In the border shantytown of Ysleta, Mexican immigrants Pilar and Cuauhtémoc Martínez strive to teach their four children to forsake the drugs and gangs of their neighborhood. The family's
hardscrabble origins are just the beginning of this sweeping new novel from Sergio Troncoso.
Troncoso is clearly adept at his craft, telling a story filled with rich language and the realities of family life. With its skillful pairing of conflict over religious and familial obligations with the backdrop of a Mexican-American family's love for one another, Troncoso's novel is an engaging literary achievement.
One reads From This Wicked Patch of Dust
and can only pause for a moment to say, 'Yes.' Sergio Troncoso writes with inevitable grace and mounting power. Family, in all its baffling wonder, comes alive on these pages.
—Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird's Daughter
Spanning four decades, this is a story of a family's struggle to become American and yet not be
pulled apart by a maelstrom of cultural forces. As a young adult, daughter Julieta is disenchanted with Catholicism and converts to Islam. Youngest son Ismael, always the bookworm, is accepted to
Harvard but feels out of place in the Northeast where he meets and marries a Jewish woman. The other boys—Marcos and Francisco—toil in their father's old apartment buildings, serving as the cheap
labor to fuel the family's rise to the middle class. Over time, Francisco isolates himself in El Paso while Marcos eventually leaves to become a teacher, but then returns, struggling with a deep
bitterness about his work and marriage. Through it all, Pilar clings to the idea of her family and tries to hold it together as her husband's health begins to fail.
This backdrop is then
shaken to its core by the historic events of 2001 in New York City. The aftermath sends shockwaves through this newly American family. Bitter conflicts erupt between siblings and the physical and
cultural spaces between them threaten to tear them apart. Will their shared history and once-common dreams be enough to hold together a family from Ysleta, this wicked patch of dust?
Book group and discussion questions for From this Wicked Patch of Dust