March 10, 2000
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. Crossing (Bilingual Review Press, 1998), the first novel by Indiana University Assistant Professor of English Manuel Martinez, was recently named one of the 10 best books of 1999 by a writer of color by PEN American Center, a worldwide organization of literary writers.
Crossing also was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize, an annual national literary award for the best of small press and literary magazine writing. Pushcart Prize winners will be announced in May. "These two events are a credit to the desire of readers and editors to read ethnic fiction, which does not often receive that much attention," Martinez said.
Crossing was inspired by a newspaper account of 13 undocumented workers left to suffocate in a boxcar outside El Paso, Texas. The novel follows 16-year-old Luis who, restless and haunted by the death of his father, decides to leave his small town in Mexico to seek his fortune in the United States. Luis makes a fateful decision to hide in a railroad boxcar to cross the border. As the short trip stretches into days, the men in the boxcar begin to confess their past crimes, sins, and desires for a better life as they face death.
"The work is really my attempt to explore the American obsession with mobility, that irrepressible hope that there must be something better somewhere and the relentless desire to move on in search of this elusive goal," Martinez explained.
Martinez, who was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, joined the IU faculty in 1997 after receiving his Ph.D. degree in American literature from Stanford University. He is currently working on a novel titled Brown Boy Running, as well as a book of criticism titled Countering the Counterculture: Rereading Postwar American Dissent from Kerouac to Rivera.