Retablos: Stories from a Life Lived Along the Border
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About the Author
Author of more than twenty plays, Octavio Solis is considered one of the most prominent Latino playwrights in America. His works have been produced in theatres across the country, including the Center Group Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, South Coast Repertory, the Magic Theatre and the California Shakespeare Theatre in the San Francisco Bay Area, Yale Repertory Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Dallas Theater Center, and other venues nationwide. Among his many awards and grants, Solis has received an NEA Playwriting Fellowship, the Kennedy Center's Roger L. Stevens award, the TCG/NEA Theatre Artists in Residence Grant, the National Latino Playwriting Award, the PEN Center USA Award for Drama, and the William Inge Center for the Arts 2019 Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater Award.
His fiction and short plays have appeared in the Louisville Review, Zyzzyva, Eleven Eleven, Catamaran, Chicago Quarterly Review, Arroyo Literary Review and Huizache. This is his first book.
He is based near Ashland, Oregon.
For more information: www.octaviosolis.net
"In Octavio Solis' carefully crafted Retablos, an expansive new vision of a troubled America."--Barbara Lloyd McMichael, The Seattle Times
"Octavio Solis isn't a painter, but he ought to be. He's not a poet, but he could be. His isn't fiction or memoir but, like dreams, might be either. His vision of El Paso and the border is as though through an undulating haze of desert heat."--Dagoberto Gilb, author of Before the End, After the Beginning: Stories
"A retablo is a devotional painting, playwright Octavio Solis tells us. In this poignantly written, heart-warming coming-of-age memoir, Solis pays tribute to those cornerstone moments in his life, negotiating borders at once personal and cultural, with such color that the reader is left spellbound. Astonishing, what more can I say?"--Greg Sarris, author of How a Mountain was Made: Stories
"These stories soar and shimmer with poetry and a playwright's gift for dramatic compression, comedy and pathos running through them arm in arm. Retablos is deeply moving, and a joy."--Elizabeth McKenzie, author of The Portable Veblen: A Novel
"To enter into this book is like walking into a shrine, walls lined with beautiful paintings, each one colorful and visceral, depicting memories, life on the border, death and sadness and joy. This is one of the most memorable books written about the borderlands in years"--Daniel Chacón, author of Hotel Juárez: Stories, Rooms and Loops
"Small but mighty, these stories will stay with you long after the moment has passed."--Frances Lefkowitz, author of To Have Not: A Memoir
"The introduction alone is worth the price of admission. Solis reflects on the foundation of the work ('true stories... filled with lies') and how memories evolve over time--creating life fables that elaborate on experiences, like 'lace trimming on a tablecloth.' Each piece recounts a specific memory, wholly satisfying even in its brevity. . . . Taken as a whole, Retablos becomes a glorious mosaic, as if one has stepped back from a single piece of strikingly painted tin and watched a larger masterpiece emerge."--Lauren O'Brien, Shelf Awareness
"A memoir about growing up a mile from the Rio Grande, told in vignettes, or retablos, showing the small and large moments that take place along the U.S. border. Julia Alvarez says of the book, 'Unpretentiously and with an unerring accuracy of tone and rhythm, Solis slowly builds what amounts to a storybook cathedral. We inhabit a border world rich in characters, lush with details, playful and poignant, a border that refutes the stereotypes and divisions smaller minds create. Solis reminds us that sometimes the most profound truths are best told with crafted fictions--and he is a master at it.'"--Lydia Kiesling, The Millions
"The stories that make up Octavio Solis's Retablos are as taut, riveting, and immersive as the sunrise in a red rock desert. Be forewarned--they're addictive. . . . Writing is original and laser-sharp, alive with adjectives that start and images that linger. Encountering a river-soaked girl who's just crossed the border the narrator notes the 'fugitive dullness' of her face, and the 'animal lurch' of her body as she turns to flee from him."--Foreword Magazine, Starred Review
"Here are 15 works of nonfiction from around the world coming out in the second half of 2018 that we can't wait to read. What it's about: In Mexican folk art, a retablo is a devotional painting featuring images painted on repurposed metal and typically laden with Catholic iconography. In Retablos, American playwright and director Octavio Solis examines his Mexican heritage, personal traumas and rites of passage and what it truly means to grow up brown living at the U.S./Mexico border."--CBC Books
"Set in the gritty border town of El Paso, where Solis spent his youth during the 1960s and '70s, the stories of Retablos are as harsh and dry as the sunbaked land along the Rio Grande that he so vividly evokes. . . . Like the images he emulates, Solis' stories transcend the limits of borders and time. "--Deborah Mason, BookPage
"A retablo is a devotional painting, often laid on tin and depicting, as Solis describes in his introduction, 'some terrible rift in a person's life that they survive thanks to the intercession of the Divine.' This memoir-in-vignettes from the celebrated playwright and poet Solis is a series of treasures: absorbing, vivid, sensitive, and sorrowful. Solis, who grew up in El Paso, deftly and humbly depicts individual formative moments (an encounter with a young border-crosser in a field near his home, excruciating first loves, a venture south of the border). The Divine in these retablos is not always visible, but the retablos themselves are full of grace."--Chorel Centers, Events Manager, Bookshop Santa Cruz, CA
"I have read Retablos and it is very powerful, very moving, puro corazón. Thank you for this testimonio to our cultura, familias, la frontera, the world. It couldn't be more timely at this time of sequestation of our families and the sadness of it all. And yes, the empowerment and tide-turning of justice that is awakening, alive and moving!"--Denise Chavez, Owner, Casa Camino Real Bookstore, Las Cruces, NM
"In Oregon playwright Octavio Solis' debut memoir, he presents compelling vignettes from his childhood and early adulthood along the El Paso, Texas-Juarez, Mexico border in the spirit of retablo paintings, which tell the story of a dramatic event and its repercussions. Racism, illegal border crossings, budding sexuality, a fraught sibling relationship, Herb Alpert's music, Solis' discovery of the power of theater and more all get a turn in the spotlight."--The Oregonian
"Building on the events of his life, underscoring their 'miraculous' nature, Octavio Solis has honored, through words, those memories which we hold sacred--and I can see why. As an English professor, my first impression of the book is that its epiphanic moments reminds me of Joyce's The Dubliners. Also, resemblances could be drawn to Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. . . . I very much appreciated this highly personal, lyrically written Retablos."--Eileen Herrmann, The Eugene O'Neill Foundation
"Playwright Octavio Solis lays out his memoir in retablos, folk paintings made on repurposed metal in gratitude for the divine resolution of life's crises. Each of the retablos present a vignette from his life growing up in the border town of El Paso, Texas, as an 'anchor baby' in the 60s and 70s. The taut, charm-filled stories depict episodes such as encountering a young immigrant while playing hide-and-seek in a cotton field, a tow truck tug-of-war over an abandoned marijuana-packed Jeep stuck in the middle of the Rio Grande, and a young Solis practicing his English pronunciation by reciting names off globe and adorably mispronouncing the Pacific 'Ohkeean' to his class."--JR Ramakrishnan, Electric Literature