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#LatinoLit: Rain of Gold by Victor Villaseñor Book Review

Victor Villaseñor Rain of Gold Lluvia de Oro

#LatinoLit: Rain of Gold by Victor Villaseñor {Book Review}

Rain of Gold” was a little of what I expected and a lot of what I didn’t.  I’d heard that it was a great tale of Mexican history and traditions, and that it was hopeful and full of Chicana(o) pride.  But this book turned out to be so much more.  The details and depictions of the ins and outs of the Mexican familia were so honest.  There were several parts that also reminded me of my own family.  Most of all though, it was filled with such truths about relationships and family bonds that it’s almost impossible to imagine someone who would be unable to connect with this story.  Throughout the book, we learn of the horrors of war, the drama and dysfunction that meets many families along the way, and the incredible spiritual power behind two women who raised their families up out of the hate and taught them to love.  Even at the darkest moments, there are spiritual lessons being learned and love is shown to be a tool that grows both our hearts and minds.

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The story starts out in La lluvia de oro (rain of gold), a small village at the southwest border of the state of Chihuahua in Mexico, where one of the main characters, Lupe, lives with her family.  We learn about Lupe’s family, about their challenges, their strength and their pride.  Later in the story, her future husband, Juan Salvador, appears in the story and readers are transported into a back and forth between the stories of each family as they make their way from Mexico to the U.S. during the Mexican Revolution.  The later half of the story takes place interchangeably between Corona and Santa Ana in California, where the two families settled after reaching the U.S.  “Rain of Gold“, the true story of the Villaseñor’s parents, Lupe and Juan Salvador, becomes more intriguing when the couple finally meets.  By then, we’ve come to understand all of the back story and realized what amazing families both of these individuals have bloomed from.  There is a wonderfully intimate understanding of their families’ lives that takes us well beyond the typical “Mexican” stereotypes and enables readers to connect with the characters on an emotional level, no matter what their cultural or social background.

For Latinos and individuals who’ve lived within the Latino circle, you’ll be pleasantly entertained by all the small nuances throughout the book that go hand in hand with the familial customs and traditions that we still take part in today.  There are plenty of sobremesas, many mentions of the typical, and some not so typical, traits of Mexican mothers and a great deal of Mexican folklore and history intertwined throughout the story.  This novel is intricately and lovingly written and it’s easy to see that Villaseñor has a deep and adoring connection to his Mexican roots. His honesty on both the amazing heritage and shortcomings of Mexican culture is refreshing and readers will find themselves nodding in agreement and recalling the details of their own family experiences and doubts.  The book also has an overt feminist tone that defies common myths of “weak Latina women” and instead, tells the stories of two bold women who saved their families from the horrors of the revolution and built a strong family with deep roots in their faith.  Villaseñor’s depiction of Mexican women as the bearers of all life, the strongest and most intelligent, is uplifting and inspiring.  Although there are also some very macho elements in the book, they are used again and again to prove the point that women, are indeed, amazing creatures.

If you’re a feminist and/or love Mexican and Latino culture, this is a must read! There are insights on faith, culture, history, romance, selfishness, pride and many more important topics.  I was especially inspired by the ending of the book and so, I recently started “Thirteen Senses“, which details Salvador and Lupe’s marriage and outlines their families’ wisdoms on cultivating love.  You can count on reading a review of “Thirteen Senses” very soon!  ;)

 

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  • RubyDW
    July 1, 2011 at 8:41 am

    This book is amazing I find myself turning back to it when I want to remember stories like the ones my grandfather read. This book hit home because many of the places these families traveled were driving distance from me if not walking… yes walking. I am from Santa Ana, Ca I have had the chance to go to the Catholic Church Lupe and her familiy traveled to which is Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was amazing to read this book. I reccomend it to everyone all the time. I'm so glad you enjoyed it

    • Ezzy Guerrero-Languz
      July 1, 2011 at 2:40 pm

      Ruby! I didn't know you were from Santa Ana! So when you wrote about the Strawberry Festival on your blog a couple of weeks ago, was it the Strawberry Festival in Garden Grove??? 

      • Anonymous
        July 1, 2011 at 10:37 pm

        To Ruby & Ezzy:  I'm not from Santa Ana, but I'm a SoCal girl too! (I was raised in Redlands.)  Close enough! :)   

    • Chantilly Pati&ntild
      July 1, 2011 at 2:43 pm

      Wow Ruby!  That is an incredible story!  What a treat to be able to read an amazing book like this and recount the details in your mind!  I can't believe you grew up in Santa Ana!  I've started to become really intrigued by that area the past few months since it has also been home to other authors I've read!  I absolutely love Villaseñor and will be doing more reviews of his book.  I did a critical essay about him in college, which I am going to refurbish and post here also.  He caught my eye when I was searching for a Mexican American author and discovered that he was also an activist, an agent for community pride and a Dyslexia advocate.  His story share's a lot of similarities with my husband's, which I'll be blogging about very soon.  I'm so glad to find so many other fans to chit chat with, because his books are an amazing talking point!  Thanks for reading my review amiga!  :)

      • Chantilly Pati&ntild
        July 1, 2011 at 2:53 pm

        BTW, Ruby, I know exactly what you mean about your family stories.  I've relived my husband's story through this book and that is a rare and precious opportunity. ♥  I often thought of abuelo while reading this and all the family stories that my husband has recounted to me that he learned through his abuelo.

  • Ezzy Guerrero-Languz
    July 1, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Chantilly, I can already tell it's going to make me cry more than Burro Genius. I didn't know Santa Ana was named in it! That's my hometown, where I grew up. Lots of memories. You inspired me to want to read it sooner rather than later. It's currently sitting on my TBR shelf, right next to Thirteen Senses. Beautiful review, girl. <3

    • Chantilly Patiño
      July 3, 2011 at 10:04 pm

      Ezzy, I can’t believe that you’re from Santa Ana too!  Now that you mention it, it almost seems like we talked about this a long time ago.  Yes, I think you will love this book.  There are definitely some points that are heartbreaking and upsetting, but this is an incredibly honest and uplifting book.  I know you will treasure it. <3

  • Chantilly Pati&ntild
    July 1, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    P.S. I totally get what you mean about the stories of your grandfather and I've in a sense relived many of my husband's family stories through this book and that is a gift that is rare and precious. ♥

  • Maria Amelia Bazdeki
    July 1, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    It has been my opinion for a very long time that Latino literature (Central/South/Caribbean American) literature is the most beautiful and complex of this period of time. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • Chantilly Pati&ntild
      July 3, 2011 at 5:21 pm

      Maria, I've found this region/time period to be intriguing too!  I can't quite put my finger on what it is, but I just love the feeling of exploring these kinds of stories.

  • Anonymous
    July 1, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    You had me at Chihuahua! LOL!  My grandfather was from Chihuahua and I'm sure when I read this, it will remind me of the many stories I heard growing up.  Thanks for the recommendation, Chantilly! :)  

    • Chantilly Pati&ntild
      July 3, 2011 at 5:27 pm

      Leslie, this book is amazing and it full of storytelling and in-depth discussions about family relationships and growing up in Mexico.  I'm sure you will see some parts that mirror real life.  The book is just packed with so many amazing details!

  • Silvia
    July 1, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    Chantilly Rain of Gold was one of the first books I read in English, I love every single line of it, the characters were so alive, so real.  I want to read it again!

    • Chantilly Patiño
      July 3, 2011 at 10:29 pm

      Silvia, that’s great!  It is a beautiful book and definitely one to be read again and again!  Thank you so much for stopping in to leave a comment!  :) 

  • Joscelyn R Campbell
    July 2, 2011 at 9:02 am

    I remember reading Chantilly Rain of Gold in high school. Such a wonderful book that highlights Mexican culture and real family life.

    • Chantilly Patiño
      July 3, 2011 at 10:34 pm

      Joscelyn, I’m so glad you stopped by!  That’s great that you had the opportunity to read this book when you were in high school!  I wish that my husband could have come across it sooner.  It’s such an uplifting book.  It’s disappointing that public schools in Arizona and following states are halting Latino history and taking valuable books like this one out of our classrooms.  This is such an important piece of literature.  Thanks for the comment amiga! <3

  • Aurelia Flores
    July 3, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    What a great review!  I have to say, this is one of those books that I've been meaning to read for years, but never got around to it.  Which is ridiculous, since I read all the time.  I'm definitely going to have to read this next.  Thanks for the warm and thoughtful feedback on the story, the characters, the places and the time period.  Can't wait to read your review of Thirteen Senses!

    • Chantilly Pati&ntild
      July 3, 2011 at 5:43 pm

      Thank you Aurelia and thanks so much for stopping by!  This book was amazing to read because I could see the details of my husband's childhood and our life together so intimately.  There were so many things that my husband wasn't aware that came from Mexican culture.  Growing up in large part up north, away from his roots, he hadn't realized that certain traditions and ideas went back any further than his own family, but it was amazing to read this book and see all the ways that it mirrored his childhood.  This book was like taking a trip back to your hometown, it was very intimately and lovingly written.  Please let me know what you think of it when you get a chance to read it.  :)

  • Chantilly Pati&ntild
    July 3, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Thank you Bren.  I'm glad the review peaked your interest.  It's one of those classics, I think, that everyone must read at least once.  There's so much to gain from this book.  If you do get a change to read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts.  <3

  • Reinadecanelones
    July 3, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Loved your review Chantilly! Rain of Gold is one of my favorite books. It is both a realistic and gritty history along with being a story of faith, hope, and spirituality. My summer reading includes more Villasenor.  I am right in the middle of reading Thirteen Senses and hope to follow up with Wild Steps of Heaven. I look forward to your next review!

    • Chantilly Pati&ntild
      July 3, 2011 at 9:18 pm

      Great!  I'm at the beginning of "Thirteen Senses" and then I'd love to do "Wild Steps of Heaven"!  I've read his "Burro Genius", which I'm going to read again soon and review also.  Then I'd love to read "Beyond Rain of Gold"!  Be sure to come back and let me know what you think of Thirteen Senses!  :)

  • Sujeiry, 1st Lady of
    July 3, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Sounds like a fabulous book and this was a great review! Will be adding it to my book list. Thanks!

    • Chantilly Pati&ntild
      July 3, 2011 at 9:21 pm

      Sujeiry, thank you for stopping by!  I'm glad you enjoyed the review and I'm sure you'll love the book even more.  It's heartwarming, breathtaking and deeply honest. <3

  • Presley's Pantr
    July 4, 2011 at 3:20 am

    I have to run out and buy this book. I think my Mom will love it.

  • Presley's Pantry
    July 4, 2011 at 8:20 am

    I have to run out and buy this book. I think my Mom will love it.

  • Andres
    August 28, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    One of my all time favorites! Villaseñor captures the classic Mexican immigrant story. I have been fortunate to read many of his books and have purchased this book for several family members and friends. Definitely a life changer for me as I read it in high school.

    • Chantilly Patiño
      Chantilly Pati&ntild
      August 29, 2012 at 12:12 am

      Thanks for sharing Andres. :) My husband and I read this together for the first time last year. For us, it was both empowering and exciting to see how much the book mirrored the stories my husband had been told by his abuelo about the old days. I feel like this book really connects to the root of what it means to be Mexican American in so many ways. It's a history book, a self-help book and work of art all wrapped into one. ;)

      It's a book everyone should read! I actually was starting on "Thirteen Senses" and stopped to get a project done and never picked it back up to finish. I think it's about time to finish it.

      Have you read "Burro Genius"? I love this book because it explains well the inevitability of failure that so many young Mexican American kids feel growing up…a fear that translates into adulthood. That book made a huge impact on my husband…because he also has Dyslexia and other life experiences in common with Villaseñor. Great book!