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P LACE N nTESDALLAS THE CHARLES W. MOORE CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF PLACE PLACENOTES is a completely new take on the traditional travel book. These boxed sets of cards feature individual placesbuildings, neighborhoods, landmarks, and cultural and commercial institutionsthat help define a city’s unique character, its “sense of place.” This set describes unique places in the city of Dallas and provides all the practical details you need to plan a visit, including a Dallas map and an index of places. Distributed for the Charles W. Moore Center for the Study of Place 4 5/8 x 6 1/4 in. box $19.95 Read more about PLACENOTES online. di v Ati UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS PRESS \(9 PLACENOTES 402430Ple , dah as Flores. The fact that Pink is albino keeps obtuse Cloyd from evicting him because he is African American. The most provocative neighbors are two women so different from each other that, for an inexperienced adolescent, they constitute a variation on the hoary Madonna-Whore binary. In apartment No. 3, directly above Sonny, is randy 18-year-old Cindy, a bored, lonely, and habitually stoned housewife usually seen around the building clad in a skimpy bikini. Though terrified that Cindy’s brutish husband will catch them in flagrante, Sonny succumbs to Cindy’s persuasion to sexual initiation and returns repeatedly for advanced lessons. In apartment No. 4, Sonny finds a very different kind of feminine temptation, a cloistered beauty named Nica. An immigrant from Veracruz who speaks no English, Nica is hostage to her family’s adversity. While her mother and stepfather are away all day laboring at menial jobs, she is confined to the apartment, forced to care for her infant half-brother, Angel. Though he can communicate with her only in halting Spanish, Sonny falls in love with Nica, or at least with his fan tasy of her as a damsel in distress awaiting his heroic intervention. Though the city is nowhere named, The Flowers is set in an urban jumble very much like Los Angeles, where beaches sing to those who never get to see the sea and sirens signal racial violence. Los Flores is located beside a busy boulevard just beyond an expanding African-American neighborhood against which Cloyd keeps his rifles ready. Like Gilb, Sonny’s mother comes from El Paso, but in her son’s imagination, Texas is a distant, daunting place: “Texas was maybe more far away than Mexico to me. Mexico was lots of people, land everywhere, mountains and rivers and oceans. Texas was all dirt, it was hats, it was way far away, it was mean hardasses.” Texas is not far away from Gilb, who lives in Austin and teaches at Texas State University. But he has frequently denounced the mean hardasses who he claims dominate the state’s cultural establishment and exclude Tejano and working-class voices from the literary conversation. He has clashed repeatedly with the editors of Texas Monthly, who rejected his submissions because, he claimed in an interview with the Southwestern Writers Collection, “… they weren’t interested in the Mexican American experience from the point of view of Mexican Americans; they were only interested in confirming their stereotypes of Mexican and Chicano culture?’ In a 2003 essay collection he called Gritos, Gilb cries out that “… even after all these years, people like me are unseen, patronized, so out of the portrait of American literature. It seems impossible that so many of the writers I have knownand yes, me, too,with a decent record of publications by usual standards, still fight a battle for acceptance, that we are a product of an ongoing American story that is not foreign, not only about a dark exotic people, not only fascinating as so much is ‘south of the border? not just about the poor and dangerous other side of the tracks?’ With Hecho en Tejas, an anthology of Tejano writing he edited in 2006, Gilb attempted to open readers’ eyes to a literary tradition that had, like exquisite mushrooms, been thriving in the dark. But a 1995 Guggenheim had already tarnished Gilb’s own invisibility, and by the time he and Rolando Hinojosa-Smith received the prestigious Bookend Award at last November’s Texas Book Festival, the battle for acceptance was won. Sonny Bravo is not nearly the champion of Chicano voices that his author is. Sonny would just as soon speak in a tongue that is alien to Aztlan: French. To ingratiate himself with his new wife, Silvia, Cloyd offers her son CC one big thing” of his choosing. Sonny replies: “I wanna go to Notre Dame.” Cloyd naturally assumes that the boy wishes tickets to a football game, until Sonny explains: “I mean Notre Dame the church. The one in Paris. In France.” Amid the bleakness of his existence at Los Flores, Sonny clings to the fantasy of escape to France. Though he seems indifferent to his formal schooling, he acquires a textbook and begins teaching himself to speak French. He says that he does it “just to mess with everybody?’ as if the language of Racine, Voltaire, and Hugo offers a way to declare his independence from an environment he rejects. Dropping French phrases never 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JANUARY 11, 2008