Author mixes Spanish culture in his storytelling

Natassia Bonyanpour By Natassia Bonyanpour

Nov. 6, 2014 at 10:39 p.m.
Updated Nov. 7, 2014 at 7:37 a.m.

Oscar Casares, author of "Brownsville: Stories" reads an excerpt at University of Houston-Victoria's American Book Review Reading  Series on Thursday.

Oscar Casares, author of "Brownsville: Stories" reads an excerpt at University of Houston-Victoria's American Book Review Reading Series on Thursday.   Natassia Bonyanpour for The Victoria Advocate

A young, Hispanic man named Bony discovers a monkey's head on his front lawn and reveals it to his parents.

His mother, an Avon saleswoman, fears the bodiless animal may be cursed and wants it out of the house - but Bony finds himself oddly attached to the creature.

This is the premise to one of the short stories inside Oscar Casares' book "Brownsville: Stories."

The author read an excerpt of his book for University of Houston-Victoria's American Book Review Reading Series on Thursday afternoon.

The author, who also wrote "Amigoland," spoke in front of faculty, students and members of the community, often using Spanish expressions and bilingualism to tell the story.





While Casares grew up along the U.S.-Mexico border in Brownsville, he now lives in Austin and directs the University of Texas Master of Fine Arts Program in English.

"This was an improbable journey for me," he said to the audience. "I didn't imagine myself being a writer; many people say they do. I avoided books as a kid and young adult."

Although Casares said he never read as a child, he had two uncles who told fascinating stories.

"I have learned different things in workshops," he said. "But I never learned as much as I learned at 4 or 5 years old about how to craft a story."

His book, "Brownsville: Stories," also tells the stories of Diego, an 11-year-old boy who works at a firework stand and Lola who loses a bowling ball - all while reflecting life in Brownsville.

Casares uses Spanish words within his stories, which he said helps him illustrate the setting.

"What I try to do is use Spanish so that it's contextual," he said. "If you don't know Spanish, you get it; if you do know Spanish, you'll get it on a deeper level."

From the word "chango," a slang word for monkey, to phrases Bony's parents use when they are frustrated, Spanish is sprinkled throughout Casares' excerpt.

Freshman Claudia De Luna sat in the auditorium smiling and laughing at many of the Spanish idioms in Casares' book.

She said many of them were relatable to her own life.

"I'm Hispanic, and it all rings a bell," she said. "I grew up in San Antonio, so I could identify with some of it."

UHV Director of English Saba Razvi said the reading speaks to South Texas.

"We're interested in promoting literature and culture in this region," she said. "We always try to bring writers that the community will appreciate."


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