The Iguana Killer


The Iguana Killer/Alberto Rios


Go to University of New Mexico Press or Amazon for further information.


The Iguana Killer.  Lewiston, ID: Blue Moon and Confluence Press, 1984.  Subsequent editions: Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998 and continuing.






Western States Book Award for Fiction, 1984.  Robert Penn Warren, head judge, with Jonathan Galassi, Carolyn Kizer, Al Young, and Jack Shoemaker.  Inaugural award.




Publisher Description:


“First published in 1984, this award-winning book, considered a classic of Chicano fiction, is now available only from the University of New Mexico Press.

     “More than anything, Alberto Alvaro Ríos's first book of short stories, The Iguana Killer, is a book of secrets. It takes us on a picturesque voyage into the heart, to those places where it is most generous to live, and to those where it is not. While each story is strong and distinct, The Iguana Killer is a true collection, a novel almost. The names of the characters change, the places and the times, yet one essential character, one conglomerated experience emerges: these, then, are the stories of the Chicano, beginning in Mexico, crossing the border at Nogales, and growing up in the U.S. What Donald Justice had to say of Ríos's first book of poems can be applied equally to The Iguana Killer: ‘[This book] gives what is basic to literary art—that felt sense of life demanded by Henry James, though the life, the whole culture here, could hardly otherwise be less Jamesian .... And whoever reads through this work must be impressed, as I was, by the power the most natural-seeming and casual image has, in the hands of a true poet, to transform and illuminate.’
     “As a writer, then, Ríos makes the familiar seem new and strange—secretive. And by contrast, he makes anything odd or new into something familiar and genuine. The stories collected here might be described as small miracles. Ríos confronts some big questions—often from a child's point of view—but he does so in the language of a poet, so that we discover, for example, that “The Iguana Killer” is really a baseball bat, an object far more important for gathering food than playing games. The future will make you tall, prophesies the gypsy, Madre Sofia, toward the end of the book. We find humor in discovering just how wrong her prediction is, humor in the flat middle of sadness. But humor most of all. These stories, then, show us a culture in transition, one reaching back all the way into the jungles of Mexico, rooted in the ancient Mayan and Aztecan civilizations, but extending all the way into the present as well, a present where confused governments go to war over “coffee” and almost anything can happen to a young Chicano, including love and generosity. In the end we see that
The Iguana Killer is the story of us all.





Some reviews


Colorful, hurtful, as real as legend, this book provides a wonderful new access to a large but mostly unperceived culture and will loom large in any approach to the emerging art of the Mexican worldview in English. Rios is an artist. -- Choice

In his cool, unassertive way, Rios taps many moods, keeping a controlled but flexible rein on the emotions of his characters and their experiences. These are not Anglo stories or Mexican stories but the unique amalgam we call Chicano — the real thing at last. -- John Barkham Reviews

The Iguana Killer is not the Chicano version of Catcher in the Rye, but it is close. -- San Antonio Express-News

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