A retablo is a devotional painting, often laid on tin and depicting, as Solis describes in his introduction, “some terrible rift in a person’s life that they survive thanks to the intercession of the Divine.” This memoir-in-vignettes from the celebrated playwright and poet Solis is a series of treasures: absorbing, vivid, sensitive, and sorrowful. Solis, who grew up in El Paso, deftly and humbly depicts individual formative moments (an encounter with a young border-crosser in a field near his home, excruciating first loves, a venture south of the border). The divine in these retablos is not always visible, but the retablos themselves are full of grace.— Chorel
Living in El Paso, just a mile from the Rio Grande, Octavio is a skinny brown kid on the border, riding his bike out into the desert, growing up among those who live there and those passing through on their way north. Rituals of childhood and rites of passage are remembered as singular, dramatic events, moments of trauma and transformation with life-changing reverberations.