Prizefighter en mi casa
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Delacorte Press
Hardcover/206 pages
ISBN: 0-385-73325-9

“. . . accept what you are and love that.”

The teen book Prizefighter en mi Casa by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo weighed on me like steel mesh woven by my own junior high school memories. Like the twelve year old main character Chula, I was also called “Dirty Mexican” and my brother also watched as a classmate pounded my face.

Chula tells the story in first person. The plot revolves around the tragic aftermath of an automobile accident that causes Chula to have epilepsy and cripples her father. Her parents, her grandmother suffering from dementia and her brother Richie all reside in “The Circle,” a housing project for primarily the Mexican poor. After the accident Richie joins the “Dark Skins” and becomes a small time drug dealer to help out the financially troubled family.

Carlton-Trujillo effectively sets the dramatic tone of the book early on with a cafeteria scene where the Mexicans with pink cards (eligible for free lunches) sit in “Tan Land,” segregated from the gringos called “The Squares” and from the “Royal Rich.” A fight breaks out when a gringo violates class and racial boundaries by speaking to Chula in the cafeteria. During the fight, Chula notices her brother is disappointed in her inability to defend herself. At home her parents prepare to gamble the last of their money on an illegal fight between a Mexican prizefighter and a Golden Gloves champion

At first Chula fears the prizefighter who moves into their home. He reminds her of the legendary monster Cacooey. It turns out he is the only one who understands Chula. She worries about being “retarded” as result of the accident. She believes her mother blames her for the accident even though her father’s drunk driving caused the accident. Meanwhile her parents are preoccupied with the pending fight, which results in more tragedy for the family.

At first I was disturbed with Charlton-Trujillo’s writing style—wrong syntax and non-italicizing Spanish words in the text. But as I read further I recognized that her target audience, young Mexican Americans, could connect better with her richly drawn characters if they shared a common language. The author’s use of symbolism and metaphors expands the richness of the story and effectively delivers the message, “Accept what you are and love that.”
Reviewer: Kate Padilla