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Excerpt from The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The House of Broken Angels

by Luis Alberto Urrea

The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea X
The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2018, 336 pages
    Mar 2019, 368 pages


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Print Excerpt

"They're all waiting for me!"

She made a tiny grunt and shished back into the closet.

He sat on his side of the bed, his feet barely brushing the floor. Somebody was going to have to put his shoes on him. Infuriating.

*  *  *

Children outside raised hell with a legion of dogs; they were all absolved of the sin of noise—even of the sin of time.

Big Angel de La Cruz was so famous for punctuality that the Americans at work used to call him "the German." Very funny, he thought. As if a Mexican couldn't be punctual. As if Vicente Fox was late to things, cabrones. It was his calling to educate them.

Before he got sick, he had arrived early at the office every morning. At every meeting, he was seated at the table before the others came in. Old Spice in a cloud all around him. He had often set out Styrofoam cups of coffee for each of them. Not to show them respect. To tell them all to go to hell.

Like Nature Boy Ric Flair said on the TV wrestling shows, "To be the Man, you gotta beat the Man!" "Be a Mexi-Can," he told his kids. "We're not Mexi-Can'ts." They snickered. They had seen that in, like, an El Mariachi movie—Cheech Marin, right?

He didn't care about the job—he cared that he had the job. He brought his own colorful Talavera coffee mug to work. It had two words painted on it: EL JEFE. Yeah, the employees all got the message. The beaner was calling himself their boss. But what they didn't know, of course, was that "jefe" was slang for "father," and if he was anything, Big Angel was the father and patriarch of the entire clan. The All-Father, Mexican Odin.

And, by the way (bi de guey), the de La Cruz family has been around here since before your grandparents were even born.

His bosses could never have known that he was one of many fathers who had walked these territories. His grandfather Don Segundo had come to California after the Mexican Revolution, crossing the border in Sonora on a famous bay stallion called El Tuerto because he had lost one eye to a sniper. He carried his wounded wife into Yuma for help from gringo surgeons. Stayed in a burning-hot adobe close enough to the territorial prison so a person could smell it and hear the shouts from its cells. Segundo then stole a wagon and brought his wife all the way to California to try to enlist in World War I as a U.S. soldier. He had learned to kill while fighting General Huerta, and he was good at his job. And he had come to hate Germans because of the military advisors from Bavaria he'd seen with their ugly spiked helmets, teaching Porfirio Díaz's troops to use air-cooled machine guns on Yaqui villagers.

Dad had told him the story a hundred times.

When the United States denied Granddad's request to serve, he stayed in Los Angeles. Big Angel's father, Antonio, was five.

He wasn't allowed to swim in the public pool in East L.A. because his skin was too brown. But he learned English and learned to love baseball. The de La Cruz family became Mexican again when they went back south in the great wave of deportations of 1932, joining two million mestizos rounded up and sent across the line in boxcars. The United States had apparently grown weary of hunting down and deporting Chinese people for the moment.

What. Time. Is it? When are we leaving? Is Perla dressed yet?

He held his hands to his head. The entire history of his family, the world itself, the solar system and galaxy, swirled around him now in weird silence, and he felt blood dribble down inside his body and the clock, the clock, chipped away at his existence.

"Can we leave now?" he asked. But he could not hear his own voice. "Are we ready yet? Anybody?"

But nobody was listening.

Here We Go, Pops

Do I look good?" he asked Perla.

Excerpted from The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea. Copyright © 2018 by Luis Alberto Urrea. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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