The Espejo family of El Paso, Texas, is like so many others in America in 1967, trying to make sense of a rapidly escalating war they feel does not concern them. But when the eldest son, Gustavo, a complex and errant rebel, receives a certified letter ordering him to report to basic training, he chooses to flee instead to Mexico. Retreating back to the land of his grandfather—a foreign country to which he is no longer culturally connected—Gustavo sets into motion a series of events that will have catastrophic consequences on the fragile bonds holding the family together.
Told with raw power and searing bluntness, and filled with important themes as immediate as today’s headlines, Names on a Map is arguably the most important work to date of a major American literary artist.
Benjamin Alire Sáenz is the author of In Perfect Light, Carry Me Like Water, and House of Forgetting, as well as the author of several children’s books. He won the American Book Award for his collection of poems Calendar of Dust. Sáenz is the chair of the creative writing department at the University of Texas-El Paso.