January 22, 2015

The Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez

Domingo Martinez

Just finished reading The Boy Kings of Texas; A Memoir, by Domingo Martinez. I was left with an emotional roller coaster, for having attended High School in Brownsville in the late 1970s and early 80s – just like Domingo and his brother and sisters – I could not relate to anything that Martinez wrote about. And yet, it happened. While I attended a private Catholic High School, Domingo was buying marijuana right within his school grounds; so readily available.

Book Cover Designed by Diana Nuhn.

Book Cover Designed by Diana Nuhn.

I cannot say that I was shocked, but it was certainly an eye opener and a bit troubling. The tale of an intelligent and sensitive young man wrestling with  the man he was expected to be scarred Martinez who sought to please and live up to family tradition. His desire of assimilating into the American way of life, and what insatiably deterred him from this could have been a breaking point in his life. The book is so well written that it is no wonder it was a New York Times Bestseller, and a National Book Award Finalist. The Boy Kings of Texas – the king part deriving from the classic tune of “ El Rey” by Jose Alfredo Jimenez – will make you laugh, and dig through the memories of your own life in the Rio Grande Valley.

For those like me, who are interested in the culture of the Rio Grande Valley, this is a must read. I will not spoil the end, but it left me wanting more. Expecting a redemption that was slow in coming, or one that never showed its face at all. Martinez did drugs, quit college, and the foul language in his memoir triggered criticism among some readers. Overall it is a book I recommend for everybody especially those living in the Rio Grande Valley.

“The Boy Kings of Texas” is the first book for Martinez, and this Valley native had the honor of attending the National Book Prize ceremony in 2012 held at the headquarters of the National City Bank (now CityBank) built by Brownsville founder Charles Stillman in 1908. Globe Pequot Press’ Lyons Press imprint is the proud parent in what the press materials are calling the ultimate David & Goliath story for the Guilford publishing house. Watch the video.

The Valley is a unique area, we could almost say it is a country of its own. “Border Justice” exists as referenced by Martinez. The book gives us a glimpse into the source of our emotions and actions. Furthermore, it is an important read for it gives a glimpse into what the rest of the country reads about the Valley, leading to an  understanding of the misconceptions and possible neglect of our area. Only a Mexican – American from South Texas could have written this award-winning memoir.

Hispanically Speaking News reported on November of 2012 that Salma Hayek’s production company, Ventanarosa, has acquired the rights to The Boy Kings of Texas. She had previously tried to nab the rights and adapt the book into a film, but had been unsuccessful. Hayek is known to be good at picking a good story, but it is always risky to transfer detail-rich stories to the big screen.

Laura Tillman also wrote on November of 2012 a story for the New York Times the following about the book:

“At 40, Mr. Martinez has spent most of his adult life both running away from that Brownsville neighborhood and revisiting it through his prose.

He’s decidedly the underdog in the National Book Award contest. He’s the only finalist in the nonfiction category who has not won a Pulitzer Prize, the only first-time author, and the only nominee to have never been on the staff of The New York Times, The Washington Post or Newsday. Until a few months ago, Mr. Martinez was selling business cards at a print shop near Seattle, where he lives.

Though the book is his first, it almost certainly won’t be his last: he’s at work on a second memoir, and the rights to ‘The Boy Kings of Texas’ have been optioned by Ventanarosa, Salma Hayek’s production company.

In the book Mr. Martinez holds the poor border city of Brownsville to account for some of the darker episodes of his boyhood. Violence is a major component of the book’s 37 chapters, along with alcoholism, machismo and adultery; the descriptions are buoyed with humor.” The featured photograph of this article was found in Tillman’s NYT’s story.

Martinez recently released his second book titled “ My Heart is a Drunken Compass.” I look forward to reading it soon.

To make it easier for people to find and read this book, La Vida Valle has subscribed to Amazon’s affiliate program.

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About the Author

Tapia - Gonzales
La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" living in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Life, art and culture, poetry, prayers, travel, and camping! yes, that's my new thing. I blame the heat and high humidity for the madness. Contributions and comments are always welcome .


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