Summary and book reviews of The King Is Always Above the People by Daniel Alarcon

The King Is Always Above the People

Stories

by Daniel Alarcon

The King Is Always Above the People by Daniel Alarcon X
The King Is Always Above the People by Daniel Alarcon
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2017, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2018, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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About this Book

Book Summary

A slyly political collection of stories about immigration, broken dreams, Los Angeles gang members, Latin American families, and other tales of high stakes journeys, from the award-winning author of War by Candlelight and At Night We Walk in Circles.

Migration. Betrayal. Family secrets. Doomed love. Uncertain futures. In Daniel Alarcón's hands, these are transformed into deeply human stories with high stakes.

In "The Thousands," people are on the move and forging new paths; hope and heartbreak abound. A man deals with the fallout of his blind relatives' mysterious deaths and his father's mental breakdown and incarceration in "The Bridge." A gang member discovers a way to forgiveness and redemption through the haze of violence and trauma in "The Ballad of Rocky Rontal." And in the tour de force novella, "The Auroras", a man severs himself from his old life and seeks to make a new one in a new city, only to find himself seduced and controlled by a powerful woman.

Richly drawn, full of unforgettable characters, The King is Always Above the People reveals experiences both unsettling and unknown, and yet eerily familiar in this new world.

THE THOUSANDS

THERE WAS NO MOON that first night, and we spent it as we spent our days: your fathers and your mothers have always worked with their hands. We came in trucks, and cleared the land of rock and debris, working in the pale yellow glow of the headlights, deciding by touch and smell and taste that the land was good. We would raise our children here. Make a life here. Understand that not so long ago, this was nowhere. The land had no owner, and it had not yet been named. That first night, the darkness that surrounded us seemed infinite, and it would be false to say we were not afraid. Some had tried this before and failed—in other districts, on other fallow land. Some of us sang to stay awake. Others prayed for strength. It was a race, and we all knew it. The law was very clear: while these sorts of things were not technically legal, the government was not allowed to bulldoze homes.

We had until morning to build them.

The hours passed, and by dawn, the progress was ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The young and the restless. This moniker might well apply to the characters in this brilliant collection of short stories by Daniel Alarcon. Recently pronounced a Macarthur Genius, Alarcon revisits familiar territory here, returning to topics of displacement and familial expectations...continued

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(Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Media Reviews

The Washington Post
These stories explore immigration, family loyalty and redemption. Alarcón throws his characters into high-stakes situations to draw out humanity where it seems little hope is left.

Chicago Tribune
Vividly realized characters encounter family secrets, uncertain futures, ill-fated love and redemption.

Buzzfeed
S]howcases his talent as a master storyteller. In 10 vivid, captivating stories, Alarcón explores immigration, family relationships, secrets, betrayal, hope, love, heartbreak, forgiveness, and redemption.

Nylon (25 Books to Read this Fall)
[S]mart, political and incredibly engaging... Alarcón introduces readers to countless unforgettable characters along the way.

Kirkus Reviews
A smart and understated collection that puts some new twists on old-fashioned identity crises.

Booklist
Alarcón’s gift for generating real, tangible characters propels readers through his recognizable yet half-real worlds.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Throughout the collection, Alarcón writes with a spellbinding voice and creates a striking cast of characters. Each narrative lands masterfully and memorably, showcasing Alarcón's immense talent.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Drought-resistant Crops

Pineapple CropIn the story "The Auroras," in Daniel Alarcon's collection The King is Always Above the People, one of the characters is a woman who is studying drought-resistant crops.

Jill Farrant, one of the many scientists working in the field, points out that research has become even more urgent as climate change and an increase in population have led to an untenable situation in many regions of the world, including in Africa, where most of her study focuses. Scientists like Farrant are studying the characteristics of naturally drought-resistant plants and working to transfer some of those genes to more common crops.

What properties do drought-resistant plants possess? For one thing, many of them take in carbon dioxide in the night. Most plants...

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