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Book Review: Baseball in April

baseball in april cover

Baseball in April and Other Stories is a collection of short stories written by one of the dons of Latino literature in the U.S., Gary Soto. It was first published in 1990, but it remains relevant today – a classic.

The stories in the collection filled me with nostalgia for my own childhood (or at least the parts of it where I wasn’t being beat up for being a fag). It reminded me of the resilience of children who, somehow, nearly always manage to find their way to the cracks in the oppressive forces that too often isolate and alienate us and create happiness in those spaces.

In relative ignorance of what it feels like to know that no matter how hard you try, the finish line for you may still be this public housing project, plantation camp, barrio, or hood, kids still dream and play. Baseball in April is full of that sense of wonder that children feel, their powerful sense of themselves as immortal, and their remarkable ability to make the most of the best that life offers us, even if it doesn’t give that goodness up as easily to some of us as to others. The stories reminded me that young people have valuable lessons to teach about the power of imagination and aspiration that those of us who have to rely on books to remember childhood have often forgotten.

I love books so much that I occasionally write reviews for Powell’s, the largest bricks and mortar independent bookstore in the country. I write them in order to win online store credit; something I’ve had some good luck with. About Baseball in April I wrote this:

Baseball in April is a great little collection of short, accessible, beautifully written stories about the lives of a bunch of Latino kids growing up in California’s Central Valley circa late last century. The stories filled me with nostalgia for childhoods lived at a time when I was already well into adulthood, in a place to which I’ve never been, and among people to whose culture I do not belong. In short, this is great literature.

They gave me $20 for that little pile of words. I think I’ll use the prize to buy one of Soto’s other works – maybe a collection of poetry like Canto Familiar or Neighborhood Odes.

 

 

By Scot Nakagawa

Scot is a community organizer, activist, cultural worker, and political writer. He has spent the last four decades exploring questions of racial injustice and racial formation and effective forms of resistance and strategies for change through community campaigns, cultural organizing, popular education, writing, and direct political advocacy.

Scot’s primary work has been in the fight against vigilante white supremacist groups, white nationalism, Nativism, and authoritarian evangelical political movements. In this work, he has served as a strategist, organizer, and social movement analyst. Scot is a past Alston/Bannerman Fellow and the Association of Asian American Studies 2017 Community Leader. He is busy at work on a number of projects, including writing a playbook for anti-fascists, and a primer on race and power. His writings have been included in Race, Gender, and Class in the United States: An Integrated Study, 9th Edition; Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence; and Eyes Right!: Challenging the Right Wing Backlash.