Tag Archives: grapes

For the Cause

The Union of Their Dreams: Power, Hope and Struggle in Cesar Chavez’s Farm Worker Movement by Miriam Pawel

The Union of Their Dreams by Miriam Pawel is a unique if troubling look at the rise and fall of the United Farm Workers (UFW) union under the direct leadership of the late Cesar Chavez.   It is troubling because it is a tale told from the perspective of “disaffected former staff”, to use Chavez’s own words.   In addition to detailing the history of the UFW, the book focuses on the purges of early members/followers from the UFW, prior to Chavez’s death in 1993.

Perhaps this is the first attempt to demythologize a man correctly described in the book as “a world-famous icon.”   If so, the reader should keep in mind that this is but one version of the events that occurred.   A farm worker states in the book, “…we (need to) also listen to another interpretation of events.”   We hear little from two key UFW figures in the book, Delores Huerta of Stockton – a woman who appeared on stage with Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles on the night he was assassinated – and Gilbert Padilla; although Padilla is finally forced to leave the UFW.

Pawel has clearly advanced the record on the UFW’s achievements and failings.   But it will likely be decades before a balanced and comprehensive view of Chavez’s life, legend and leadership is told.

Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

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Corked

Corked by Kathryn Borel (Grand Central Publishing, $23.99, 262 pages)

Katherine Borel has cobbled together a crass, in-your-face, self-indulgent account of her fifteen-day trek with her father across France.   Borel flits back and forth between recollections of past incidents, which feed into her need to connect with her father before time gets past her, and this seemingly epic journey.   Phillipe Borel, an aging hotelier, comes off as highly opinionated and not the least shy about meting out criticism to anyone who has the misfortune of serving him.

“We forgot to shut the window before falling asleep and had allowed a swarm of robust northern France mosquitos to enter and do their bidding.”

Corked reads like a frantic TV sitcom with a bad laugh track.   The reader is held hostage while belly button lint smelling is interspersed with nearly poetic descriptions of wine and grapes.   Oh, and did I mention that father Phillipe barfs his way through the first one hundred pages?   Borel delights in describing his actions in nauseating detail.

Alas, these characters are too well-developed for this reviewer’s taste.   A bit more continuity and a bit less trying too hard to be very, very cool might have helped.   Borel may need to connect with her father, but the reader needs a strong stomach to get to what good parts this book may contain.

Reviewed by Ruta Arellano.   Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

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