Brownsville has ratings and reviews. Jen said: Levar Burton Reads Podcast was a good one. Should be called “How Mrs. Perez Got He. . Oscar Casares (born May 7, ) is an American writer and an associate professor of creative writing. He is the author of Brownsville: Stories and Amigoland. Short story writer Oscar Casares is celebrating a homecoming of sorts, returning to his hometown of Brownsville, Texas, after years living in Austin, Minneapolis.

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Sitting down with Austin author Oscar Casares at a local coffeehouse, I begin by asking about his upbringing in the Texas border town of Brownsville — a town that the majority of characters in his stories and new novel also call home.

Are those handcuffs over there? That keen eye and well-tuned ear lend his short stories and new novel, called Amigolanda sense of realism and fly-on-the-wall insight that ring remarkably true.

The handcuffs turned out to be small engine parts placed just so, but it was nevertheless easy to imagine him assembling another story in his head and filing it away for future consideration. The rest of the questions are answered without incident.

More than that, they are answered with a completeness that makes it clear Casares wants to do more than just put an A to the Q. He wants to engage and entertain the listener. And so he does. Growing up in the southernmost town in Texas leaves its mark on a writer, and Casares’ marks are plain to see. The title of his collection of short stories is, fittingly enough, Brownsville: One easily assumes that the town endeared itself to a young Casares, but that’s far from the truth.

Apart from the usual gripes of small-town living — including the isolating sense that everything is happening everywhere else —Brownsville screened movies months behind the rest of the country, a crushing blow for any kid. Only after graduating from the University of Texas in and moving to Minneapolis did the art of storytelling become less a comfort and more a necessity. That’s how the story of Casares’ storytelling begins:. This was the late Eighties. I got up there, and everyone else had that idea, only five years earlier, and they had a lot more experience.

So I ended up having all these odd jobs. I worked in a movie theatre, at a canoe store, and just found work where I could and did very little advertising work. But I was so incredibly homesick that I would end up with the guys I worked with afterward at a bar, and I’d start telling these stories about Brownsville.

And I’d tell one story and then a second, and I’d say, ‘I better shut up,’ and they’d say, ‘No no no, I’ll buy more beer. How did a twentysomething Casares end up with such a battery of tales to dispense in order to both entertain listeners and cure chronic homesickness? They’d come over to the house, and they’d just hold court. They would show up, the TV would go off, and I would come inside the house and just soak it up every time, even if I’d heard the story five or 10 times.


When I eventually moved back to Texas, which was a couple years after Minneapolis, that narrative continued. I kept telling those stories. Not to say Casares wasn’t putting some bar-worthy stories under his belt himself, but it was the uncles’ style of oration as much as the tales themselves that stayed with Casares as he prepared to move from the spoken to the written word.

The allure of the written word began with a night of drinking. What better setting for our story’s plot to really kick into gear:. And I thought, ‘What the hell, let me see if I can write down what I just told them. So I said, ‘Let me write another one. I just had to figure out how to tell it on paper. So I wrote I don’t know how many stories, and four or five months later I quit my job. In an effort to “figure out how to tell it on paper,” Casares began taking writing classes at Austin Community College and sitting in on the same University of Texas literature classes that he had coasted through so many years before.

Add the stories written during that period to the ones written during his tenure to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the material started to take shape: That shape looked a lot like the Brownsville city limits. The collection of short stories isn’t a primer to border-town living, nor is it a Winesburg, Ohio -esque statement on the perils of small-town life. Casares wanted it to feel familiar to Brownsville residents, and, for the rest of the world, the author describes his goals this way: Following Brownsville ‘s publication, Casares made his triumphant return to his hometown as “the guy who wrote that book.

The local university and high schools are also inserting Casares’ stories into their literature syllabi. Better that than The Great Gatsbywhich feels relevant to roughly no young people.

Going from an informal oral tradition to the written word wasn’t a walk in the park. Telling a story in person has the benefit of instant feedback, be it a yawn or a rapt stare.

Not to mention the use of hand gestures is completely lost on the page. But years of telling a story and noting when a person got a beer or looked around impatiently has a way of editing a story for you. nrownsville

The Town Crier

Casares explains further, saying: Brosnsville there was someone broqnsville front of me; I was in someone’s living room, even if it was on the page. If Brwonsville got to some point that just wasn’t that interesting, I’d really have to ask myself, ‘Why is this here? Casares also wrestled with how to handle the numerous conversations his characters spoke in Spanish. To avoid awkwardly switching back and forth between languages, Casares’ stories are almost solely in English.

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In an attempt to bridge the gap between the languages, he opted to translate conversations that were originally Spanish — and in one instance an entire story that was originally written in Spanish — in an almost word-for-word manner instead of adapting the language completely for the sake of an English-speaking audience.

The example Casares uses is his literal translation of “como gente de dinero” to “like brownvsille of money” instead of the more Anglicized “rich people. Casares’ first novel, Amigoland to be published Aug. And now comes the story of the story within the story:.

Oscar Casares: RG A short story

How we got to the United States? And I was like, ‘Wow, what a story.

Don’t believe a damn word your uncle says. I grew up with this family legend and also this doubt hanging over it as to whether it was real. That was really where the story started in, wanting to recount that and to some degree get to the bottom of it — at least for me. At the same time, I didn’t want to write this saga about a little boy growing up and getting kidnapped. As time went on I was more intrigued by the idea of this dispute. That was really the seed of the story.

Amigoland went from pages down to the final as storylines were trimmed and honed. Tripping Casares up was the parallel between the older brother character, who spends the first half of the book in the titular nursing home of Amigoland, and Casares’ father, who had a stroke and found himself in similar circumstances during the writing process.

Brownsville: Stories by Oscar Casares

I went back and looked at [ Amigoland ] again, but it was too close. Ask me in five years, and there will probably be stuff that I’ll say, ‘Damn, I missed out on that. Amigoland goes on sale Aug.

Oscar Casares will read on Thursday, Aug. A note to readers: Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. Oscar CasaresAmigolandBrownsville. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.

Oscar Casares Photo by Jana Birchum. Top 10 Local Video Games. Subscribe to All One click gets you all the newsletters listed below.

Last modified: July 17, 2020