Thursday, April 8, 2010

South Texas College Library, McAllen, Texas features Chuy Ramirez

Local author dishes juice on new book at STC Pecan Campus Library

There are many traditions and cultural nuances unique to South Texas and it is this tapestry of stories and tales that come together to create a shared and distinctive history. Chuy Ramirez knows a great deal about this rich history and what it’s like to live on the cusp of two cultures. His first novel, “Strawberry Fields,” chronicles the stories of three generations of a Mexican family’s gradual integration into American culture.

The San Juan native and attorney will read excerpts from his book at South Texas College’s Pecan Campus Library Rainbow Room on April 10 at 2 p.m. Copies of the book will be on sale during the event, and the author will hold a book signing after the program. The event is free and open to the public.

“The stories in ‘Strawberry Fields’ chronicle the early years in the life of Joaquin, a successful attorney who, at the age of 50, embarks on a journey of self-discovery,” said Ramirez. “Most of the focus is on the period in the 1960s when ‘baby boomers’ began to come of age. And the strawberry fields are symbolic of both the strawberry fields in Michigan, where farm workers labored to improve their lot, as well as an abstract place that represents the dreams and ambitions of the young protagonist.”

Ramirez himself grew up in the Rio Grande Valley, attended Pan American University in Edinburg, Texas and is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin School of Law. He is currently practices in McAllen as a partner in the firm Ramirez and Guerrero, LLP.

“The book speaks volumes about self-identity, self-worth and the transition into a different culture,” said STC Library Specialist Esther Garcia. “We are honored to have Ramirez speak, highlighting the creative, limitless talent of our local authors.”

For reviews of the book and information about the author, or to purchase “Strawberry Fields,” visit or contact Mirta Espinola at 210-394-1254.

For more information about the event contact Garcia at 956-872-6485 or at

South Texas College, 2010,

Immediate release in San Antonio at TWIG Book Shop

First Texas Publishers
Immediate Release

April 8th, 2010

Texas fiction writer, Chuy Ramirez, will be featured at the Twig Bookshop, 200 E. Grayson Suite 124 in San Antonio on Friday, May 7th from 5pm to 7pm.The public is invited. Ramirez, who is from South Texas, has a home in north San Antonio and is General Counsel to Lone Star National Bank, which is opening several branch banks in San Antonio. His book of short stories, Strawberry Fields, published in February, is a collection of stories and vignettes of three generations of a South Texas family beginning at the turn of the century and ending around the year 2000. The stories include the coming of the railroad and irrigation systems to the Valley and the people who labored to slash and burn thousands of South Texas acres to convert prickly desert to productive farm land.
As a boy in the early 1960s, Ramirez had chopped cotton just south of Lamesa around a community called Sparenberg. Forty years later, in “Strawberry Fields, A Book of Short Stories”, a character much like Ramirez recalls Lamesa:
“In the 1950s, on Saturdays, the family would drive in for groceries from the cotton fields around Sparenberg and Klondike—not quite towns on the Texas mesa, but rather zip codes denoting farm-to-market road intersections. Welcoming them as the road curved north into the town square of Lamesa, Texas,was the Negro shanty town. A segregated clay-red flatland devoid of flora or fauna (save for the sturdy tumbleweeds, which grew in abundance), was reserved for the small huts with the tar and asphalt siding. The only integrated venue in town was the long line at the rear of Murphy’s slaughterhouse, where the Mexicans and the Negros would line up at dawn on Saturdays with their galvanized washtubs to receive the calf bowels that Murphy disposed of.”
For more information about Strawberry Fields, visit the Web site at .

NEWS on Strawberry Fields, Author: Chuy Ramirez

South Texas College and The City of McAllen offer locations where Chuy Ramirez will be signing books and participating in a Q & A session with readers.

For more information:

Strawberry Fields....The Monitor

Strawberry Fields Review~ by: John Hart, Boston Univervisty

Strawberry Fields
Jesus Ramirez
Review: John Hart

In his song “Strawberry Fields” (1967), John Lennon immortalizes the name of a Salvation Army children’s home located near his childhood home in Liverpool. He remembers happy family gatherings, and the local band playing on holidays. Lennon sings, too, about his insecurity as he wonders about his music’s connectivity to a broad public. His memories of that time are a sweet recollection of happy family events, which he recalls with the fondness of retrospection years later.

In his novel Strawberry Fields (2009), Jesus Ramirez weaves a series of social and cultural vignettes about a Chicano migrant family’s life into a compelling story that provides a psychological and historical study of Joaquín, the protagonist whose personal history mirrors in some ways Ramirez’s own childhood as a migrant farmworker. In the narrative, Joaquín, who has become a successful and respected attorney, initially glosses over his past and idealizes it or blocks out its most painful aspects; his memory of harvest time in the strawberry fields of Michigan is more nostalgic than accurate. Periodically, however, he is brought back to reality by the contrasting memories of his brother, Bennie, who serves as something of a Sancho to Joaquín's Quixote. Throughout the novel, present and past are juxtaposed when current events in Joaquín’s life are interrupted by flashes of memories past, framed as flashbacks.

As the story unfolds, the reader is reminded of the racism, poor working conditions, and economic exploitation that migrant workers endure—not only by the agriculturalists who pay their workers and provide substandard living quarters, but also by members of their own ethnic community who serve as labor contractors. The overall and most severe economic oppression suffered by migrant Chicano workers and their families while they harvested the crops was committed by members of the dominant Euro-American culture, who refused to acknowledge the migrants’ role in providing needed food and a livelihood for these Anglo farm owners and their families, and nutritional sustenance for the broader community. Ramirez paints a picture of migrant life that is shaded and shadowed by an ever-present consciousness of powerlessness, ethnic identity loss, poverty, and…hope, courage, and a sense of cultural integrity and endurance despite all of this.

Lennon was able to romanticize his past when he wrote his “Strawberry Fields”: he had gained notoriety as a writer, singer, and leader in the Beatles band, and had acquired substantial economic security. Joaquín (and Chuy Ramirez) had no such luxury: decades after the events portrayed in the novel, Joaquín is still haunted by an unsolved and unresolved mystery about the fields, and victimized by the ideologies not only of a past era but also of the present moment. Even as a successful attorney, he experiences, and advocates for clients who experience, similar events and attitudes.
In New York City, just past the West 72nd Street entrance to Central Park, along the crosstown road that weaves through the park across from the Dakota apartment where Lennon was gunned down in 1980, a path winds through a stretch of greenery that serves as a meditation area. It is labeled “Strawberry Fields” to honor John Lennon while it recalls one of his most notable songs. I discovered this peaceful place during a visit to New York shortly after finishing Ramirez’s novel. I did not know Lennon, but certainly know his music. By contrast, I do know Jesus Ramirez, now a successful attorney who has overcome to a great extent the kinds of prejudices and problems described in his novel—but who still, like his protagonist, does pro bono work for poor Chicanos who would otherwise have no good legal representation when they suffer from injustice in society or experience racism and classism in the judicial system. The novel provides, perhaps, a certain cathartic moment for its author, but not to the extent of finally setting a bad memory to rest: rather, it continues to stimulate dedication to preventing or overcoming the actuality or potentiality of similar moments in the present and future. While Lennon and his music are part of the fond cultural memory of people in the U.S. and abroad, and appropriately celebrated as such, the injustices suffered by Chicanos decades ago, and enduring even today, continue to be ignored and unresolved. This “strawberry fields” provides insights into cultural fortitude and resilience in the face of such prejudices and practices, and calls for a better life in this life on Earth (not just a better life in a believed in and hoped for heavenly home) that is, for many, yet to come.

Both works of literature, the sung poetry and the image-laden novel, provide insights into lives defined, to some extent, by strawberry fields. The comparison, to a certain extent, ends there; the contrasts remain. The poem expresses nostalgia for a bucolic life in Liverpool, England. The novel evidences the sometimes brutal memories of migrants on the road from the Texas-Mexico border to distant Michigan. The song is briefly tinged with sorrow as Lennon laments the loss of his joyful past and experiences insecurity as he considers the possibility of acceptance of his words and music. The novel’s subsurface sorrow is broken by its serenity: remembrance of trying family relationships and ethnic injustice are interspersed with joyful memories of friendship, and family love and bonds. Lennon wants his strawberry fields to be “forever” as a lingering moment of childhood innocence, joy, and peace. Ramirez wants his strawberry fields to help overcome the lingering uneasiness of harmful events—past but still present—that await social and personal resolution.

Jesus Ramirez’s novel, then, not only reminds us of past injustices. It reminds us, too, that racial discrimination and economic oppression continue today, even when unnoticed by the media; and, that the poor, particularly migrant workers, cry for liberation. Strawberry Fields is a reflective reminiscence of Chicano life, providing a glimpse into Mexican-American—and Mexican—migrants interacting at home, in the fields, and along the roads that link them. This well-written novel, with its realistic portrayal of life in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond, stimulates us to be aware of ongoing human rights issues in the U.S. It strives successfully to address these issues with passion, compassion, and a sense of justice, rather than just relegate them to a cold case file of unresolved and apparently unresolvable historical events.
Strawberry Fields is a beautifully written, well-told tale of remembrance, reflection, and renewal. Strawberry Fields is a very important book for its insightful portrayal of Chicano culture, values, and hardships, of lingering impacts of racism and economic deprivation, and of continuing efforts by Chicanos to be accorded respect and dignity in the twenty-first century…and beyond.

John Hart is Professor of Christian Ethics at Boston University School of Theology. He worked in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas in the late 1960s-early 1970s, including as an associate Catholic campus minister and Bible professor, and as a volunteer with the United Farm Workers Union. He was a candidate for the Texas legislature in La Raza Unida Party in 1972.

Welcome to the Chuy Ramirez Blog

Works of Fiction:

Strawberry Fields, A Book of Short Stories

Toy Soldiers-to be released

Joaquin's Journey-to be released


Altering the Policy of Neglect of Undocumented Immigration from South of the Border, Vol. 18 in 1983

Igualada: Exploring The Gloria Anzaldua Link Between Powerlessness and Chicano/a Self-Expression



Chuy Ramirez at STC Pecan Library Campus