Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Pedro's Theory: Reimagining the Promised Land by Marcos Gonsalez


Pedro's Theory: Reimagining the Promised Land by Marcos Gonsalez
Published by Melville House on the 12th January 2021.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


One Pedro goes to a school where they take away his language. Another disappears in the desert, leaving behind only a backpack. A cousin Pedro comes to visit, awakening feelings that others are afraid to make plain. A rumored Pedro goes missing so completely it's as if he were never there. 

In Pedro's Theory Marcos Gonsalez explores the lives of these many Pedros, real and imagined. Several are the author himself, while others are strangers, lovers, archetypes, and the men he might have been in other circumstances. All are journeying to some sort of Promised Land, or hoping to discover an America of their own. 

With sparkling prose and cutting insights, this brilliant literary debut closes the gap between who the world sees in us and who we see in ourselves. Deeply personal yet inspiringly political, it also brings to life those selves that never get the chance to be seen at all.

When I first requested a review copy of Pedro's Theory I thought it was a work of fiction whereas actually this amazing book is a blend of imagination and memoir, sociology and history, literary criticism and political insight. It is intense and complex and far from an easy read, but I found it to be utterly compelling from start to finish. Marcos Gonsalez draws together disparate themes and threads, demonstrating how systemic racism and white-centered institutions in America have consistently battered his sense of self throughout his life. However Gonsalez doesn't simply recount his own personal experience, but looks out across the Americas and back through history in support of the valuable points he drives home. I loved his clarity of writing which allowed me to consolidate thoughts I've gleaned from several other books I've read over the past few years: Conquistadores by Fernando Cervantes and Ruby Hamad's White Tears/Brown Scars, for example, show how the systematic suppression of indigenous language and culture by white European immigrants is neither a recent nor a peculiarly American phenomenon.

I appreciated how Gonsalez includes discussions of other literature to explain the points he wants to make. He is a literature professor so some of these sections were so scholarly as to really stretch my comprehension, however having already read some, such as Passing by Nella Larsen, allowed me a deeper understanding of their chapters, and I now also have a jotted list of further books to seek out and read. What I feel will be most memorable about Pedro's Theory for me is the wonderfully effective device of naming each of the men, whose lives we view, Pedro. This dismissive moniker when spoken by whites is turned on its head as each formerly interchangeable Pedro reclaims his own right to space and life. I am grateful to have had this opportunity to read this brilliant work and admire Gonsalez' dedication and bravery in putting his life out there for people like me to read. I highly recommend Pedro's Theory as a challenging and rewarding study.


Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Marcos Gonsalez / Biography and memoir / Books from America

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