CAREER: Novelist, and educator. Cuyamaca College, El Cajon, CA, chair of department of foreign languages.
AWARDS, HONORS: Chicano/Latino Literary Contest prize, for Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility.
Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS:Patricia Santana's debut novel, Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility, is a "remarkably touching story about the ramifications of war on a shatterproof Mexican family," commented a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. In 1969 San Diego, fourteen-year-old Yolanda "Yoli" Sahagun is a Mexican-American girl feeling the effects of the Vietnam War. Her favorite brother, Chuy, is returning from the war, and Yoli is overjoyed at the prospect of having him back. When Chuy arrives, however, he is changed—he is not the way Yoli remembers him from before his combat experiences. Instead of being cheerful and fun-loving, Chuy has become emotionally distant, depressed, and prone to violence. Yoli is deeply upset by the profound effect the war has had on her brother. The morning after he returns, Chuy sets out on a recently purchased motorcycle with no word of where he is going and when, or even if, he will be back. Yoli is devastated by her brother's grim transformation, even while she struggles with her own physical and emotional metamorphosis from child to adolescent.
Meanwhile, Yoli's sisters strain at the restrictions imposed by their domineering father, particularly his demand that they not date, until sister Caroline brings home her Marine boyfriend and braves her father's explosive reaction to show her sisters that it can be done. Months later, Chuy returns, with a beard, long hair, and the evidence of deep emotional turmoil in his eyes. His behavior becomes more erratic and uncontrolled as he prowls the night and spends his time near the local high school. He even seems to have turned his back on his Mexican heritage after slinging anti-Mexican slurs at both friends and family. Yoli is even more hurt when her brother becomes an object of gossip in the community. When Chuy's pent-up violence overflows and he has to flee the police and hide to avoid arrest, it's up to Yoli to find her brother and save others from him, and he from himself, before there is nothing left of her brother to save.
"Santana has crafted a fresh look at post-Vietnam family life," commented Carlos Orellana in Booklist. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility "a fine first effort" showing "the sea change in American life brought by its involvement in Vietnam." Francisca Goldsmith, writing in Kliatt, concluded that the "book gives readers of all backgrounds food for thought and reflection."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 2002, Carlos Orellana, review of Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility, p. 994.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2002, review of Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility, p. 18.
Kliatt, July, 2004, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility, p. 23.
Publishers Weekly, February 4, 2002, review of Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility, p. 55.
Cuyamaca College Web site, http://www.cuyamaca.net/ (January 23, 2006).