EL PASO – Cross over Water, the latest novel by Richard Yanez, captures the essence of the wayward El Pasoan – always feeling out of place outside of his home city and yet striving to achieve more than the city has to offer.
“We’re survivors, resilient and proud in spite of our flaws.” Yanez spoke of El Pasoans. “You know El Pasoans because they are both glad they’re out but sad that they haven’t yet been back.”
Yanez, an El Paso native, uses this novel to bring the local creative writing landscape a tale of a young man named Raul who grows along the border, lives among relatives, loves women, and takes to his heart the sensations only this city could bring him. He often struggles with the sensation that he is stuck in place, or, as Yanez often metaphorically conjures, feels as though he’s drowning.
“I nearly drowned when I was ten years old,” Yanez said “and I used that as a metaphor for the ways I could be drowned culturally, personally, and psychologically.”
This is Yanez’s second book. His first, El Paso del Norte: Stories on the Border, is a collection of short stories which is equally-steeped in the traditions of the borderland that Yanez has lived in and taken as his own.
“As a Chicano,” Yanez said, “I feel like I was born and raised in this society and I try to get the best of both sides.”
This novel was brought to a live audience courtesy of UTEP’s Creative Writing Department this past Friday. Several of UTEP’s creative staff, students, and fans of literature across the border, attended the event.
“[Yanez] gives us a perspective of El Paso…giving us a view of El Paso according to its Youth.” Said Daniel Chacon, an instructor in UTEP’s creative writing department, and one of the organizers of this event.
Despite it being a holiday on campus there was an enormous turnout for the signing, with UTEP staff, students, and even a few members of the public attending.
“I like to read. Especially local writers,” Said Nelly Ugarte, a UTEP alumn who was attending the event. “I’ve graduated in ’88 and I’ve attended many times.”
Yanez strives to create a literary tradition within El Paso, working as an associate professor of English at El Paso Community College. His next work will be an autoethnobiography in the tradition of Chicana authors Gloria Anzaldúa and Norma Elia Cantú. The working title is Beyond Italics: The Word and Witness of a Chicano Writer.
In his writing and in person Richard Yanez shows great pride towards the landscapes and personas that his native city has provided him. “I’m proud to be a part of a long line of Chicano writers and I hope to continue that tradition.”