Author: Jaime Cortez
Genre: LGBTQIA+ Short Stories
Number of Pages: 208
Emotionally affecting but never resorting to sentimentality, Gordo tells the interconnected stories of young Latino people living in a migrant worker’s camp in the 1970’s. Gordo is a chubby gay boy who’s at an age where he’s just starting to become aware of his own sexual identity. The unfortunately-named Fat Cookie is an tough but artistically talented teenage girl who is being abused by her mom’s boyfriend, where Raymundo is another young gay man who is brutally bullied at school. This all sounds very dark and bleak, but Jaime Cortez infuses it with a generous amount of irony and humor and the writing style is conversational and pulls you right into these people’s lives.
His refusal to reduce his characters to stereotypes is also evident- they feel like real people with good and bad qualities and the dialogue flows beautifully, like something heard by chance in a public place. This book actually turned out to be a lot less depressing than I thought it was going to be. I expected there to be a much stronger emphasis on the abuse that the characters suffer, but even though it is a recurring theme you’re left with a sense of hope instead of hopelessness.
The book also deals with a lot of tough issues- bullying, sexual abuse, toxic masculinity (which is a overused term I kind of hate but I think it applies here,) alcoholism, and domestic abuse, not to mention the poverty that is rampant in these character’s lives, but it never feels like it’s moralizing or like a PSA. It’s smart enough to display these issues without pushing them in your face or making the narrative all about them and genuine enough to make you laugh while breaking your heart a little bit at the same time. It seems that this is the first book written by this author and it’s really, really good- I hope he writes more. I would actually like to see him build upon these characters in the future, as I grew to care about them over the course of the collection.