Classical 91.7-Arte Público Author of the Month: Luis Valdez
February 22, 2012
by: Eric Ladau
Zoot Suit: A Bilingual Edition (Arte Público Press, $13.95) combines the original English-language version with the first-ever Spanish translation of the critically acclaimed play by Luis Valdez, a work that cracked open the depiction of Chicanos in the world of theater and challenged viewers to revisit a troubled moment in our nation’s history. From the moment the myth-infused character El Pachuco burst onto the stage, literally cutting his way through the drop curtain with a switchblade, Valdez spurred a revolution in Chicano theater.
Focusing on the events surrounding the Sleepy Lagoon Murder Trial of 1942 and the ensuing Zoot Suit Riots that turned Los Angeles into a bloody war zone, Zoot Suit is a gritty and vivid depiction of the horrifying violence and racism endured by young Mexican Americans on the home front during World War II. Valdez’s cadre of young urban characters struggle with the stereotypes and generalizations of America’s dominant culture, the questions of assimilation and patriotism, and a desire to rebel against the mainstream pressures that threaten to wipe them out.
Experimenting with brash forms of narration, pop culture of the war era, and complex characterizations, this quintessential exploration of the Mexican-American experience in the United States during the 1940s was the first, and only, Chicano play to open on Broadway.
Arte Público Press is the nation’s largest and most established publisher of contemporary and recovered literature by U.S. Hispanic authors. Its imprint for children and young adults, Piñata Books, is dedicated to the realistic and authentic portrayal of the themes, languages, characters, and customs of Hispanic culture in the United States. Based at the University of Houston, Arte Público Press, Piñata Books and the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage project provide the most widely recognized and extensive showcase for Hispanic literary arts, history, and politics. For more information, please visit our website at www.artepublicopress.com.
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