Review of They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid’s Poems

They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid’s Poems
by David Bowles
Middle School    Cinco Puntos    109 pp.    g
9/18    978-1-947627-06-2    $18.95
Paper ed.  978-1-947627-07-9    $12.95

The dynamic complexity of the Rio Grande borderlands pulses in the poetry of twelve-year-old Güero — a nickname commonly given to light-skinned, freckled Mexican and Chicano boys. Inspired by the words of his seventh-grade teacher, Ms. Wong, who declares poetry to be the “clearest lens for viewing the world,” Güero sets out to record everything he sees around him. His forty-nine poems capture the heat and exhilaration of bottle rocket fights at the family Fourth of July barbeque; his close friendship with the “Three Bobbys,” a.k.a. “The Bookworm Squad”; and his uncomplicated young love for tough-girl Joanna. Central to Güero’s world is the dexterously rich linguistic tradition of Mexican cuentos and dichos, and readers hear vivid stories about, for example, “la Mano Pachona,” the dismembered and hairy hand, famous in the pantheon of supernatural lore (which here haunts the school toilets). The poems also touch on racism and how Güero’s family expects him to “push right through them gates / …Represent us, m’ijo, / all the ones they kept down. You are us. / We are you.” Bowles confidently intersperses the voices of Güero’s many family members, using Texas Spanglish colloquialisms with specificity (back matter includes a generous glossary and pronunciation key), in diverse poetic forms, resulting in a welcome contribution to the bildungsroman corpus of Chicana/o literature.

From the November/December 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Lettycia Terrones

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