Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood

Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood

by Benjamin Alire Sáenz


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Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

It is 1969, America is at war, "Hollywood" is a dirt-poor Chicano barrio in small-town America, and Sammy and Juliana face a world of racism, war in Vietnam, and barrio violence. Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood is a Young Adult Library Services Association Top 10 Best Book for Young Adults and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Young Adults.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz —novelist, poet, and writer of children's books—was named one of the "Fifty Most Inspiring Authors in the World" by Poets & Writers magazine. He was also a finalist for PEN/USA's literary award for children's and young adult literature. Sáenz lives in El Paso, Texas.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781933693996
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
Publication date: 04/01/2011
Pages: 291
Sales rank: 417,907
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 16 Years

About the Author

BENJAMIN ALIRE SÁENZ was born in his grandmother's house in Picacho, New Mexico—on the outskirts of Las Cruces, New Mexico where Juliana in Hollywood is set. He was the fourth of seven children and was brought up in a traditional Mexican-American Catholic family. His family spoke mostly Spanish at home, and it was only through his education in the public schools that he learned to speak and write in English. He entered the seminary in 1972, a decision that was as much political as it was religious: he was heavily influenced by such Catholic thinkers as Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, César Chavez and the Berrigan brothers. After concluding his theological studies at the University of Louvain, he was ordained a Catholic priest. Three and a half years later, he left the priesthood. At the age of 30, he entered the Creative Writing Program at the University of Texas at El Paso. He later received a fellowship at the University of Iowa, and in 1988, he received a Wallace E. Stegner Fellowship in poetry from Stanford University. In 1993 he returned to the border to teach in the Bilingual MFA program at the University of Texas at El Paso. His most recent book of poetry, Elegies in Blue, was published by Cinco Puntos Press in 2002. This is his first book for young adults.

Read an Excerpt

Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood

By Benjamin Saenz

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Benjamin Saenz
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060843748

Chapter One

I remember her eyes, the gray of a sky about to let loose a storm. I remember the way she placed her finger on her bottom lip when she was lost in thoughts as dark as her eyes. I'd have given anything to live that close to her lips.

I used to picture her eyes as I was lying in bed. Her eyes and that finger touching her bottom lip. I'd lie there and listen to the radio on my favorite station, K-O-M-A in Oklahoma City. It reached me all the way to where I lived in southern New Mexico. But it could only reach me at night. Just at night. I used to wait and hope they'd play that song by Frankie Valle You're just too good . . . Even if I was half asleep, if I heard the song, I'd suddenly be awake. I'd hum along and put together a scene: a girl dressed up for me and a dance floor shiny as glass. Even the ice cubes in our drinks sparkled in the light. That girl was Juliana. And the whole damned world was mine. I need you ba-a-by . . . And then, after the song was over, I'd fall asleep exhausted from trying to keep the two of us together. Being obsessed with Juliana was hard work. The word obsession came into my vocabulary the second I met Juliana.

It was the way she looked at me that kept me coming back. Just as I was about to give up on her,just as I was about to tell her, "Look, screw it all. I don't need to suffer like this. Just can't take it." Every time I was about to tell her something like that, she stretched out her arm and made a fist. She'd tap her fist with her other hand, until I nodded and pried it open. I would stare at her open palm, and she would ask: "Do you see?"

And I would nod and say, "I see."

"You see everything now, don't you?"

"Yes, everything," I'd say.

"You see everything."

"Yes. Todo, todo, todo."

Now, when I think of her open, outstretched hand, I have to admit I didn't see a thing. I see my lips moving, "Yes, todo, todo." I wonder why I lied to her. Maybe it wasn't a bad lie. Maybe it was. Maybe there aren't any good lies. I don't know. I still don't know. And I didn't know anything about reading palms either. I've never known anything about that. Not then. Not now. One thing I did know--no matter how many times she let me pry her hand open, her fists were still clenched. They'd stay that way forever.

Juliana letting me pry open her fist. That was a lie. Maybe it was a good lie. I think it was.

I told her once that she collected secrets like some people collected stamps.

"You're full of shit," she said. "Where do you get that crap? You're so full of shit."

"No, I'm not," I said.

"Well," she said, "everyone needs to collect something."

"Collect something else," I said.

"Like what?"


"No, I don't like them. That's your thing, Sammy. Did you know everyone calls you 'the Librarian'?" She looked at me. I pretended I knew. I didn't. But I pretended. And she let me. "And besides," she said, "only gringos can afford books. But secrets don't cost a damn thing."

She was wrong about that. Secrets cost plenty.

I used to write her notes in class that said, "Stop collecting."

"Not yet," she'd write back.

"Then tell me one. Just one secret." What did I think she was going to tell me?

The first time she told me what she was thinking, I found myself trembling. "I've always wanted to smoke a cigarette." That's what she whispered. I pictured her wearing a backless dress in some smoky bar with a cigarette between her lips. A drink in her hand. I pictured my hand on her bare back--that's what made me tremble. And that song came into my head you'd be like . . . I almost offered to buy her a pack, buy her two packs, buy her a carton. But I was sixteen and could never talk when I needed to--and my pockets were empty. So I just stood there trying to figure out what to do with my hands. I wanted to die.

That night, I decided to be a man. I was tired of sitting there like a chair. That was me. Sammy Santos. A chair. Sitting there. Thinking. As if thinking ever did any good. To hell with everything. After dinner, I walked out of the house, borrowed Paco's bike and stole two cases of Dr Pepper bottles from Mrs. Franco. She had a nice house. She didn't live in Hollywood. She didn't need the bottles. I cashed them in at the Pic Quick on Solano--and bought my first pack of cigarettes. My dad wanted to know where I was. "Just taking a walk," I said.

Dad's smile almost broke me. "You're like your mom," he said. "She'd walk and think. You take after her." He looked so happy. If you can be happy and sad at the same time. That's how he looked when he talked about her.

I hated to lie to him. But I couldn't tell him I was stealing Dr Pepper bottles from Mrs. Franco. I couldn't. He thought I was some kind of altar boy. He never went a week without telling me I was good. Good? What's that? Sometimes I wanted to yell, "You don't know, Dad. You don't know these things." I wanted to yell that. It would have broken his heart.

Later, in bed, I held the red pack of Marlboros and studied it like I was going to be tested on what it looked like. I smelled the cigarettes through the cellophane--and it was then that I . . .


Excerpted from Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Saenz Copyright © 2006 by Benjamin Saenz. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Part 1.The Way She Looked at Me3
Part 2.Pifas and Gigi and the Politics of Hollywood53
Part 3.Another Name for Exile113
Part 4.The Citizens of Hollywood Rise Up Against the System173
Part 5.Welcome to Hollywood247

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Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sáenz creates strong main and supporting characters long remembered after finishing the novel. Sammy’s voice was spot-on as a teen boy who grapples with the personal issues all teens do–friends, love, fears and hopes for the future–while also dealing with poverty, racism, and the Vietnam War era. Sáenz brilliantly mixes Spanish and English, local “neighborhood” issues with larger social issues like drug addiction and homophobia. While Sammy and Juliana are in love, as the book blurb states, this is not a traditional love story. Something tragic happens shortly into the novel that ends the love affair. I won’t spoil it, but the relationship was short-lived, and Sammy spends the rest of the novel dealing with this loss and many others. If you’re looking for something light-hearted with a happy ending, this one’s not for you. Sáenz left me feeling what it’s like to get pounded by life, as Sammy was and as many people are.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The novel, Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood is a tale about a young man in high school, named Sammy Santos, who lived in a suburb at the edge of a small New Mexico town. He falls in love with an autonomous and stunning girl named Juliana. The story starts off as what would seem like a typical Romeo and Juliet, but before the reader knows it the story takes a turn for the better and for the worse. In an unfortunate event Juliana and her family was shot and killed by father, in anger at his wife. Such cases of domestic violence in the small town were not uncommon. With this tragic event, the struggles of Sammy Santos began. He became a typical teenager, getting involved in the drinking and drugs which were of easy access and typical in his community. The teenagers in their town seemed to be confined and unable to expand and fulfill their dreams. The Latinos/Hispanics were not given opportunities to expand, and as a result the children seemed to have given up on their dreams at a younger age. At this period in time the Vietnam War was also going on. One of Sammy¿s close friends was drafted into the war, and that served as a turning point in his life. He had just lost his love and now one of his best friends. True, his friend was just going to war and could possibly come back safe, but everyone in his town knew that people who went into the Vietnam War usually never returned. They repeatedly talked about fighting against the system, instead of supporting it but they knew that their mouths would have been shut by the violence. Is this the democracy that America speaks so greatly of? America claims to be a country that is a democracy of egalitarianism and freedom, but where was the equality and liberty for the less fortunate in poverty? If people had a strike to get their opinion or message across they were silenced by violence. Sammy¿s friend was unfortunately sent into war and it made him realize that there was more to life. Sammy wanted to pursue an education by going to college after high school. The story told of Sammy¿s life may have been fiction but the novel is historically accurate as the challenges in his life that he faced with such as racism, violence, and poverty were very much real. Hispanics have had to deal with many instances of racism, which still continue in present day. The rifts between two different cultures of Americans and the Hispanics have caused violence throughout the country. People need to understand to just put differences aside and live as a community. After all we¿re all here and it¿s only best that we come together and make this country a better place. If everyone was given the right to speak and have their voice heard, then America would be a much better place. I would definitely recommend this book to a friend. This novel deserves 4 out of 5 stars. This book gives a great insight into the lives of Hispanics and the daily challenges they¿ve had to face. Hopefully by reading this book, the reader will be presented with a new perspective and a better understanding of the different cultures that reside in America.