Saturday, August 13, 2011

Forgetting the Alamo or Blood Memory by Emma Perez

Publisher:              University of Texas Press

Forgetting the Alamo or Blood Memory is a fictional history of the Battle for Texas told from the Mexican perspective.  Those who are familiar with the traditional way that period is taught in the United States will discover a very different story in this book.

Micaela Campos's family is caught in the struggle between Mexico and the Americans who have moved into the Texas territory over who will own that piece of land.  When her father goes to fight in the Battle of San Jacinto, he orders her to stay home to protect her mother and younger sister and brother, but Micaela disobeys him and follows him to the battlefield.  She arrives in time to see the destruction and to bury her father; then when she returns home, she discovers that raiders have struck her family farm, raped her mother and killed her younger siblings.  Because of her guilty feelings, Micaela becomes determined to seek revenge on the men who committed the acts and follows them all over Texas and as far as New Orleans.  Since she disguises herself as a man, she can hire herself out as a ranch hand and at various other jobs.  During her travels she meets Clara, a mixed race woman that Micaela becomes romantically involved with, but the situation is complicated.  There is little in this story that can be called romantic. For all of the issues that plague Micaela through the book, none of them have a truly happy resolution, which seems suited to the tone that is used to tell her story.

Perez had the obvious intention of taking a well-known period and showing the other side of the story.  No one would argue with that except she distorts events so much it's sometimes difficult to tell what exactly she's talking about.  The battle at the Alamo and the major figures involved are unrecognizable as they're described and that makes the book confusing.  Perez also makes the mistake of overselling her viewpoint.  There is no doubt that Mexican Americans have a legitimate issue with the people who took a huge portion of their original country away from them, but Perez depicts every Anglo with as much depravity as possible.  In her character's eyes they're all murderers, rapists or thieves with practically no redeeming features.  This makes her version as hard to accept as those stories that portray Sam Houston, Davy Crockett and the other Texans as nothing but heroes.

There are two more distracting aspects in the book.  Perez often has the characters speak in Spanish at key points, but she provides no translation for what they are saying and the meaning can't be derived from the context.  If the reader can't understand Spanish, then part of the story is lost.  Micaela keeps running into the same over a large piece of territory.  She manages to find her cousin Jedediah Jones no matter where she goes, including to New Orleans.  Even when she's not looking for people they keep popping up everywhere.  Anyone who has ever been to Texas knows it's a big place, so you wouldn't expect to see the same characters, but certainly not when traveling as far away as Louisiana.

Forgetting the Alamo or Blood Memory presents an alternate view of history that should be considered more.  It's thought provoking, if sometimes confusing and overblown.  The book is sometimes referred to as a historic romance, but that would be misleading to the average reader.  If you're looking for a typical romance or a story just to read for entertainment, this is not the book.  The typical American will also need to keep an open mind when reading it to appreciate the point that the author is trying to make.  Though the main character identifies as lesbian, this is not a typical lesbian novel.

No comments:

Post a Comment