Ask a Mexican by Gustavo Arellano
In 2004, Arellano's editor at the O.C. Weekly suggested he write a column where readers could write in to ask questions about Mexicans. To some, this might seem like a suggestion in questionable taste. Well, welcome to the O.C., bitch. Arellano dubs it "the most Mexican-hating county in the country," and that's not exactly overstatement.
But if the ills of racism can be cured by education and a dialogue to promote understanding, this Mexican was game. As the son of an illegal immigrant and the recipient of a masters degree in Latin American Studies, he had more than a little insight on the subject. Plus, he figured, no one would read it. Arellano penned this for his debut:
Dear Mexican, Why do Mexicans call white people gringos?
Dear Gabacho, Mexicans do not call gringos gringos. Only gringos call gringos gringos. Mexicans call gringos gabachos.
And a star was born.
The column is now the Weekly's most popular feature, and this book collects the most probing questions posed to The Mexican. These come from sensitive liberals, Minutemen-loving xenophobes, and perplexed second-generation Latinos alike, and a good hunk of them are absolutely horrifying.
But for every pinche gabacho asking, Why do Mexicans stand on the side of streets trying to get jobs? Why can't they just get real jobs?, there's a reader desperately trying to understand why Mexican candy is covered in chile, how the Mexican postal system works (answer: it doesn't), or what's up with all the Guatamalan-bashing.
What's most fun about this book is watching Arellano spin the most offensive, empty-headed questions into cultural studies gold in 500 words or less. You'll learn about la raza cosmica, the regional differences in Mexican popular music, and the intricacies of Mexican and U.S. immigration policies.
An added bonus for English speakers: you will learn a lot of good, new swears.
An added bonus for everyone: you will read the sardonically heart-warming story of how porn saved Arellano and his friends from gang life.