Reviews

Jesusita

¨Ronald L. Ruiz has produced a dystopian plot that reflects more fact than fiction… Ruiz’s character building approach and eventual connection to Jesusita is a unique way of keeping his story vibrant and flowing. A balanced interlacing of frankness and obscurity, Ruiz’s text deftly captures not only the harsh realities of lives wrought by impoverished circumstances, tension from unfair laws, societal stereotyping, but also the biting results of pure choice…There is no doubt that Ruiz’s story is dark and, at points, downright depressing. Regardless, he draws his plot to a close with an air of poetic justice, while, at the same time, leaving his readers to wonder what the future holds for his characters. Jesusita is an unforgettable page-turner!¨ — Manhattan Book Review

In Jesusita, the author takes us on Jesusita’s journey that begins as a young widow reduced to trekking the Central Valley farms as a migrant worker to support four children… This book pulled me in from the start with Jesusita’s and Father Montes’s compelling characters. Both are deeply flawed, but also sympathetic, in that they try to overcome their limitations—Jesusita of the poverty and single parenthood that has been thrust upon her, Montes his difficulty in relating to others. The setting, the Central Valley of California, and its small towns and farms, is also deeply interwoven into the story, especially in the importance of the church to social life. Gossip and the local “grapevine” of information play a huge role, as it does to any culture, especially an intimate one. It is this church life and its rumors that first uplifts Jesusita and then as quickly leads to her downfall. The dynamics of religious fanaticism are also well portrayed… It is ultimately Jesusita’s fanaticism that makes her a classic tragic figure who gains great heights—within her social context—but which also leads to her fall. —Stacia Levy, San Francisco Book Review

In 1945, a widowed Mexican immigrant faces powerfully difficult conditions in Ruiz’s (A Lawyer, 2012, etc.) latest novel… Ruiz vividly displays his knowledge of the harsh conditions experienced by Mexican immigrants.… Jesusita…rarely expresses affection for her children, instead seeing them as just a burden to be borne. She feels no remorse for her beatings of Paulina, believing that they “weren’t sins.” But in this novel, things are hard for everyone… A bleak look at a bitter life that may be too much for readers to bear. — Kirkus Review

Sometimes parents need to survive in ways that will often take their toll on not only themselves as a parent but their children too… A story about acceptance, love, racial discrimination, hate, revenge, understanding, hope, caring, forgiveness, redemption and abuse. Author Ronald Ruiz takes readers inside the lives of many Mexican and Filipino immigrants at a time when the world looked down at them, as some even do now. Day laborers hoping to make money to care for their families any way they could. One woman that thought that God and her devotion would absolve her sins and her actions. Jesusita: guilty or innocent you decide when you read this thought provoking book. —Fran Lewis, Just Reviews

Happy Birthday Jesús

Not since Richard Wright’s Native Son has there been such a scathing indictment in fiction of the institutional racism propagated and supported by white America, or a more horrifying account of the travails faced by minority members unfortunate enough to be born into poverty. Jesús Olivas is a human monstrosity, a Mexican boy raised in Northern California whose crimes include brutally raping a prostitute and maiming a priest. First-novelist and criminal lawyer Ruiz brackets Jesús’s tortured upbringing in the Fresno ghettos and the abuse he suffers at the hands of his fanatic Catholic mother with the prison experiences that constitute his adult life. The sparse, simple prose lets the story tell itself, and in developing his lead character Ruiz never falls into the trap of trying to generate sympathy for Jesus or justify his actions. The prison scenes are particularly savage and disturbing, and while the courtroom passages stumble a bit, Ruiz manages to wring blood from the time-worn twin stones of Catholic guilt and repression. The supporting characters are briefly but fully drawn, particularly Jesús’s grandmother, Ama, and Chole, the whore who becomes both his victim and the sole love of his empty life. Few readers will be able to forget the chilling experiences of a forlorn hero who’s destined to take his place next to Bigger Thomas in the honor roll of seminal characters in American literature. Publishers Weekly. Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

“The novel succeeds… because of the relentless nature with which Ruiz forces us to see what he sees.” — San Francisco Chronicle

“A talented, painstaking, and intelligent writer.” — The Houston Post

“Savage and searing… A rare degree of intensity… His narrator’s voice is convincingly authentic… What might otherwise be merely shocking is written with such burning conviction, and with such obvious dead-on accuracy, that it casts a dazzling light… [Ruiz] knows his characters intimately, and he renders them on the page so vividly that only a reader with a heart of stone could ever forget them.” —Alan Ryan, San Jose Mercury News

“Undeniable raw power and genuine feeling for the downtrodden… Riveting… Frighteningly real.” — New York Newsday

“Powerful… important and illuminating.” — Houston Chronicle

“A Novel on a Mission: … gripping… thrusts us vividly into the consciousness of those members of our society who may become the ruin of all of us… Ruiz’s novel has earned an important place in our literature for the courage to shock us from our complacency.” — Gerald Nicosia, Los Angeles Times

“There’s no redemption here for anybody… You can agree or not, but you won’t be the same after reading this book.” — Carolyn See, The Washington Post

“… a stunning first novel. I … was so deeply moved by Ruiz’ power of writing a story with such difficult characters (and for me succeeding on every level) that I found myself touting this little book to all of my friends, giving it as gifts for birthdays and holidays… I have re-read the book in the intervening years and continue to be impressed. When I was recently asked to compose a list of books to encourage a budding novelist I first remembered “Happy Birthday, Jesus”…  [It] capture[s] the readers imagination and make an indelible imprint. This book deserves more attention…” Grady Harp, Julia’s Library

Giuseppe Rocco
Winner of the 1998 Premio Aztlán Award

“In a penetrating look at our national myth of rags-to-riches success Ruiz tells the gripping story of the rise, unification and decline of two very American families named Rocco and Martinez. The result is a subtle recasting of America’s Horatio Alger myth by “a talented, painstaking and intelligent writer”– The Houston Post

“Ruiz is at his best in describing the beauty and transformation of the countryside around the city of San Jose beginning in the 1950’s. He also has a deep understanding of the nomadic lives of Mexican workers in labor camps and cheap motels.” — Independent Publisher

“Ruiz’s sparse narrative is highly effective in illustrating the simple tastes of Giuseppe, like his love of the land and his old truck, while showing the complications that success brings. The book vividly portrays the contrasting experiences of immigrant populations in different eras.”  Joshua Cohen, Library Journal, Mid-Hudson Lib. Sys., Poughkeepsie, NY, Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

The Big Bear

“A notably different courtroom drama in which a young Mexican-American battles overwhelming odds to become a lawyer, then a good lawyer, and finally-sadly enough-a successful one… Ruiz…  creates a warts-and-all protagonist for his third outing…: you may not always like Gabby, but you’ll probably find yourself rooting for him.” — Kirkus Reviews

Ruiz “is at his best when depicting personal struggles.” — San Jose Mercury News

A Lawyer, a Memoir

“A lawyer’s memoir of a lifetime arguing cases in court. Before retiring in 2003, former District Attorney and North California trial lawyer Ruiz (The Big Bear, 2003) spent over 36 years practicing law and defending clients. Before and during that career, Ruiz wrote well-received novels, and those same writing skills are on display in his new memoir. The book opens with frank, clearly written vignettes from his childhood: “How I despised my brown skin,” he writes of himself as a boy. “How I dreamed and longed to be born again, but this time with blond hair and blue eyes.” He then continues to his legal career, focusing on a handful of major trials that taught him his craft and tested his resolve. When assigned the case of a man accused of shooting someone 40 times, Ruiz finds himself thinking, “[I]f I held myself out to be a criminal defense attorney, then I couldn’t refuse to represent any defendant, no matter how heinous the charge might be.” Enlivened by vivid details and engaging dialogue, these accounts read like enthralling legal fiction. They’re interspersed with digressions on a wide array of law-related topics, from the arrogance of judges to the present-day broken state of California’s penal system, where the “war on drugs” has led to overcrowded prisons and dangerous criminals being granted early release. As Ruiz writes: “If you weren’t a hardened criminal when you entered prison, the chances were very good you would be one when you left.” Through his triumphs and setbacks, including his first panic attack, suffered in court at the age of 56, Ruiz maintains an involving, unpretentious narrative flow that keeps the reader interested and on his side. A well-written, engaging look at a life of law.” — Kirkus Reviews

A Lawyer [is] a great book, and I’m glad [Ron Ruiz] wrote it and published it.  The writing is clear and heartfelt.  Even though this is a memoir that focuses on [Ruiz’s] personal life, it’s also a commentary on the intersection of race, culture, history, and the law as these categories relate to Latinas and Latinos in the U.S. Southwest.  A Lawyer is a literary work, but it’s also social critique.  I would definitely teach it in the future, especially in conjunction with [his] two novels, Happy Birthday Jesús and The Big Bear.  In the spring of 2013, I’ll be convening a strategic working group at the Townsend Center for the Humanities at UC Berkeley.  The topic of the working group is ‘Critical Prison Studies in an Age of Mass Incarceration.’  I’m going to encourage every participant in that group, which will include faculty and graduate students, to read [this] book.”  Marcial Gonzalez, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English, UC Berkeley.

“Gripping narrative, you can feel the author’s pain and feelings of accomplishment.” — Steven Hernandez

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