Muerte en Una Estrella – Shooting Star
Sergio D. Elizondo
English Translation by Rosaura Sánchez and Beatriz Pita
(Arte Público Press – paperback)
Available for the first time in English, this excellent and troubling bilingual novel imagines the dying thoughts of two Mexican youths after they were shot by Austin police in March, 1968, apparently while running away from a shouted order to “Halt!”
Originally published in 1984, the novel is a eulogy for Oscar Balboa, 16, and Valentín Rodriguez, 19, who were both unarmed and on leave from Camp Gary, a Job Corps training facility near San Marcos, Texas.
Their deaths occurred during a nationally troubled time that was rife with bigotry and racial discrimination. And Shooting Star gives some important insights into efforts and actions by the Chicano civil rights movement during that time period.
In the novel’s English translation, Oscar Balboa and Valentín Rodriguez are described as “strutting icons of Raza manhood worthy of a guitar ballad.” And after they are shot, their dying thoughts cover a wide and often moving range of memories, thoughts and impressions. As one example, Oscar remembers coming north from Mexico to work in the fields, and he remembers taking part in farm worker protest marches with his father. Meanwhile, Valentín is not really sure if he has been shot or not, but he knows he cannot move, nor make Oscar hear him. And he feels what he thinks is dew on his back as he recalls some of his own life and his brief time with Oscar.
Shooting Star definitely is worthy of its praise as “a classic” in Mexican-American literature. This excellent first English translation will introduce the author and the book and its insights to many more readers.