art of Translation”
What war? Will it help to accept the war? How does the translation fit into the war?
- “The Rule Maker”
What did the author want to tell us in this story? Why did the Dad start using the drugs?
- “Brother in Another Language”
How does this author move the story with dialog?
- “Sometimes the Rain”
How does the author use memory?
- “Chasing the Dragon”
Can reading these stories ease pain? How does this story fit in with the others?
- “The Hurting Game”
Why did the author juxtapose the two stories about the two different people in this story?