What Others are Saying about THE BOY KINGS OF TEXAS

“. . . [A]n emotional roller coaster rendered in exquisite detail.”Publishers Weekly

  “. . . [T]he narrative brims with candid, palpable emotion. . . . A finely detailed, sentimental family scrapbook inscribed with love.”—Kirkus Reviews

 “Domingo Martinez writes like an angel—an avenging angel who instead of bringing wrath to a fallen world redeems it by using beautiful prose to turn the most awful and gritty realities into transcendent gems. . . . What a voice, what a story, what a testament to the transforming power of self-knowledge and the right choice of words.”—Carlos Eire, author of Waiting for Snow in Havana, winner of the National Book Award

See complete reviews here.

About the Author: Domingo Martinez has worked as a journalist and designer in Texas and in Seattle. His work has appeared in Epiphany, he has contributed to The New Republic, and he read an adaptation of “The Mimis” on This American Life in 2011. An excerpt from The Boy Kings of Texas was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Martinez lives in Seattle.

 

 

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Feature

A Boy King from Texas is Nominated for the National Book Award

A Conversation with Domingo Martinez

When unknown author Domingo Martinez was named one of five finalists for the 2012 National Book Award for nonfiction, Martinez himself acknowledged the typical reaction should be, “Who the hell is this guy?" Read on, and find out just who he is and why the book, originally plucked from obscurity from a pile of unsolicited manuscripts, is causing such a stir.

The first-time author, originally from Brownsville, Texas may be unknown, but he is a hilarious, soulful writer who deserves national attention for this stunning memoir, The Boy Kings of Texas. Martinez’s lyrical and gritty coming-of-age story about his Texas border-town family was nominated in good company: his fellow-nominees are the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, Anthony Shadid, Robert A. Caro, Katherine Boo, and Anne Applebaum. Former winners of the National Book Award for nonfiction include Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal and Tom Wolfe.

With his debut, Martinez provides a heart-wrenching account of "a society where children are traded like commerce, physical altercations routinely solve problems, drugs are rampant and sex is often crude." You can check out the nine-page first chapter here:

http://issuu.com/gpplkenney/docs/the_boy_kings_of_texas_by_domingo_martinez

The book was discovered by editor Lara Asher and published by Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press, in July 2012. “When I acquired this book, I knew I had something truly extraordinary in my hands,” said Asher. “Domingo is a gifted writer and a phenomenal storyteller and someone that I deeply admire.  I am delighted to see him receive the recognition for his talent that he so deserves.”

Two days after the announcement, Martinez posted in his blog: “haven't slept in two days. Mostly from answering email and phone calls, but also from the adrenaline of having your world turned upside down -- and this time -- for the better. For the positive. For everything you've ever secretly -- and not quite so secretly -- wanted, but were afraid to ask for.”

We caught up with Domingo during his busy travel schedule to get a reaction to the award and to find out more about him and his writing.

IP:  Congratulations on the nomination and on an amazing memoir.

DM:  Thank you.

IP:  Is South Texas that much crazier than the rest of America? Could your life have happened anywhere? Geography or DNA?

DM:  South Texas really begins about Corpus Christi and stretches down to the Rio Grande; there's a palpable sense that you're entering a different zone as you drive into Corpus, like you've really left Texas behind.  The prosperity and boom of Texas feels like it's behind you, and you're moving into a sort of buffer zone. At least, that's what I always sense when I travel through there.  And it's a combination of both geographical dislocation and cultural DNA, both nature and nurtured.  Having such a marked delineation, a sort of land-locked island, if you would, I think gives South Texas that sense of "other" which we use to explain how different and peculiar the place is.

IP:  On that topic, could Seattle be any more different than Brownsville? Was that the attraction?

DM:  The attraction originally was that it felt like the opposite of everything I knew.  I was bombarded with information I couldn't understand at first -- the trees, the roads, the natural lakes and beauty and the leftover Norwegian customs, like brooding and never leaving your apartment -- it was all so compelling to me, because it was a total sense of "other."  When I grew up in Texas, I fetishized anything British: Manchester was as far from Brownsville as I could get.  Then after 10 years of living in Seattle, I sort of circled back and began to listening to alt country music, or Dwight Yoakum, again, fetishizing the "other."  Or perhaps it was nostalgia.  Either way, I've always had that particular tension in my life, holding two equally opposing thoughts simultaneously.

IP:  Your book’s prologue with the song lyrics is brilliant, it really sets the stage (El Rey {The King}, by José Alfredo Jiménez). Did you write that first, or did it come elsewhere in the process?

DM:  Interestingly, it was one of the last things I wrote, after someone finally asked me, "What the hell does the title actually MEAN?"

"Oh," I said, "It's a reference to that song by Vicente Fernandez.

“Duh." Then I realized that most everyone else didn't have that song memorized since adolescence, and perhaps it needed further illumination.

IP:  You write soul-baringly about the vagaries and confusion of falling in and out of love. Any advice for the lonely hearts club members out there?

DM:  I'm the wrong person to be handing out advice about love. Without realizing it, or intending to do it, I sacrificed every relationship I ever had, in one form or another, for this book.  This story has been the one constant in my life since I'd started it over ten, fifteen years ago, and many people have fallen by the wayside, because they couldn't compete for my attention. Or I would be entirely insensitive to their feelings.  Instead of taking that day hike with my girlfriend, I would hunker over my notebook in a bar, scribbling and thinking, furrowing my brow in a pantomime of concentration. So I wasn't very good at being a partner.  Now that the book is out of me, I've been trying to be much more of a participant.  And also, a much better family member to my brothers, sisters, and parents.  I've been a bit of a dick, I've realized, and I want to change that.  It's amazing how much your perspective changes as you hit age 40.

IP: At the end, you mention  your fiancée’s terrible accident and “another book of its own.” Does writing about such painful stuff help you heal?

DM:  I have to be very careful about my next book, much more than the first.  I need to really protect everyone's privacy in the next book, and see if I can still stay as close to the truth (or as much truth as perception and memory allows) as possible.  But yes; my ex-fiancee's accident will be a component, but the story is much larger than that.

It's more an exploration of damage and impulses -- again, holding two equally opposing thoughts simultaneously -- knowing that your choices are wrong, but still being compelled to make them.  Anyhow, this book is much closer to the surface, so it won't take ten years to write. It's also about my younger brother's accident, and how that changed everyone in our family.  So it will be difficult to write, but it is very much how I process.  Maybe I'll write it and then just burn it.

My third book will be racy, inappropriate jokes and a cookbook. Or maybe a teenage zombie bodice ripper.

* * * * *

The 2012 National Book Award winners will be announced November 14 at a ceremony in New York. For a complete list of twenty finalists across four categories (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature), visit www.nationalbook.org. For more about Lyons Press, visit www.globepequot.com.

THE BOY KINGS OF TEXAS: A MEMOIR
by Domingo Martinez
456 page paperback; $16.95
ISBN: 978-0-7627-7919-2

 


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