San Antonio, Texas – This fall, author Rudy Ruiz — recipient of six International Latino Book Awards — will release his latest book, “The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez” in paperback. Since its September 2020 release in hardcover, “The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez” has been named a finalist for the International Latino Book Awards in the fiction and audiobook categories. An authentic bilingual writer of Latino literature, Ruiz shares stories with universal human appeal in the hopes of bridging cultural divides through mutual acceptance and appreciation.
In the 1950s, tensions remain high in the border town of La Frontera. Penny loafers and sneakers clash with boots and huaraches. Bowling shirts and leather jackets compete with guayaberas. Convertibles fend with motorcycles. Yet amidst the discord, young love blooms at first sight between Fulgencio Ramirez, the son of impoverished immigrants, and Carolina Mendelssohn, the local pharmacist’s daughter. But as they’ll soon find out, their bonds will be undone by a force more powerful than they could have known.
Thirty years after their first fateful encounter, Fulgencio Ramirez, RPh, is conducting his daily ritual of reading the local obituaries in his cramped pharmacy office. After nearly a quarter of a century of waiting, Fulgencio sees the news he’s been hoping for: his nemesis, the husband of Carolina Mendelssohn, has died. A work of magical realism, The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez weaves together the past and present as Fulgencio strives to succeed in America, break a mystical family curse, and win back Carolina’s love after their doomed youthful romance. Through enchanting language and meditations about the porous nature of borders—cultural, geographic, and otherworldly—”The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez” offers a vision of how the past has divided us, and how the future could unite us.
“The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez”
Rudy Ruiz | Blackstone Publishing
Literary Fiction / Magical Realism / Historical Fiction / Latino Literature
Hardcover | Sept. 22, 2020 | ISBN 978-1-982604-61-5 | $27.99
Paperback | Oct. 12,, 2021 | ISBN 978-1665088121 | $16.99
Rudy Ruiz is a writer of literary fiction. A native of the U.S.-Mexico border, his earliest works were published at Harvard, where he studied literature, creative writing, government and public policy, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees. “Seven for the Revolution” was Ruiz’s fiction debut. The collection of short stories won four International Latino Book Awards. Ruiz’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals including BorderSenses, The Ninth Letter, New Texas, and the Notre Dame Review. In 2017, Rudy Ruiz was awarded the Gulf Coast Prize in Fiction. In 2020, Ruiz was a finalist for both the Texas Institute of Letters’ Best Short Story Award as well as the Texas Observer’s annual Short Story Contest.
In 2020, Blackstone Publishing released Ruiz’s novel, “The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez.” The novel received critical acclaim and was named one of the “Top 10 Best First Novels of 2020″ by the American Library Association’s Booklist. The novel was longlisted for the Reading the West Awards and was a finalist for the Western Writers of America’s Spur Award for Best Contemporary Novel.
In an interview, Rudy Ruiz can discuss:
- Growing up on the U.S.-Mexican border and why this region of Texas plays such an essential role in his writing
- Drawing inspiration from his father’s stories, as a first generation American with immigrant parents
- Bridging cultural divides through literature, as well as addressing border and immigration issues in a work of literary fiction and magical realism
- Seamlessly weaving magical realism with Latino traditions and lore into “The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez” to create complex characters and a multi-layered story — Exploring the immigrant experience, acculturation, racism, discrimination, fobidden love, the blurry line between love and obsession, machismo, and the border between life and death
- How beloved classic Mexican songs helped shape “The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez”
- His next novel — A prequel to “The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez” called “The Valley of Shadows” releasing in September 2022 from Blackstone Publishing
An Interview with Rudy Ruiz
Can you discuss your inspiration for “The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez?” How did you incorporate stories from your father’s upbringing?
Growing up on the U.S.-Mexico border was the inspiration for the novel, both my own personal experiences and perceptions being born and raised there, as well as the stories my father shared of his own upbringing as the son of immigrants in the 1950’s. I see the story as a sort of alternate history of what my father’s life could have been like, had he managed to overcome some of the daunting challenges that at times derailed his life. It is also an homage to him and his larger-than-life personality, and a love letter to the border we both shared.
Tell us about your protagonist, Fulgencio Ramirez.
Fulgencio is both an endearing and infuriating character. He is compelling because of this cognitive dissonance. Like many of our loved ones, he is imperfect and at times the very qualities that make him appealing also carry a darker side, a shadow. In the case of Fulgencio, he is passionate, talented, driven, optimistic and expressive. You can’t help but root for him as he falls in love with Carolina Mendelssohn and embarks on his journey to woo her and to reach for the American Dream. But, Fulgencio is plagued by a curse on the men in his family. The curse is symbolic of the machismo he carries inside of him, a self-destructive mix of insecurity, pride and rage. Again, my hope is the reader finds him or herself rooting for Fulgencio to overcome his inner challenges, for those prove to be harder for him to master than the external ones, but only if he can do so will he and Carolina find love and fulfillment.
Fulgencio is a gifted crooner, singing the classic Mexican boleros of his era. Can you tell us about the songs he passionately sings throughout the book?
I love these songs! And I grew up listening to my father belt them out with great passion. He had a beautiful, soaring and booming voice. He could transport people with his voice, and so does Fulgencio. The songs are classics from the Mexican Golden Age of film and music. Songs like “Sin Ti,” “Cuatro Vidas,” “Veracruz,” and “Hoja Seca.” The lyrics are included in the book and — as he sings the songs within the narrative — they help chart his course from wide-eyed love through heartbreak and eventually to redemption.
Do you listen to music while you write?
Sometimes I listen to music to help inspire me or transport me to a different setting, the border or the desert, as is the case in my upcoming novel, “The Valley of Shadows,” which is a prequel to “The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez,” set in the same mythical world of La Frontera but further out in West Texas. I find music is a wonderful way to help me get into the mood of whatever scenes I’m working on, although sometimes the lyrics can be a bit distracting so I prefer instrumental versions when really deep in the zone.
How much of the setting is based on your experiences growing up in Texas? Why did you choose to set this story in a town on the Mexican-American border?
100% of the setting is based on those experiences you mention. I had a very vivid upbringing, on both sides of the border, in English and in Spanish, with close family residing in both countries. To me, the border is a special place. It was formative for me and I carry it with me wherever I go. At the same time, like all borders, I feel like it is neither here nor there, it is a place where order tends to break down, and magic seems a little more plausible. I also wanted to create a story where the border could be a place of healing, not just of suffering. Where I could show that love and hope and beauty can spring from this place that most audiences only see in a negative light on the news. To me, the border will always be home…just as it is for Fulgencio.
You live not far from the Mexican border yourself — was it difficult for you to put a magical lens on a place you see regularly, in everyday life?
Not at all. I feel the “magic” in “magical realism” is woven into Latino cultures, a natural extension of generations of religious and spiritual beliefs from Pre-Columbian times through the Spanish colonization and Catholicism that it superimposed on indigenous rituals and practices. Where I live, San Antonio, the Mexican culture is very palpable and alive, although perhaps a little more acculturated than it is on the border itself.
What themes are explored in “The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez?”
The novel explores the immigrant experience, acculturation, racism, discrimination, fobidden love, the blurry line between love and obsession, machismo, and the very border between life and death, including our enduring connections with our loved ones once they have passed to The Other Side.
Can you discuss how the themes in your book foster cultural understanding in an effort to bridge cultural divides?
Ultimately, my writing is about empathy. It’s an invitation to the reader to walk in the shoes of somebody else, if for but a few pages. I hope that when a non-Latino reader becomes immersed in one of my stories or novels, they will experience some of the emotions, some of the challenges, some of the aspirations of the characters whose thoughts they inhabit. And, my goal would be for them to emerge from the book, entertained but also more empathetic towards the situations of others from different cultures. If we can see into each other’s worlds, we can find common ground and appreciation and that can lead to good things: like lasting relationships, collaboration, love, and healing.
Immigration and border issues are controversial topics that you don’t shy away from. How come? And, do you have to try to not turn off potential readers?
I love the border. I love immigration and immigrants, in terms of what I feel they bring to this country: diversity, new ideas, energy to help keep building a great nation. Growing up on the border, and having had a chance to leave and earn a great education and experiences elsewhere, I have always felt a responsibility to help open the rest of America’s eyes to what the border is really like and to the positive aspects of immigration. The media often portrays a one-dimensional, negative picture of the border and immigrants. My goal is to counter that with my perspective, build empathy, and hopefully help bring about change even if it is in the smallest of ways. I don’t worry about turning off readers because if I don’t take a risk I won’t even have a chance of getting them to open their hearts. The key, in my mind, is to write great stories with compelling characters and let the humanity of those characters and their experiences make the connection with the reader, not to preach or to become too overt in my advocacy, but to still provide an engaging and entertaining literary experience.
How does your advocacy work relate to your writing?
Again, growing up on the border and then going to college and grad school at Harvard, I witnessed first-hand a great amount of poverty, poor education, environmental neglect and abuse, racism and discrimination. My goal through my education was to help make the world a better place. I have worked for many years to do that both in my communications work as well as in my writing, advocating for multicultural communities on issues such as immigration, education, financial literacy, public health and the digital divide. I spent a lot of time writing political opinion and commentary, but in the end I decided my talents were best put to use in writing literary fiction. In part, I felt that a novel has the potential to stick around longer than an op-ed. But also, you always hear that you should do what you enjoy. And, I have to say I enjoy writing fiction way more than I enjoy political commentary. In political commentary, one gets angry and argues. In fiction, one gets swept away by the possibilities of what could be rather than what is, and I find that much more rewarding and hopefully inspiring, not only for myself but for my readers.
What’s next for you?
My follow-up novel, “The Valley of Shadows,” is due out in September 2022 from Blackstone Publishing. I’m thrilled about it because I thoroughly enjoyed writing it and creating the characters and the world they live in. The novel is a magical realism/horror Western set in West Texas and Northern Mexico during the 1880’s. A prequel to “The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez,” the novel follows one of Fulgencio’s ancestors: Solitario Cisneros. Solitario is a former Mexican lawman who finds himself stranded – alongside his town – on the U.S. side of the border when the Rio Grande shifts course. Burdened by the same curse as Fulgencio, he lives in solitude, but he is brought out of retirement when a string of macabre killings and abductions plague the American bordertown where he lives. A reluctant and tortured hero, Solitario seeks new purpose and companionship in his life, as well as redemption in search of justice during a time when the Texas Rangers and other American settlers made life extremely dangerous and challenging for Mexican-Americans, Native Americans and African Americans. So, you can see how the exploration of social justice as a theme continues while we go on a historical and magical joyride at the same time!
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