The Last of the Menu Girls

The Last of the Menu Girls

2.5 4
by Denise Chávez

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Rocío Esquibel is a girl growing up in a Southern New Mexico town with her mother and sister. She defines her neighborhood by its trees—the willow, the apricot and the one they call the marking-off tree. Rocio knows she was born in the closet where she and her sister now take turns looking at the picture of Jesus whose eyes light up in the dark. But at


Rocío Esquibel is a girl growing up in a Southern New Mexico town with her mother and sister. She defines her neighborhood by its trees—the willow, the apricot and the one they call the marking-off tree. Rocio knows she was born in the closet where she and her sister now take turns looking at the picture of Jesus whose eyes light up in the dark. But at night she enters a magical realm, and in her imaginary Blue Room, she can fly. At first she is a mesmerized observer of the lives of older girls and their boyfriends, but as she finds a job at the local hospital, and discovers a passion for drama and stories, Rocio begins to make her own choices in love and work.

Alive with the taste of tamales and the lyrical tang of the Esquibels’ talk, The Last of the Menu Girls becomes a rich celebration of Chicano culture, and a universal story of finding one’s way in the world.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

While each short story in this collection features the same characters and is consistently from the viewpoint of Rocio Esquibel, the middle of three daughters growing up in New Mexico in the 1950s and 1960s, the narratives are not interconnected in a way that makes the whole any larger than the sum of its parts. Rocio is observant, sensitive and sensual, her surroundings filled with common objects—trees, clothes—that for her are imbued with personal meaning and a sense of world building. Unusual in fiction about Mexican American life during this period is that Rocio's mother is a working professional (a teacher) and that her parents divorce (with little apparent emotional fallout for anyone). Each story is carefully constructed and engaging, but some are stronger than others. This is model autobiographical fiction and can serve those interested in seeing that genre realized capably. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1986, Random House, Vintage Contemporaries, 220p., Ages 15 to adult.
—Francisca Goldsmith
Library Journal
The character of Rocio Esquibel, as a child, young woman, teacher, and aspiring writer, gives unity to this collection of seven related stories set in New Mexico. Chavez writes feelingly of things she obviously knows well, giving us a neighborhood full of memorable friends and relatives, compadres and comadres , handymen, hospital helpers, grandmothers, mothers, sisters. The title story concerns Rocio's funny and touching experiences in a summer job at a hospital. ``Space Is a Solid,'' crackling with authenticity and longing, details the relationship of teacher and pupil. ``Willow Game'' describes the inexplicable sorrow of children; ``Shooting Stars,'' the beauty of old women. These stories fairly shimmer with the warmth, tones, and language of the Southwest. A worthy addition to collections of Chicano women's fiction. Mary Soete, San Diego P.L., Cal.
From the Publisher
"These stories fairly shimmer with the warmth, tones, and language of the Southwest."—Library Journal

“A richness of texture and images [is] characteristic of Chavez’s writing. . . . These stories provide a clear glimpse into the world of New Mexico, of Hispanic customs and wisdoms, the grace that may, and did, come with a hard living.” –Santa Fe Reporter

“A valuable contribution to Chicana literature.” —Choice

“Chavez draws carefully detailed, emotionally convincing portraits of the lives of ordinary people” —Newsday

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Contemporaries
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
File size:
281 KB

Meet the Author

Denise Chávez is the author of Loving Pedro Infante and Face of an Angel, which won the American Book Award. She is the recipient of a Lila Acheson Wallace/Reader’s Digest Fund Writer’s Award and a founder of the Border Book Festival in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she lives with her husband, Daniel Zolinsky.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Last of the Menu Girls: A Novel in Stories 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Last of the Menu Girls by Denise Chávez was published in 1986 by Vintage Books. The novel deals mostly with teenage subject matter and growing up. During the 1960's the Esquibel's, a Mexican family living in New Mexico, faced hardships mostly due to the fact that Rocío's mother was a single parent of three daughters. The middle child, Rocío Esquibel was a young girl struggling with depression, family life, and her sexuality while also spending most of her time caring for younger sister, Mercy. Rocío spent those days thinking about her mother's first husband who was tragically killed, her own absentee father, and her older sister. The Esquibel's faced even harder times as relatives contracted diseases and began dieing. Because of Rocío's experiences with life and death, she became a "menu girl" for a local hospital, but a question on the application that asked her of her own "Experiences with the sick and dieing"; trigger memories from her past to resurface. Her past also tells the reader of her hopes for the future; to be sexy, desirable, and successful. During her work at Altavista Memorial Hospital, Rocío learns to understand herself better through her patients while also managing to fall in love with one of her female patients. While dating a man in college Rocío still struggles with sexuality and begins to become unstable. But will Rocío ever learn to accept her sexuality? Some of Chávez's lines in the book are awkward, "[she] wanted in my little girl's way to hold her, hold her tight. . .[she] would have danced for her."(14-15) And some are just too depressing; "I am left with recollections of pain, of loss, with holes to be filled..Time, like trees, withstands the winters, bursts forth new leaves from the dried old sorrow-who knows when and why- and shelters us with the shade of later compassions, loves, although at the time the heart is seared so badly that the hope of all future flowerings is gone."(14)I found out that Hispanic families seem to be more religious than other families; "But there were plenty of dull moments throughout the short story where I found it difficult to keep reading. Many times, I wish that I had chosen a different book to read. Mostly, I hated Denise Chávez's writing style because the chapters were written in series of stories and she never introduced a character properly or kept the stories in chronological order. I found The Last of the Menu Girls to be frustrating and almost uncomprehendable. So therefore, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone unless they have a lot of time on their hands and like a challenge.
carla_lyn More than 1 year ago
In the book The Last Of The Menu Girls by Denise Chavez. The main character Rocio Esquibel tells us about seven parts of her life that were important. She's growing up in Southern New Mexico, with her mtoher and sister. In a closet were she was born she and her sister take turns looking at a picture of Jesus who's eyes light up in the dark. She also brings us to a magical place that she goes at night, like into the blue room. The mystical places are all a part of her imagination.
Sometimes during the book it was hard to follow, but if your just read it carefully You'll undertand it and It will be a wonderful book to read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book was about a girl who is growing up in a New Mexico town. The girls name is Roccio Esquibel, and she lives with her little sister and her mom, in a neighborhood that she describes by her trees. Her and her sister take turns looking at pictures of Jesus in the closet that there mom gave birth to both of them. At night she goes in her imaginary blue room, where she enters a magical world. When she first starts going to this magical world she is amazed by the way the older girls and their boyfriends. She then gets job at a hospital and she starts getting into drama stories, and she starts to become more independent in her choices. I didn¿t like the book that much because of how fake it was. It wasn¿t very realistic, and I don¿t like books that have magical places and flying and what not. The other thing that was annoying about this book was the describing of the town with the trees, it got very confusing, and I lost interest at those parts. Overall the book was okay, if you like magical places and trees.