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Paperback Their Dogs Came with Them Book

ISBN: 1416588345

ISBN13: 9781416588344

Their Dogs Came with Them

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Book Overview

Helena Maria Viramontes brings 1960s Los Angeles to life with "terse, energetic, and vivid" (Publishers Weekly) prose in this story of a group of young Latinx women fighting to survive and thrive in a tumultuous world.

Award-winning author of Under the Feet of Jesus, Helena Mar?a Viramontes offers a profoundly gritty portrait of everyday life in L.A. in this lyrically muscular, artfully crafted novel.

In the barrio...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

Keeping the Dogs at Bay

The title of this wonderful novel is taken from The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico by Miguel Leon-Portilla. Specifically it refers to the dogs that came with the invaders who destroyed the Aztec culture. Helena Maria Viramontes's novels and stories are informed by her childhood experiences in East Los Angeles and the impact of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers on her family. This novel tells stories of Ermila, Tranquilina, Ana, and Turtle; orphan, charity worker, concerned older sister, and homeless gang member passing as a man. The women are connected by neighborhood and to an extent their own interactions. Plot is less important than the aura of East Los Angeles and most importantly the complexity of the four main characters. Freeways are a structural element. Viramontes interviewed in "La Bloga" said: "I realized that the structure of the novel began to resemble the freeway intersections ... And like the freeways upheld by pillars, I realized I had four pillars in four characters of which most other characters orbited around." Viramontes is sympathetic to the underdog., The freeway isolates the neighborhood and the characters. The characters struggle to build their own communities on their own terms despite the fear of dogs, the isolation of their neighborhood, and the fictional Quarantine Authority. Throughout, Viramontes is a master at creating mood through detail: "The storm left the night bleak and all raw nerves. The bottles chink-chinked as she continued her aching walk. The run-in with the cholo chilled her into a wintry mood - she felt the loneliness of a last leaf awaiting its fall from a bare sprig. Her mental compass gone awry, she resolved to depend on her instincts. The woman found herself following a slavering dog that suffered a rash on its flanks. Sniffing and pawing around the storefront doors, parked cars, abandoned metals and throwaways, the dog resented the intruder, looking over its shoulder periodically to make sure she kept her distance from any edible discovery." Altogether this novel captured my imagination. If you have any interest in Chicano culture, it will do the same for you. Robert C. Ross 2008

The Novel We've Been Waiting For

In her two previous books, Helena Maria Viramontes stuns readers with her precise language and uncompromising insights. Their Dogs Came With Them has been long in coming but worth the wait. With this novel Viramontes has certainly created something new and powerful. She offers up the talents and gifts of her first two books and adds a breathtaking use of structure, all of this in the service of a striking story. Many writers are defeated by Los Angeles when trying to write about the city because it suffers, for sure, from muliple-personality disorder. But Viramontes is a master, and in her hands, she turns L.A.'s kinetic energies into a tool for her own purposes. In this vision, the city and the characters are scarred, but not hopeless; battle weary, but resilient. Indeed, Viramontes has written a novel for each of us who have fallen to our knees, but knowing we would stand again, and taller.

Viramontes looks to roots for setting of her gritty novel

In 1985, Arte Público Press published Helena María Viramontes' first book, "The Moths and Other Stories," which has become a classic in Chicano literature. Since then, her short stories have appeared in more than 80 anthologies. Viramontes published the novel "Under the Feet of Jesus" (Plume Books) in 1995, about a makeshift family of migrant workers. It was met with great critical acclaim and now graces many high-school and college reading lists. Now, fans of Viramontes' writing can delight in the publication of her new novel, "Their Dogs Came With Them" (Atria Books, $23 hardcover). It possesses Viramontes' trademark poetic grittiness, with well-drawn characters who almost leap from the page. The novel is a heart-rending but hopeful portrait of lives that are rocked by the turmoil and violence of East Los Angeles during the 1960s. Asked whether she saw some form of redemption arising from her mostly female protagonists' struggles with poverty, bigotry and governmental abuses, Viramontes responded with characteristic candor: "If I didn't want to recognize the redemption of their everyday ordeals, why write about them in the first place? I marvel, truly marvel, at the everyday, ordinary ordeals of human life, and I want to give justice to an existence that very few people or readers acknowledge." In many ways, this sentiment is emblematic of Viramontes' perception of writers and their role in society. She asserts that "serious writers have the responsibility to try and disrupt patterns of thought and behavior that damage the integrity of life. That's why most writers do their best work while living on the fringes of a society." With respect to writers of color such as herself, Viramontes provocatively adds: "Because our communities are constantly bombarded with inhumane violence and racism, I think we writers write with greater urgency." She takes this role seriously: "The greatest compliment to a writer is if a reader is disturbed enough to begin questioning his/her own beliefs." In choosing the setting and era for her new novel, Viramontes did not need to stray far from her roots. She was born in East Los Angeles into a large family that always extended to relatives and friends who had crossed the border from Mexico to California. While attending Immaculate Heart College, she worked part time at the bookstore and library to help pay for her education. Viramontes eventually earned her master of fine arts degree from the University of California at Irvine. She has gone on to win many awards, including the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature, a Sundance Institute Fellowship, and the Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano/Latino Literature. Today, Viramontes is a teacher and mentor to many young writers. She is a professor of creative writing at Cornell University. Despite well-deserved acclaim, Viramontes does not pretend that writing is easy. "Their Dogs Came With Them" was more than a decade in the making because tea

Response to Publishers Weekly Review

As a graduate student at Harvard in literary studies, I was shocked and saddened to read such an ill-informed review of Viramontes' second and astoundingly luminous novel. Not only was the review factually incorrect--for this is Viramontes' second novel (not her first, as the reviewer claims), but, far more gravely, utterly incapable of appreciating the artistic power of a truly original and monumental novel. American literary scholars have already heralded Viramontes' new work as the "Middlemarch of Los Angeles," justly comparing it in power and scope with the greatest works of nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature. Viramontes stands out among the even most talented of contemporary writers, and her work (including her first novel, "Under the Feet of Jesus," and her many wonderful short stories, including the widely anthologized "The Moths") has already earned her an unforgettable place in the canons of American and world literature. Her work is regularly taught alongside that of Joyce, Steinbeck, and Cisneros, and she is legendary for her innovations in prose and poetic intensity. "Under the Feet of Jesus" has been cited as a "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman," and is now an indelible part of our literary heritage and one of the most groundbreaking novels in decades. "Their Dogs Came With Them" is Viramontes' "Ulysses"--a contemporary, multi-lingual, prismatic epic that bears no resemblance to the flat, one-dimensional easy-read novels that Publishers Weekly review seems to favor. The Publishers Weekly review seems to have read the novel haphazardly or perhaps not at all, as it gives no sense of the Viramontes' careful construction and dynamic interweaving of multiple narratives and perspectives--the novel is not 'loosely constructed' (a complaint that was, incidentally, often leveled at Joyces' "Ulysses" when it first appeared), but rather innovative, unconventional, and poetic in the best sense of the word. Viramontes' novel grows out of its characters and the brute materiality that affects them, and its style is as complex and materially present as the story of Los Angeles life that it tells. The alleged "difficulty" of the novel lies in its challenges to the traditional tropes and characters of American literature--in its original voice, unique form of storytelling, and in the brilliance of its form. Viramontes' rich language demands our attention and, like other great writers, challenges the conventional ways in which we have learned or become accustomed to read. While Viramontes' first novel was a lyrical tour de force, this current work is of a darker and textually different tone. The depth of the novel lies in its ability to characterize and describe in ways that surprise and illuminate, to render without merely 'reporting.' Traditional tropes of American and Latino literature are displaced, meditated on, and reworked, while Viramontes' lucid and ever-metamorphosizing style evokes the unique subjectivity of
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