Today's literary marketplace is awash in memoir. And, while the writing of many tell-all tomes might engender positive therapeutic experiences for their authors, readers often do not fare as well. This, though, is not the fate for readers of Rose Castillo Guilbault's charming memoir, The Farmworker's Daughter: Growing Up Mexican in America. From its evocative opening I see the desert, vast and expansive . . . Saguaros stand still and idle . . . guarding their domain of sand and heat, where nothing moves faster than the measured slither of a snake to the last heartfelt phrase, Guilbault is gentle, but honest, giving us unaffected, direct prose about a Sonoran girl's formative years in a small California community with her farmworker family.
Guilbault came to America at age five with her divorced mother and eventually became a journalist, growing this memoir from a column, Hispanic USA, that she wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle in the early '90s. Twenty-seven essays, each almost a stand-alone story, lead chronologically through Guilbault's life in the Salinas Valley, and touch upon the seminal people, places, objects and events that shaped her inner and outer worlds.
If you were young and Mexican it was understood you would work in the fields. . . . My first time was when I was eleven, she writes in one of the many unequivocal statements that reveal the grueling work lives, poverty and cultural prejudices endured by California's emigrant and migrant Mexican farm communities. Inspiring and insightful, Guilbault's narrative shines a necessary light on a darker aspect of life in a western paradise.