Happy Birthday Jesus by Ronald L. Ruiz, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Happy Birthday Jesus

Happy Birthday Jesus

by Ronald L. Ruiz
     
 

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The boiling pot of emotions that finally erupts in young Jesus has been cooking for years on the flames of religious fanaticism, poverty and race hatred. Transformed into the perfect victim by his grandmother, a religious fanatic, and the teachings of his parish priest, Jesus is progressively abused and brutalized. At eighteen, he marks his coming of age with the

Overview

The boiling pot of emotions that finally erupts in young Jesus has been cooking for years on the flames of religious fanaticism, poverty and race hatred. Transformed into the perfect victim by his grandmother, a religious fanatic, and the teachings of his parish priest, Jesus is progressively abused and brutalized. At eighteen, he marks his coming of age with the savage rape of a prostitute, the only person who loved him, and with an attack that maims the parish priest he both hated and feared. Jesus graduates from the supposedly nurturing institutions of family, church and school into the labyrinth of horrors that is the correctional system.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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. Jesus Olivas is a human monstrosity, a Mexi c an boy raised in Northern California whose crimes include brutally raping a prostitute and maiming a priest. First-novelist and criminal lawyer Ruiz brackets Jesus'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 Jesus'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. (Mar.)
Library Journal
The belabored first-person narrative of this debut novel presents the repeated clash of sex and religion in the life of a sensitive young Mexican American man who has grown up under the reign of an abusive grandmother. Jess Olivas's entangled feelings of guilt and shame lead him to brutally attack his parish priest and rape a prostitute who had earlier befriended him. His conviction and resulting sentence turn Jess into a hard-edged sociopath who, upon his release, commits an even more savage act of brutality. The scenes of violence and cruelty and the overstated Christian symbolism do little to clear up the muddied picture of Jess and the social conditions of his life. The rapes, prison violence, and graphic language may upset many readers. Not essential for most collections.-David A. Beron, Westbrook Coll. Lib., Portland, Me.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781558853980
Publisher:
Arte Publico Press
Publication date:
04/20/2003
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

After reading Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment at the age of 17, Ronald L. Ruiz says he knew he wanted to be a writer, but knew nothing about the craft. His first novel, Happy Birthday Jesús, was published 36 years later to good reviews.

Ruiz practiced criminal law for over 36 years in California, and at the end of his legal career was the District Attorney of his county. One of only six Mexican-American lawyers in Northern California during his early years, he saw a transformation in the criminal justice system that would make anyone wonder whether there had been "progress." Appointed by California's Governor to the Agriculture Labor Relations Board from 1976-1980, Ruiz saw first-hand the labor strife in California's agricultural industry between César Chavez's UFW and the growers. What he saw and experienced throughout his career serves as a basis for his writing.

He always managed to find time to write while working and now retired, Ruiz continues to write every day, saying he feels fortunate to have found something in writing that sustains him.

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