News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Smoke over SoCal

The blackened shells of burned-out homes … gray smoke drifting through deserted streets ... more than a half-million people displaced ... National Guard troops patrolling the streets.

The wildfires raging in Southern California have created surreal scenes of devastation. Those living through the suddenness of this natural calamity feel an eerie sense of disorientation, like a nightmare come to life. Yet, a man-made disaster of even greater proportion looms in the future of the region. America Libre, a novel of a national nightmare, envisions astonishingly similar nightmarish scenes when the discontent smoldering in the barrios of the Southwest explodes into a violent conflagration and mainstream residents abandon the area in fear.

America Libre is set in the second decade of the twenty-first century as the immigration crisis reaches the boiling point. Once-peaceful Latino protests have exploded into rioting. Cities across the nation are in flames. Anglo vigilantes bent on revenge launch drive-by shootings in the barrios, wantonly killing young and old. Exploiting the turmoil, a congressional demagogue succeeds in passing legislation that transforms the nation’s teeming inner-city barrios into walled-off Quarantine Zones. In this chaotic landscape, Manolo Suarez is struggling to provide for his family. Under the spell of a beautiful Latina radical, the former U.S. Army Ranger eventually finds himself questioning his loyalty to his wife—and his country.

Prophetic? I hope not. Like George Orwell’s 1984, I wrote America Libre as a cautionary tale, a warning of the dangers that lie ahead—and a call for us steer a different course.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez