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Playing With Boys by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

Pub Date:

 

Playing With Boys
Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

St. Martin's Press
August 26, 2004
Trade Paperback/312 pages
ISBN: 0-312-33234-3
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". . . it is Valdez-Rodriguez's magical use of dialogue and humor that gives us characters in which we recognize ourselves and today's politics.

". . . one-liners that poke at misconceptions about culture and race . . ."

Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez muscled her way from obscurity to celebrity as a high-profile writer on Time Magazine''s "Top 25 Most Influential Hispanics" with the success of her first novel, The Dirty Girls Social Club, a "Chica-Lit" book that broke Latina stereotypes. Rather than hotel maids, her characters were professional and intelligent, as they appear again in her second novel, Playing with Boys.

 

The characters reflect Valdes-Rodriguez''s own life, a journalist, activist and non-conformist. Here in Albuquerque, she made headlines when the city determined her new company, "Dirty Girls Productions," was pornographic and denied her a business license. She''s demonstrated in support of Cindy Sheehan, anti-Iraqi war activist and protestor mom.

Her new novel is about Alexis, entertainment publicist in Los Angeles, who after losing her job after a drug raid at Tower Entertainment, strikes out to build her own company in the traditionally male-dominated movie industry. Her first clients are two women she encounters on the same day. "It is synchronicity," she says. Olivia writes a screenplay about her father''s murder in Salvador by "U.S.-sponsored death squads" and her mother who becomes an activist. Marcella, part-Dominican and part-French, is an unemployed actress known for her role in Spanish novellas.

At the outset, the plot appears simple enough. Columbia Pictures buys the rights to the movie, Marcella plays the lead role, and they all find perfect love and live happily everafter. But it is Valdez-Rodriguez''s magical use of dialogue and humor that gives us characters in which we recognize ourselves and today''s politics. We have heard those words and we know of women''s struggles, so the characters become true-to-life. The plot is more about women''s friendships than about being Latina.

Written in the first person, each character tells of their own lives. With humor, they say what we avoid saying like, "Fox News. Another fascist posing as a newsman," or "I''m a Republican so I''ve never met a communist," or one-liners that poke at misconceptions about culture and race: "You can''t look like a nationality." With these messages, Valdez-Rodriguez is bound to become a much needed Latina role model.
Reviewer: Kate Padilla