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"Originally published in Mexico in 1990, Bencastro's dramatic, powerful first novel focuses on the coup d'etat in El Salvador in 1979... Bencastro interpolates news bulletins, letters, poems and Romero's homilies into the narrative to create a vivid newsreel of a country disintegrating." --Publisher's Weekly.

"A skillful balance between journalistic reportage and a subjective focus on the lives of ordinary people afflicted by political upheaval... (A Shot in the Cathedral) makes powerfully real for us the human dimensions of war's phlegmatic impersonality." --Kirkus Review.

"One of Latin America's particular and notable contributions to world literature has been the political novel. Beginning with Argentina's José Mármol in the 19th century and continuing in the 20th, Latin American narrative has depicted political turmoil in artful and often innovative ways. Such is the case with Bencastro's A Shot in the Cathedral." --CHOICE. (American Library Association).

"The Tree of Life: Stories of Civil War contains twelve of Bencastro's fictions, and the work is uniformly strong. Some of the pieces like The Deaths of Fortín Coronado, The Tree of Life, and Laura's Afflictions fit under the heading of short, short fiction while others like Photographer of Death and Clown's Story go so extensively into their subject that Bencastro later adapted their hard hitting cores for the stage. The Faces of Xipotec, a story which studies the relationship between physical suffering and artistic achievement, is particularly strong with regards to the tortures inflicted on the citizens of El Salvador and, therefore, memorable for the effects Bencastro achieves through its pages.


Two of the pieces, The River Godess and The Garden of Gucumatz, rely heavely on Indian myth and native legend, but in presenting them, Bencastro is abundantly clear, supplying the universal reader with all the requisite details for a perfect understanding of his material. 'Once Upon a River,' the final fiction in the book, is also the longest and most powerful. Based upon the massacre of more than 350 men, women, and children along the banks of the Sumpul River (May 14, 1980), Once Upon a River constitutes a short novella which shows the absolute savagery of the civil war while, at the same time, showcasing Bencastro's considerable talents for drawing character through the medium of a minor literary masterwork. Susan Giersbach Rascon's fine translation, make this first English edition of the book a memorable event." --Phillip Parotti, Sam Houston State University.

Decades of civil war in Central America, coupled with the need for manpower in the United States, have made the Hispanic inmigrant a fixture in modern American life. This is one such a story: that of Calixto, who comes to the United States "with his stomach empty but his soul full of hope." Showing the heartbreak as well as the humor of missteps and misunderstandings in a strange culture, award-winning author Mario Bencastro creates a sensitive and caring portrait of Calixto as he seeks not only work, but safety from unjust persecution in his homeland.

"The even-tempered prose of this quietly resolute political novel gives voice to a generation of Central American immigrants. The Salvadoran protagonist, Calixto, flees his native country, where he faces imprisonment for alleged treason. The dangerous journey north toward Washington, D.C., which provides the novel's dramatic tension, emerges through a series of interpolated flashbacks. Through an artful collage of the conversations between Calixto and his friends, news reports, courtroom transcripts, love letters and anecdotes, Bencastro (The Tree of Life: Stories of Civil War) documents the hardships Calixto suffers upon arriving in the promised land. Unpretentious and reportorial, Bencastro's tone is welcomely understated--and his message all the more powerful for it. FYI: Bencastro's earlier novels have been finalist in both the Novedades y Diana International Literary Prize competition (Mexico) and the Felipe Trigo Literary Prize competition (Spain)." --Publishers Weekly

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A Promise to Keep explores critical questions of identity, homeland, and culture, issues that are grounded in the reality of immigrant teenagers who have been raised and educated in the United States.


A novel that Salvadoran author Mario Bencastro wrote with the collaboration of students from a school in the United States has been published by Arte Público Press. The novel’s title is A Promise to Keep, and it has been published in English in 2005. The book tells the story of a child that came to the US at the age of six and that, in the novel, he is already an adolescent that faces a series of conflicts proper of his age and environment.

      "Nevertheless," Bencastro points out, "this is not a young adult novel for entertainment only, but one that also confronts the realities of the young Latino population in the US". The novel was written with the collaboration of students from Belmont High School of Los Angeles, California, who participated actively proposing themes and opinions for the novel’s content.

      Teenager Sergio is caught between two countries. He has lived in Los Angeles since the age of six, when he emigrated from Central America with his parents. But in a country far away from his birthplace and birthright, he finds himself coming of age without any sense of a "homeland."

      Sergio has spent many years under the strong, guiding influence of his grandfather, who lived with Sergio's family until his recent death. Before Abuelo dies, he exacts a tough promise from Sergio. After years living in a land that is not his own, Abuelo demands to be buried in his own native soil. Sergio's struggle to honor his mentor takes him on a dangerous mission, fraught with unexpected disasters. Sergio's voyage of self-discovery and cultural exploration requires him to take control. He encounters unexpected triumphs and discoveries that will enrich the rest of his life.

      In this well-crafted and sensitive narrative, acclaimed author Mario Bencastro draws upon his own experiences working with immigrant teens to deftly examine the pressing questions and problems facing these bicultural teens.

Book no.1
Book no.2
Book no.4
Book no.3
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