Jesusita is the story of immigrants—legal and illegal—trying to survive in California in the years after World War II. Jesusita, alone and impoverished, struggles to keep her four young children together. Though she finds support from Padre Montes at St. Teresa’s Catholic Church, her faith won’t solve her problems, especially those with her daughter, Paulina. Far from home, Filipino laborers are denied by law any contact with white women. Angie, the young daughter of an illiterate and unmarried mother, knows only one way to make money. And Felix, abandoned by his mother and separated from his only brother, is placed in a foster home on an isolated ranch. The interrelated lives of these people provide a complex, sometimes violent, and often tragic image of American poverty within the nation’s postwar boom.
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I received a free copy of this book for an honest review.
Jesusita is a Mexican immigrant whose husband died and left her with four children, no money, no job, and no home. She does all she can to provide them with food and shelter but she has a dark side. No matter what happens, she believes it is not her fault. This novel is heart rending. At the beginning, I felt so sorry for Jesusita but, as it progressed, it was difficult to relate to her because she is obviously mentally ill.
All of the characters are well developed and Ronald L. Ruiz does a good job of describing their lives in the harsh conditions for immigrants post World War II. I’d like to think things are better now, but I really don’t know. I would hope that someone like Jesusita would be able to get help nowadays. But Angie, who ended up being a prostitute, would probably end up in a similar situation today.
This is definitely a book I would recommend. Because of the abuse and some of the story lines I wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers.
Praise for the work of Ronald L. Ruiz:
“The sparse, simple prose lets the story tell itself… The supporting characters are briefly but fully drawn… Few readers will be able to forget the chilling experiences of a forlorn hero who’s destined to take his place next to Bigger Thomas (of Richard Wright’s Native Son) in the honor roll of seminal characters in American literature.”
–Publishers Weekly (featured review) on Happy Birthday Jesús
After reading Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment at the age of 17, I knew I wanted to be a writer. But I knew nothing about the craft. My first novel, Happy Birthday Jesús, was published 36 years later. Surprisingly, it received good reviews
For many years, I was a criminal defense attorney and at the end of my career a prosecutor, but I always managed to find time to write. What I saw and experienced during those years often serves as a basis for my writing. For me, learning how to write has been a long, continuous and, at times, torturous process.
Now retired, I try to write every day and I feel fortunate that I have found something in writing that sustains me. I’m glad I persevered during all those years of rejection. More than anything, writing about what I see and experience in life has given me a sense of worth.
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Thank you for reviewing Jesusita today. We agree, it is a heart-rending read. Personally, I cried several times when I first read it. Very powerful.
Yes, it is very powerful. I’m glad I had the chance to read it.
I just like reading about other people and their lives.
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