Chicago Public Schools teacher to publish novel

On Saturday, I signed a contract with La Casita Grande Press.  My novel The Hot Mix will be released summer 2019.  The first time I read about what La Casita Grande and publisher Jon Marcantoni aimed to accomplish, I knew this would be a good fit.

In an interview with syndicated columnist Esther Cepeda, Marcantoni said, “We want to give writers an outlet so that they can be different and not have to write stories about where they’re from but that focus on the writer’s imagination and appeal to universal themes.”

Even though my novel takes place in my old Chicago neighborhood, the story goes beyond the typical immigration, American Dream, and gang narratives typical in novels with a male Latino protagonist.

Inspired by music and 26th Street, The Hot Mix reveals the struggles of an unsung Chicago neighborhood in the mid 1980s full of disillusionment, promise, and lots of music.

Twenty-year-old Luciano, “Lucky,” wants to fulfill a simple dream: to be a mechanic and own his own shop. He optimistically hopes for guidance from an unkind, unambitious father who is a functioning alcoholic.

He doesn’t want a factory job like his father. Even though he plans on marrying his long-time girlfriend one day, despite their dysfunctional relationship, Lucky doesn’t want an inherited job at her family’s local business either. He struggles to make sense of his own ambition.

After a questionable arrest for disorderly conduct, which leads to Lucky confronting his father’s self-destructive behavior, Lucky starts to question what a successful man should and should not do.

Throughout the novel, Lucky looks to conversations with his best friend who enjoys house music, the older African American man training him as a mechanic who digs funk and R&B, a fruit vendor who listens to Spanish boleros, and eventually, his self-sacrificing mother, who long ago abandoned her love of Mexican rock ‘n’ roll.

Seventeen chapters feature a search for self-fulfillment stirred by music. Each title captures a musical genre popular around 26th Street in the 80s (“Norteñas,” “Cumbia,” “Slow Jam”) or a term related to sound (“Static,” “Silence”).

The Hot Mix will push readers to reflect on the role music plays in our decision making as they follow Lucky’s modest journey, articulated occasionally in metaphors, and listen to the wisdom of other more mature characters who contemplate in poetic forms.

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