Sunday, June 04, 2006

Red Ridin' in the Hood, by Patricia Santos Marcantonio

When Jaime and Gabriela are left in the desert to die, they find a house made from pan sweet bread and tamales. Red goes to visit her abuelita and ignores her mother's warning and takes Forest St where she runs into Lupo. Lazy Juan drives his mother nuts when he trades in their delapidated old car for a handful of magic pinto beans. And the vain Emperador is tricked into showing off his new designer clothes to an entire school assembly. Yes, these are classic tales, some from Greek myth, some from the Brothers Grimm, retold with a distinctly Mexican bent.

Some of the stories are more clever than others, some are more interesting, but they're all just moderately updated and altered. Blanca Nieves (Snow White) proves to be worthless as a cook, but she makes a good ranch hand. Red doesn't need a woodsman to rescue her, she's plenty good at dealing with the wolf on her own. But with retelling and a changing of contexts, one of the really neat results is that you'll spend a lotr of time thinking about what these stories are really about.

I'm giving this book very high marks, despite my knee-jerk desire to hate its PC qualities. There is an obvious mission here to create a "multicultural" book that will help school districts and public libraries prove how "culturally sensitive" they are, but the reality is that this is a book of distinctly Mexican retellings of these fairy tales, and to ascribe a "Latino" label to the book ignores the diversity of the cultures encompassed by the word "Latino." I don't get the sense that the author had that intent, rather it seems more like a slick plan of some PR person at the publisher who came up with the selling angle. But the hypocrisy of it does twitch me.

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