2012 National Book Award Finalist,
The Boy Kings of Texas
Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press
In The Boy Kings of Texas, Domingo Martinez traces his life from a rough Texas border town to the “wet wilderness of civility” in Seattle. With sentences that often burst like small fireworks, this is a brave book, an angry dissection of the macho values that dominated his upbringing and a sorrowful account of his love, often betrayed, for his family—most poignantly, for his brother. Like the best of its genre, this memoir is absolutely specific and totally universal.
About the Book
Domingo Martinez lays bare his interior and exterior worlds as he struggles to make sense of the violent and the ugly, along with the beautiful and the loving, in a Texas border town in the 1980s. Partly a reflection on the culture of machismo and partly an exploration of the author’s boyhood spent in his sister’s hand-me-down clothes, The Boy Kings of Texas delves into the enduring and complex bond between Martinez and his deeply flawed but fiercely protective older brother, Daniel, and features a cast of memorable characters. Charming, painful and enlightening, this book examines the traumas and pleasures of growing up in South Texas and the often terrible consequences when two very different cultures collide on the banks of a dying river.
About the Author
Domingo Martinez has worked as a journalist and designer in Texas and Seattle. His work has appeared in Epiphany, and he has contributed to The New Republic. He has read pieces from The Boy Kings of Texas on “This American Life” and an essay about being chosen as a 2012 National Book Award finalist on “All Things Considered.” An excerpt from The Boy Kings of Texas was nominated for a 2013 Pushcart Prize. He lives in Seattle.
Before they started junior high, my sisters Mare and Margie had preemptively developed the fantasy of “the Mimis” between themselves as a means to cope with any feelings of inferiority they might have otherwise experienced by moving into the sinister world of teenage fashionistas, which, in Brownsville, was always tinged with border-town racism.
First, they dyed their brown-black hair blonde until it turned the color and brittleness of hay, then they began dressing in Sergio Valente and Gloria Vanderbilt fashions, and then finally, in further escalation, decided to call each other, simply, Mimi. They had secretly reinvented themselves for the adolescent phase of their lives, and then decided to let the rest of us in on the secret on an “as-needed” basis.
At the time, the rest of the family had not consciously realized that our job, as new Americans—and worse yet, as Texans—was to be as white as possible, and we honestly didn’t see their delusion as anything other than another bewildering strata to our sisters’ quest for a higher level of superior fashion, as teenage girls do.
A typical conversation between them went like this:
“Mimi, do you like my new Jordache jeans?”
“Yes, Mimi, I do. Do I look rich in my new Nikes, Mimi?”
“Mimi, you look like a tennis player, Mimi.”
“I know, Mimi. Maybe I should make Mom buy me a racquet.”
To help reinforce this pathological delusion, Marge had enlisted the help of Rex, a small gray terrier she had found rummaging in an overturned garbage can on a street near the Matamoros Bridge. She cornered the poor beast in an alley and caught it, lifting the matted, dreadlocked mutt by the armpits and deciding, right there, that the dog was a poodle and that it needed saving, naming it Rex. No one disagreed, or questioned why.
Rex was introduced to our family as the Mimis’ fugue was buzzing at its fever pitch, intoxicating everyone who came near and caught a whiff of the Mimis’ Anais Anais perfume. (We had all seen the commercials on network television while watching Dallas or Knots Landing, and it was a forbidden fragrance for rain-depressed English women with secret muscular boyfriends who drove Jaguars dangerously through one-lane unpaved Scottish roads, so the Mimis had to have it, and so they found it at the local JC Penney, and had Mom pay for it.) Dan and Syl and me, we just kind of stank from the heat and dealt with it.
Reprinted with permission from Chapter 10, “The Mimis,” from The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir, by Domingo Martinez, published by Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press (2012).
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