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Raising the Blackbirds (Paperback)

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The Mexican dicho "You raise the blackbirds, and they pluck out your eyes" captures succinctly Mexico's four-hundred-fifty-year history of treachery conspired and blood spilled both by its leaders and by those in rebellion. The saying likewise captures this story; Mexican history and culture-vibrant still in the blood and flesh of its people-propel the narrative to its soulful yet redemptive conclusion. Sixto Torres narrates his journey from childhood in Mexico to his emigration to the Rio Grande Valley. Eventually, in order to support his growing family, he joins the migrant stream to California. He and his family arrive in Salinas in early 1970 just as Cesar Chavez is challenging the power of the Valley's growers. A natural leader, Sixto joins the farmworkers' struggle for better wages and greater power over their living conditions, but he is soon organizing a new effort focused on the Valley's deplorable farm labor housing conditions. He seizes a rare opportunity to purchase and rehabilitate an abandoned labor camp. His fight to gain the knowledge and skills needed to overcome daunting cultural, political, and social obstacles-and to bring his fellow farmworkers along in the process-is successful; but Sixto is less able to overcome distrust, jealousy, and opposition among some in his own community.

About the Author

Born in Los Angeles in 1942, Edward Moncrief grew up in the rural town of Redlands, California. He spent ten years studying to be a Franciscan priest, receiving a solid grounding in the liberal arts. He decided to leave his studies for the priesthood at the age of twenty-three. He married Judi Carl in 1967. The following year, he entered graduate school where he earned a Master’s degree in Social Work with an emphasis in Community Organizing and Development; after which, he moved first to the San Joaquin and then to the Salinas Valley. Moncrief spent his forty-one-year career directing non-profit housing organizations and developing new housing for farmworker families and other economically disadvantaged people. "Raising the Blackbirds" is based on his experiences developing farmworker housing. Over the years, he has been a guest columnist and has written editorials and articles for the "Salinas Californian", the "Monterey County Herald", and "Western City Magazine" among other newspapers and journals. Currently, Moncrief is a freelance reporter for the "Salinas Californian"

Praise For…

Moncrief deftly braids a complex history with a fictional dramatization—a synoptic account of the draw of Mexican workers to the U.S. is furnished within the story... The author artfully builds Sixto’s character into a living embodiment of the plight of Mexican workers in the U.S.: he makes hopeful progress, sometimes simultaneously paired with pulverizing disappointment...This is a meticulously researched book that manages both to entertain and edify in equal measure. A worthy union tale for readers in search of poignant historical fiction.

-- Kirkus Reviews, Recommended Book

Raising the Blackbirds is a dramatic and inspiring novel about the struggle of Sixto Torres, a farm worker who leads his family and entire community in a fight against exploitation, injustice, and racism during the César Chávez era. Moncrief writes with an authentic passion that peels away the myths and shows how much sweat, blood, and tears it took to get every small gain and how the struggle continues today.

-- Alan Rinzler, consulting editor

Most people said San Jerardo couldn’t happen in the Salinas Valley of the Seventies. I lived there, in the cooperative, as a young man and today I’m the manager. No one thought that would ever happen either...It all started when we migrants decided we weren’t going back to Mexico or Texas after the crop was picked. Why would we? We had our jobs. We had our union. We knew, if we fought a little harder, we’d have a real home right here in the Valley. I think that’s the promise of America; to struggle and succeed. We lived that promise. In Raising the Blackbirds, Moncrief tells Sixto’s story through Sixto’s voice. It’s a good story and a strong voice.

-- Horacio Amezquita, Manager, San Jerardo Cooperative, Inc.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781547282104
ISBN-10: 154728210X
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date: June 27th, 2017
Pages: 446
Language: English


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