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The Education of a Wetback

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It was never Toño’s plan to leave El Salvador behind. Toño has spent his entire life rising hours before dawn to feed the animals and mind the farm of his father Jose Angel. He wants nothing more than a plot of land and a farm of his own. And he knows exactly how to get it: make his way across the Mexican border to the United States of America, where he’ll earn enough money It was never Toño’s plan to leave El Salvador behind. Toño has spent his entire life rising hours before dawn to feed the animals and mind the farm of his father Jose Angel. He wants nothing more than a plot of land and a farm of his own. And he knows exactly how to get it: make his way across the Mexican border to the United States of America, where he’ll earn enough money to help his family and himself. It’s like Jose Angel says the day Toño leaves: “You always have a home to come back to.” But the year is 1979. And the Salvadoran Civil War is about to begin. Now Toño is working under the table for jewelers and roofers and cohabitating with his fellow immigrants, working every moment he can to secure his plans. He’s searching for a woman who might help him start his own family in El Salvador, and abandoning those who won’t sacrifice their dreams for his—all the while ignoring his father’s warnings of the chaos back home. What happens when a dream disappears? In uncertain circumstances in an unfamiliar country, can you find another life to fight for? Marcos Antonio Hernandez’s The Education of a Wetback is a moving story of the haphazard, unexpected search for the American dream.


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It was never Toño’s plan to leave El Salvador behind. Toño has spent his entire life rising hours before dawn to feed the animals and mind the farm of his father Jose Angel. He wants nothing more than a plot of land and a farm of his own. And he knows exactly how to get it: make his way across the Mexican border to the United States of America, where he’ll earn enough money It was never Toño’s plan to leave El Salvador behind. Toño has spent his entire life rising hours before dawn to feed the animals and mind the farm of his father Jose Angel. He wants nothing more than a plot of land and a farm of his own. And he knows exactly how to get it: make his way across the Mexican border to the United States of America, where he’ll earn enough money to help his family and himself. It’s like Jose Angel says the day Toño leaves: “You always have a home to come back to.” But the year is 1979. And the Salvadoran Civil War is about to begin. Now Toño is working under the table for jewelers and roofers and cohabitating with his fellow immigrants, working every moment he can to secure his plans. He’s searching for a woman who might help him start his own family in El Salvador, and abandoning those who won’t sacrifice their dreams for his—all the while ignoring his father’s warnings of the chaos back home. What happens when a dream disappears? In uncertain circumstances in an unfamiliar country, can you find another life to fight for? Marcos Antonio Hernandez’s The Education of a Wetback is a moving story of the haphazard, unexpected search for the American dream.

30 review for The Education of a Wetback

  1. 4 out of 5

    Catalina Gutierrez

    I read this book as part of a book club. The title of this book stung a little because of the oppression attached to it. I was hoping the author would somehow reclaim the use of this word giving it a little dignity. He did not. .There was a lack of depth to the characters. And although the form in which it was written was as an easy read, I had a difficult time finishing it. As a Latinx person. I really wanted to like this book and be supportive. It lacks in culture. Perhaps the author was writi I read this book as part of a book club. The title of this book stung a little because of the oppression attached to it. I was hoping the author would somehow reclaim the use of this word giving it a little dignity. He did not. .There was a lack of depth to the characters. And although the form in which it was written was as an easy read, I had a difficult time finishing it. As a Latinx person. I really wanted to like this book and be supportive. It lacks in culture. Perhaps the author was writing for a different audience.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Summer

    This is a tough one to review. First, the title makes me super uncomfortable. I grew up in a U.S. border state and "w******" was an awful slur. It was never a term that had in-group usage in my area and basically, them's fightin' words. I understand the author is Latino himself and there's something to be said for (and a history of) reclaiming words. Still, the title makes me deeply uncomfortable as a Hispanic person myself. Second, and I hate to say this, but this is essentially a less well-wri This is a tough one to review. First, the title makes me super uncomfortable. I grew up in a U.S. border state and "w******" was an awful slur. It was never a term that had in-group usage in my area and basically, them's fightin' words. I understand the author is Latino himself and there's something to be said for (and a history of) reclaiming words. Still, the title makes me deeply uncomfortable as a Hispanic person myself. Second, and I hate to say this, but this is essentially a less well-written version of One Hundred Years of Solitude. A story about a Latino family? A complex family/relationship tree? Random magical realism? Check, check, check. To be fair, the end gives this novel a bit more of an emotional impact that helps balance it out but...I don't want to say read One Hundred Years of Solitude instead -- I want to support debut authors, particularly authors with diverse voices -- but...look. Overall, this is a great effort and a solid story. But it feels like an early draft you'd workshop in a Master's program, not a novel that was ready for publication. And I feel like a jerk saying that. I originally read this for a book club before the coronavirus hit so I wasn't able to discuss it with folks. That might have changed my opinion, as many good discussions do. If you're looking to read some diverse authors and One Hundred Years of Solitude is too much of a doorstopper for you, this is a great option. If you want to support emerging authors, this is a great option. If you want to develop some empathy for the struggle immigrants face, this is a damn good option. I hope to see more from this author in the future, because I think he's got a knack for storytelling and I'd love to see what else is taking shape in his head. Just, maybe do a little more workshopping and editing first.

  3. 4 out of 5

    IE Latinx Book y Chisme Club

    This is a complicated review for us to write. We liked the idea of this book: family dynamics, cross-cultural relationships, love stories, magical surrealism, but the majority of our members felt that the author represented women in a negative way. Additionally, most disliked the title from the onset. My understanding is that the author meant to reclaim the slur, "wetback" but if it's not clear in the story how this done, the verbal explanation falls short. The author graciously joined our discus This is a complicated review for us to write. We liked the idea of this book: family dynamics, cross-cultural relationships, love stories, magical surrealism, but the majority of our members felt that the author represented women in a negative way. Additionally, most disliked the title from the onset. My understanding is that the author meant to reclaim the slur, "wetback" but if it's not clear in the story how this done, the verbal explanation falls short. The author graciously joined our discussion in September and while we liked him and his energy, most of the members in the post-discussion felt that he didn't really address the title which is very disconnected from the story itself or resolve any of their concerns regarding the misogyny in the book. Overall, we enjoyed the author and the concept behind it but the overwhelming vote at the end is that this was not a favorite. 2/5 - the extra star is for the author's willingness to join our discussion.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ingrid

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I'm lucky that one of my book clubs got a chance to host the author for a post-read discussion. I found his insight very helpful and being able to understand the perspective from which he wrote was illuminating. I enjoyed the book and felt that the story was paced in a way that I was interested in finding out what came next in the story. The characters were sufficiently interesting, and overall I liked the book. There were even some elements of magical realism that I usually find offputting, but I'm lucky that one of my book clubs got a chance to host the author for a post-read discussion. I found his insight very helpful and being able to understand the perspective from which he wrote was illuminating. I enjoyed the book and felt that the story was paced in a way that I was interested in finding out what came next in the story. The characters were sufficiently interesting, and overall I liked the book. There were even some elements of magical realism that I usually find offputting, but I think in the subtle context in which the author uses these, I actually really enjoyed them. That said, there were certain aspects I was hoping to see more of. For one, I think the author could have delved a little deeper into character motivations. I think he definitely touched upon a major motivating factor for the main character, Toño, when he wrote, "I just hate being poor." The author shared the significance of this moment during his actual interview with his father, whom the story is loosely based upon, but he fails to capture that significance in the actual book. While we understand that this is absolutely the driving force behind Toño's commitment to working hard and getting back to El Salvador, it lacked a bit of background as to why this revelation is so deep and resonant to those of us who are also immigrants and have our own immigrant stories. I was almost waiting to see when this would be addressed. There were also a few elements that the author briefly touched upon, but didn't go into depth about, and I think it's a real detriment to the story. For example, towards the end of the main character's relationship with the married Paola - a woman who happens to have a set of wings - it is revealed that her husband broke her other wing, and Toño just flippantly glosses over this in his anger and hurt about her choosing to stay in that relationship instead of leaving with Toño. There was so much he could have done with that moment to stress not only the impact of domestic violence and abuse - specifically towards Latin women - but also what was really going on under the surface for Paola as a character. There wasn't even a nod to trying to address why someone would remain in that type of situation despite the hurt and danger. I think a lot of the characters lack the depth that I was hoping to see. Not enough to deter me from the book, but enough that I was left wanting. I wish the author had also explored a little bit more of the complicated nature of Toño's relationship with his father because while there was absolutely love and care there, there were also hints of harsh discipline (dare I say, abuse?) that are mentioned but not really explored. I think it's a great first draft of a novel, and I would have liked to have seen the author explore more of the emotionally salient aspects of the story of his father's coming to America, as well as incorporating the Salvadorian Civil War more than he did, or even exploring his dad's journey with relation to his own discovery of his latinx identity. For these reasons, I gave it 3/5 stars.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Hughes

    The year is 1979. The word "wetback" was used. Get over it. The subject is Tono and the story starts with his high school graduation in San Remo, a small town in El Salvador. What will he do now that his schooling is at an end. He can't afford college but he has enough money saved to get him across the border to America. Illegally. He lives in LA a while but decides he would make more money in New York and then Washington DC. He manages to send about $10,000 home to his father and he saves anoth The year is 1979. The word "wetback" was used. Get over it. The subject is Tono and the story starts with his high school graduation in San Remo, a small town in El Salvador. What will he do now that his schooling is at an end. He can't afford college but he has enough money saved to get him across the border to America. Illegally. He lives in LA a while but decides he would make more money in New York and then Washington DC. He manages to send about $10,000 home to his father and he saves another $10,000 that he is going to use to buy a farm in El Salvador. This book is about his life in America and the decisions he makes along the way. It's pretty mundane but does give us some insights into his thoughts. It is a pleasant read but not a big deal.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I don’t like the title... and other things... but especially the title. If the author is comfortable with this word - then that’s on him - but now he’s making me say (think) it :/

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Adlakha

    Other similar stories are better written. Didn't like the random supernatural interjections. Other similar stories are better written. Didn't like the random supernatural interjections.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rita S Fernandez

    Great Book especially for LatinX gente! I read this book in three days. As a daughter of Mexican immigrants, I was able to relate to the characters.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jake Henningsgaard

    Great coming of age story. Thoroughly enjoyed the way the author told the story of Toño and all the challenges he encountered. Highly recommend.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    Meh. The writing isn't compelling and the over-use of "vanilla" symbolism got old quick. I really wanted to like this book, but the author doesn't develop any real sense of conflict and I never felt invested in the protagonist's situation, especially how easily he's able to move around between countries, come up with large sums of money, etc. Meh. The writing isn't compelling and the over-use of "vanilla" symbolism got old quick. I really wanted to like this book, but the author doesn't develop any real sense of conflict and I never felt invested in the protagonist's situation, especially how easily he's able to move around between countries, come up with large sums of money, etc.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Zachary Cohen

  12. 5 out of 5

    Regan

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lukas Hernandez

  14. 4 out of 5

    Julieta

  15. 4 out of 5

    Brenda FIvelstad

  16. 5 out of 5

    Hope

  17. 4 out of 5

    Katie Minor

  18. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Weddle

  19. 5 out of 5

    Elke Sanborn

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  21. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kim Allende

  23. 5 out of 5

    Hudson Drakes

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rosie L. Phillips

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nahuel F.A.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Yolanda Zepeda

  27. 5 out of 5

    Christy

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lewesrat

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ana

  30. 5 out of 5

    Julia Ciciora

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