Authors: Benjamin Alire Saenz
Other books by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
• Carry Me Like Water
• The House of Forgetting
• Flowers for the Broken
• In Perfect Light
• Names on a Map
Books for Young Adults
• He Forgot to Say Goodbye
• Last Night I Sang to the Monster
• Calendar of Dust
• Dark and Perfect Angels
• Elegies in Blue
• Dreaming the End of War
• The Book of What Remains
Books for Children
• A Gift from Papá Diego / Un regalo de Papá Diego
• Grandma Fina and Her Wonderful Umbrellas / La Abuelita Fina y sus sombrillas maravillosas
• A Perfect Season for Dreaming / Un tiempo perfecto para soñar
• The Dog Who Loved Tortillas / La perrita que le encantaban las tortillas
“Set in the barrio of a New Mexico town during the Vietnam war, this heart-rending story of love and loss follows Sammy Santos through his senior year of high school. The gritty details about drugs, sex, domestic violence, the liberal doses of Spanglish, even the profanity, make this story feel like an authentic portrayal of what it meant to be poor and Chicano in America in the 1960s.”
—Top Picks of the Year,
“Written in a poetic first-person voice, Sammy’s story of love, loss, and strong family ties is hard to forget.”
“His message is one of victory through endurance rather than escape, as Sammy finds ways to define himself and maintain his loyalties while circumstances prevent him from leaving the barrio.”
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“[This book] begs to be read out loud and shared with others, placed in the hands of anyone who’s ever struggled with the confusion, loss, and contradictions that come with saying goodbye.”
—San Antonio Current
“Sammy deserves to become a character of lasting interest to both casual readers and literature classes. . .This is a powerful and authentic look at a community’s aspirations and the tragic losses that result from shattered dreams.”
—School Library Journal
“Benjamin Alire Sáenz exquisitely captures the mood and voice of a community, a culture and a generation.”
“Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood
is indeed a loving tribute to Chicano culture in the Mexican-American borderlands.”
Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood.
Copyright © 2004 by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written consent from the publisher, except for brief quotations for reviews. For further information, write Cinco Puntos Press, 701 Texas, El Paso, TX 79901; or call 1-915-838-1625.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Sáenz, Benjamin Alire.
Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood / by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.
Summary: As a Chicano boy living in the unglamorous town of Hollywood, New Mexico, and a member of the graduating class of 1969, Sammy Santos faces the challenges of “gringo” racism, unpopular dress codes, the Vietnam War, barrio violence, and poverty.
[1. Death Fiction. 2. Grief Fiction. 3. Violence Fiction. 4. Mexican Americans
Fiction.] I. Title.
Book and cover illustration/design by Antonio Castro H.
Many thanks to Iris Morales and Hector Delatorre
whose images grace this cover.
Dios los bendiga.
For Amanda, Roberto, John, Cynthia, Mark, Isel, Ivana—and in memory of Amy
Every generation has to find its own way. Embrace the journey.
“The first thing
the dead do is lose their voices. But they have their ways of making us listen. Maybe the dead need those of us who made it out alive to go out into the streets and tell everyone what happened. Maybe they want us to do more than tell. Maybe they want us to shout. Maybe they want us to point fingers. Maybe they want us to tell anyone who’ll stop and listen that once, the world was theirs, too. Maybe they won’t leave us alone until we say their names out loud again and again and again.”
“If you just talk, Juliana, you can talk yourself into being alive.”
“Let’s not say anything, Sammy. Let’s not say anything at all.”
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.