Thursday, November 12, 2015

Jesusita by Ronald Ruiz

Book Description for Jesusita:

Jesusita is the story of immigrants—legal and illegal—trying to survive in California in the years after World War II. Jesusita, alone and impoverished, struggles to keep her four young children together. Though she finds support from Padre Montes at St. Teresa’s Catholic Church, her faith won’t solve her problems, especially those with her daughter, Paulina. Far from home, Filipino laborers are denied by law any contact with white women. Angie, the young daughter of an illiterate and unmarried mother, knows only one way to make money. And Felix, abandoned by his mother and separated from his only brother, is placed in a foster home on an isolated ranch. The interrelated lives of these people provide a complex, sometimes violent, and often tragic image of American poverty within the nation’s postwar boom.

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Praise for the work of Ronald L. Ruiz:

“The sparse, simple prose lets the story tell itself… The supporting characters are briefly but fully drawn… Few readers will be able to forget the chilling experiences of a forlorn hero who’s destined to take his place next to Bigger Thomas (of Richard Wright’s Native Son) in the honor roll of seminal characters in American literature.”
–Publishers Weekly (featured review) on Happy Birthday Jesús

Author's Bio:

After reading Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment at the age of 17, I knew I wanted to be a writer. But I knew nothing about the craft. My first novel, Happy Birthday Jesús, was published 36 years later. Surprisingly, it received good reviews

For many years, I was a criminal defense attorney and at the end of my career a prosecutor, but I always managed to find time to write. What I saw and experienced during those years often serves as a basis for my writing. For me, learning how to write has been a long, continuous and, at times, torturous process.

Now retired, I try to write every day and I feel fortunate that I have found something in writing that sustains me. I’m glad I persevered during all those years of rejection. More than anything, writing about what I see and experience in life has given me a sense of worth.

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Hi Teresa:
Thank you for your important questions. Below are my answers:

My career as a lawyer helped me write this book only insofar as in 1974 Governor Jerry Brown appointed to me to a four year term as a Board Member on the Agriculture Labor Relations Board which adjudicated unfair labor practices in California´s agricultural fields. That experience confirmed what I had been told by my family, who had been illegal Mexican migrant farm workers, about the working conditions and wages in the agricultural fields.

No, Jesusita is not based on any specific cases I´ve worked on.  However the drowning of Paulina and all the legal processes that followed were drawn from my years of experience as a criminal defense attorney and a prosecutor.

 My reasons for writing the book.
In 1974 when I was appointed to the A.L.R.B., California´s economy ranked eleventh in the economies of the NATIONS around the world.  The biggest industry in California then was agriculture. Today, half of the nation´s produce still comes from California.  In 1974 the agricultural workforce, the people working the fields, was almost 100% Mexican and of those the vast majority were illegal immigrants. Today, I submit that workforce is still primarily made up of Mexicans, a very substantial number of whom are illegal immigrants.  I invite anyone who doubts me to spend a day or two in the agricultural fields of the Central Valley or on the coast beginning with Watsonville and working your way south, or at El Centro at the border, and see who the workforce is in those fields.  When ranch owners are asked why they hire those people, their answer is always, "We can´t get white folks to do this work."  (They never add, "For those kind of wages.)
Why did I write this book?
Because I was tired of hearing that illegal Mexican immigrants are rapists and thieves, lazy no-counts who just suck the nation´s benefits dry.  I want people to understand that the fruits and vegetables on their tables were probably raised and harvested by those "filthy" no-counts. I wanted people to see what their lives are and have been like as they nation´s agricultural workforce. Those folks have worked hard for every penny they´ve ever earned.
Finally, unlike the Filipinos who were brought here without their women, the Mexicans brought their children  who had children like me, who were lucky enough to have been born here, and by my birthright be a citizen.  
I am grateful for all the benefits and opportunities I have received in this great nation, especially the educational opportunities. But I also believe that I have contributed to this society as an attorney for years in the criminal justice system, by leaving my law practice for four years and moving to Sacramento to be a Board member on the AL.R.B., and serving as the District Attorney in the county where I lived.   



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