Arias, Ron 1941–
Arias, Ron 1941–
(Ronald Francis Arias)
PERSONAL: Born November 30, 1941, Los Angeles, CA; son of Armando (an army officer) and Emma Lou (a homemaker; maiden name, Estrada) Arias; married Joan Londerman (a business executive), April 1, 1966; children: Michael. Education: Attended Oceanside-Carlsbad College (now Mira Costa College), 1959–60, University of Barcelona (Spain), 1960, University of California—Berkeley, 1960–61, and National University (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1962; University of California—Los Angeles, B.A., 1967, M.A., 1968. Politics: Independent
ADDRESSES: Office—People Magazine, Time and Life Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, NY 10020. Agent—Reid Boates, P.O. Box 328, 274 Cooks Cr., Pittstown, NJ 08867.
CAREER: Buenos Aires Herald, Buenos Aires, Argentina, reporter, 1962; community development volunteer with Peace Corps in Cuzco, Peru, 1963–64; writer for Copley Newspapers and for national and international wire services, 1960s; Caracas Daily Journal, Caracas, Venezuela, reporter, 1968–69; Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, DC, editor for agency publications, 1969–71; San Bernardino Valley College, San Bernardino, CA, instructor, 1971–80, associate professor of English, until 1985; Crafton Hills College, Yucaipa, CA, instructor in English and journalism, 1980–84; People magazine, New York, NY, senior writer, 1986–. Member of the board of directors of the National Endowment for the Arts coordinating council of literary magazines, 1979–80.
AWARDS, HONORS: Scholarship to study journalism in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from Inter-American Press Association, 1962; Machris Award for journalistic ex-cellence from Los Angeles Press Club, 1968; writer's fellowship from California Arts Commission, 1973; Chicano Literary Contest first place award in fiction from University of California—Irvine, 1975, for short story "The Wetback"; Modern Language Association fellowship, 1975; National Book Award nomination for fiction, 1976, for The Road to Tamazunchale; Latino Literary Hall of Fame Award for biography, 2003, for Moving Target.
The Road to Tamazunchale (novel), West Coast Poetry Review, 1975.
Five against the Sea (nonfiction), New American Library, 1989, revised, Bristol Fashion Publications (Harrisburg, PA), 2002.
(With Mehmet Oz and Lisa Oz) Healing from the Heart: A Leading Heart Surgeon Explores the Cutting Edge of Alternative Medicine, Dutton (New York, NY), 1998.
(With Mehmet Oz and Lisa Oz) Healing from the Heart: A Leading Surgeon Combines Eastern and Western Traditions to Create the Medicine of the Future, Dutton (New York, NY), 1999.
Moving Target: A Memoir of Pursuit, Bilingual Press (Tempe, AZ), 2003.
Also author of short stories; author of play The Interview, adapted from the author's short story, 1979; author of screenplays, including Jesus and the Three Wise Guys; author of television scripts.
Work represented in anthologies, including The Chicanos: Mexican-American Voices, edited by Ed Ludwig and James Santibanez, Penguin Books, 1971; First Chicano Literary Contest Winners, edited by Juan Villegas, Spanish and Portuguese Department, University of California, 1975; and Cuentos Chicanos: A Short Story Anthology, edited by Rudolfo A. Anaya and Antonio Marquez, revised edition, University of New Mexico Press, 1984. Contributor to periodicals, including the New York Times, Quarry West, Bilingual Review/Revista Bilingue, Latin American Literary Review, Journal of Ethnic Studies, Revista Chicano-Riqueña, Nuestro, Christian Science Monitor, Nation, and Los Angeles Times.
Arias' works have been translated into Spanish.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Researching Latin America and third-world situations and themes.
SIDELIGHTS: Ron Arias is a journalist and short-story writer whose widely acclaimed debut novel, The Road to Tamazunchale, distinguished him as a leading Chicano writer of "magic realism," a literary form popularized by Gabriel García Márquez that blends reality with fantasy. His memoir Moving Target, which chronicles Arias's long search for his father, received the 2003 Latino Literary Hall of Fame Award for biography.
Arias is best known for his novel The Road to Tamazunchale. Influenced by García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, Arias related to Juan Bruce-Novoa in Chicano Authors: Inquiry by Interview the novel's effect on him: "For me, García-Márquez transformed, deepened reality in so many of its aspects—tragic, humorous, adventurous, wondrous. The work was alive, entertaining at every word. There was nothing sloppy, facile, overly clever, belabored, preachy—all the things I detest in literature." Arias's own style of magic realism is a mixture of precise, journalistic descriptions and stream-of-consciousness writing, which often centers on magical figures who can manipulate reality. Bruce-Novoa contended that even more important than Arias's stylistic affinities with magic realism are his achievements as "a skilled, patient craftsman, with a healthy sense of irony about himself and the world…. [H]e shares the current—we could say modern—sense of literature as one enormous text, interrelated and consciously self-referential."
The Road to Tamazunchale, which was nominated for a National Book Award, is about the final days of a retired encyclopedia salesman named Fausto Tejada. In order to understand and accept his impending death, Fausto makes an imaginative journey to Tamazunchale, a Mexican village that in the book symbolizes the final resting place after death. The story opens with an ailing and despondent Fausto peeling off his skin; not until his niece Carmela enters the room does the reader learn that Fausto has actually been playing with a wad of Kleenex. Still, the incident functions as the first in a series of events in which the boundaries between reality and illusion, past and present, and life and death are clouded: Fausto travels to sixteenth-century Lima; he helps an Inca shepherd move his flock off the Los Angeles freeway; he leads hundreds of men across the Mexican-American border; he finds himself in a play called "The Road to Tamazunchale"; and, finally, he joins friends and neighbors on a cosmic picnic where he is reunited with his deceased wife. The events culminate with Fausto accepting his inevitable demise, though exactly when this occurs is ambiguous. As quoted in Chicano Literature: A Reference Guide, Vernon Lattin explained in American Literature that even after Fausto apparently dies, "the novel continues for one more chapter without suggestions of distortion or logical violation. Fausto and his friends continue as in the past: there is no funeral or burial; the logic of the world and the dichotomy of life and death have been transcended, and the road to Tamazunchale has become a sacred way for Everyman to follow."
The Road to Tamazunchale earned favorable reviews. In the School Library Journal, reviewer Dolores M. Koch called the book "A profoundly human novel that deals creatively with death." Calling Arias's novel "skillful and imaginative," Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor Alejandro Morales defended the book's status as a Chicano classic because of its "magical realistic imagination, its precise crisp prose, its relationship to the 'new reality' of Spanish American fiction and its compassionate treatment of death, its central theme." Morales concluded that Arias offers "a new social reality and a new vision of the American literary mosaic in which [he himself] must now be recognized." Eliud Martinez lauded Arias in the Latin American Literary Review for examining universal themes and capturing distinctly Chicano speech patterns. Moreover, Martinez asserted, "no Chicano novel before Tamazunchale has tapped the artistic resources of the modern and contemporary novel (and the arts) in a comparable way, deliberately and intuitively."
Arias himself once commented: "My Mexican family heritage and continuing travel abroad, especially in Latin-American countries for magazine story assignments, are strong inspirations for my writing. My work in the Peace Corps with the Andean poor also gave me an abiding insight into the world of basic survival, which is the theme of my own favorite writing projects." He has explored his own heritage in the book Moving Target, a memoir that recounts his fourteen-year-long search for his father—the "moving target" referred to in the title—who was known to be a prisoner of war during World War II and the Korean War.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bruce-Novoa, Juan, Chicano Authors: Inquiry by Interview, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1980.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 82, Chicano Writers, First Series, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1989.
Martinez, Julio A., and Francisco A. Lomeli, editors, Chicano Literature: A Reference Guide, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1985.
Von Bardeleban, Renate, Dietrich Briesemeister, and Juan Bruce-Novoa, editors, Missions in Conflict: Essays on U.S.-Mexican Relations and Chicano Culture, Günter Narr Verlag (Tübingen, Germany), 1986.
American Literature, number 50, 1979.
Americas Review, fall-winter, 1994, Andrea O'Reilly Herrera, review of The Road to Tamazunchale, p. 114.
Latin American Literary Review, number 4, 1976; number 5, 1977.
Library Journal, October 1, 1998, Charles Wessel, review of Healing from the Heart, p. 125.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 12, 1987.
New Mexico Humanities Review, Volume 3, number 1, 1980.
Revista Chicano-Riqueña, Volume 5, number 4, 1977; Volume 10, number 3, 1982.
School Library Journal, June, 2003, Dolores M. Koch, review of The Road to Tamazunchale, p. 35.