A flashback L.A. in the New Yorker
Dagoberto Gilb's story "Uncle Rock" appears in this week's New Yorker; it may be set in the Fernando Valenzuela past, but it's recognizably close to home. For a certain subset of Angelenos, that is, who will be able to triangulate between Dodger Stadium and "the corner where black Cubans drank coffee" (Tropical Bakery) to envision the biking territory of its protagonist, young, quiet Erick.
An extra posted on the site is a Q&A between Gilb and a fiction editor, Cressida Leyshon. Gilb answers questions and discusses baseball, a game vitally important to Erick, the character in his story.
I think baseball is the best sport to go out to and watch. I was a big Dodger fan as a kid, and I wanted my sons to be, too. I left L.A. In El Paso, we had the Double-A Diablos for years, and I coached Little League—both my boys were good. In Austin, it's as hard to get tickets to see the University of Texas’s baseball team, the Longhorns, as it is the Lakers. The only major-league stadium near me now (three hours—close in Texas miles) is in Houston. I only think of going. I have been following the Dodgers again, now that Manny's there.
Gilb was born and raised in Los Angeles to an undocumented mother from Mexico and an Anglo American father; much of his work has explored the intersection of cultures. "The stories that came out of me were from a culture and region I knew and lived," he tells the New Yorker. "I am Mexican-American, I am Chicano (I don't love the tag Hispanic, but it's used innocently enough in South Texas), I am Latino. In Mexico, I'm an American writer (well, americano). I love that! I'm proud of all those labels now."
He now lives in Texas, where he is a professor; in addition to his fiction and nonfiction writing, he is the editor of the 2006 anthology "Hecho en Tejas: An Anthology of Texas Mexican Literature."
Last year, Gilb suffered a stroke, which made it impossible for him to write with his right hand. He's only recently begun using it to type. But, he tells the New Yorker, he is charmed; as proof, he points out that he was able to write "Uncle Rock."
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: The corner of Sunset Boulevard and Echo Park Avenue in Los Angeles. Credit: IK's World Trip via Flickr