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Véa, Alfredo, Jr. 1950(?)-

VÉA, Alfredo, Jr. 1950(?)-

PERSONAL:

Born June 28, 1950 (some sources say 1952), in AZ; son of Lorenza Véa (a migrant farm laborer). Education: University of California, Berkeley, B.A. (English and physics), 1975, J.D., 1978.

ADDRESSES:

Home—San Francisco, CA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Dutton, Penguin USA, 375 Hudson St. New York, NY 10014.

CAREER:

Attorney and novelist. Worked variously as a truck driver, forklift operator, janitor, construction worker, and carnival mechanic; criminal defense attorney in private practice, San Francisco, CA, 1986—. Military service: U.S. Army, 1967-69; served in Vietnam.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Bay Area Book Reviewers' Award for Fiction, and Los Angeles Times Best Book designation, both 1999, both for Gods Go Begging.

WRITINGS:

La Maravilla, Dutton (New York, NY), 1993.

The Silver Cloud Café, Dutton (New York, NY), 1996.

Gods Go Begging, Dutton (New York, NY), 1999.

SIDELIGHTS:

Born in rural Arizona to a thirteen-year-old migrant farmworker of Yaqui heritage and a father who abandoned the family shortly after his son's birth, Alfredo Véa, Jr., determined at a young age to make something of his life and eventually decided on a career in law. Working as a seasonal worker as a child, he pursued his high school degree, went to college despite spending two years in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, and graduated from law school in 1978. Véa's first novel, La Maravilla, was prompted by the young attorney's anger over a judge's comment that he did not realize there were any Mexican lawyers practicing in the United States.

Writing in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Roberto Cantú explained that "Véa's writing is driven by a desire to raise questions not necessarily answered by historical reflections on the alleged contradiction between European and Native American civilizations." Rather than promoting a merging of cultures, he "considers Indian ancestry in opposition to European, which is often associated with the modern and the new.… Véa'scritique of Europe is moral and epistemological, a sort of genealogical reflection that focuses on values, on the limits of language, and, ultimately, on the relative nature of knowledge itself. Europe turns into a metaphor for hierarchies of violence and authoritarian assumptions of universal truth." In addition to La Maravilla, Véa has also authored the novels The Silver Cloud Café and Gods Go Begging.

In La Maravilla, published in 1993, Véa recounts the childhood memories of a young boy, nine-year-old Beto, growing up in the Arizona desert in the 1950s. This multicultural story describes the highs and lows of Beto's life living among a group of squatters settled outside Phoenix, and is at times quite humorous. Beto's family is composed of his Spanish grandmother and his pagan Yaqui grandfather, who has the ability to leave his physical body and fly. Meanwhile, Beto himself encounters the mythical dog sprit, which is believed to be the keeper of the dead, leading the souls of the deceased to the land of the dead. While this eclectic group of individuals suffer their share of heartaches and tragedy, they are never disheartened due to their meager material existence.

As the author explained in an interview with María Teresa Márquez quoted by Cantú, La Maravilla is written so that "an English reader could read it and understand what it felt like to have a childhood in Spanish." The novel is divided into sixteen chapters that follow Beto's coming of age, while a prologue narrated by the boy's late grandmother imbues the novel with a magical sense. Moving forward and backward in time, and threaded with life stories, romantic relationships, and the cultural legacy of the Yaqui people, La Maravilla was described by Cantú as "a complex yet illuminating narrative that revolves around themes of the voyage, epiphany, and spectacle." A Kirkus Reviews contributor commented that the author's "uneasy mix of magic realism, essay, tragedy, broad comedy, and didactic speech never quite blends," but continued that "but each element—like the different races thrown together in the desert—forms an integral part of this astonishing fictionalized tribute."

The Silver Cloud Café was described as "An ambitious, energetic, overlong but passionate novel about fate, hope, and faith" by another contributor to Kirkus Reviews. The novel follows a group of wanderers as they find themselves at the Silver Cloud Café in San Francisco's not-so-desirable Mission District. Véa's protagonists—a midget philosopher in search of a lost love, a Mexican priest fleeing from sprits, and an assassin—are each pursuing different goals, but their stories intersect in the past, where two murders that occurred in San Francisco decades ago ultimately turn out to be related. Véa interweaves elements of folklore, along with his love for his outcast characters, to create a "beautifully, poetically designed novel," according to Dorothy H. Rochmis in Rapport. Manuel Ramos, reviewing The Silver Cloud Café for the Bloomsbury Review, added that "Véa is in fine, majestic, poetic form as he meticulously unveils his fantastic tale and outrageous characters."

Jesse Pasadoble is a Vietnam veteran and criminal defense attorney in Gods Go Begging, Véa's 1999 novel. After two innocent women are brutally murdered on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, Jesse becomes the defense lawyer for one of the men accused of the murders. The novel focuses on Jesse's inner turmoil as he tries to defend his client. The murdered women, innocent victims, were still waiting after three decades for their lost husbands to come home from the Vietnam war, not accepting that their husbands might be dead. A Vietnam veteran himself, Jesse is unable to generate emotions; instead he lives a mechanical life, going through the motions, but without any genuine feeling, and the passion of the murderer victims serves to help him reevaluate his own life. Ann Peterpaul, in a review for WeeklyWire.com, called Gods Go Begging "a kaleidoscope of fierce emotions with an intriguing plot," while in the Tucson Weekly Randall Holdridge praised the novel as "a work so ambitious thematically and stylistically, and so timely in its interests, that it surely deserves a broad readership." Gods Go Begging was also named one of the best books of 1999 by the Los Angeles Times.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 209: Chicano Writers, Third Series, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1999.

PERIODICALS

Bloomsbury Reviews, March 1997, Manuel Ramos, review of The Silver Cloud Café, p. 7.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 1993, review of La Maravilla, p. 23; August 15, 1996, review of The Silver Cloud Café, p. 1183.

Library Journal, October 1, 1993, Barbara Hoffert, review of La Maravilla, p. 52.

Locus, May, 1994, Charles N. Brown and Scott Winnett, review of La Maravilla, p. 52.

MELUS, summer, 2000, Stacy Alaimo, "Multiculturalism and Epistemic Rupture: The Vanishing Act of Guillermo Gomez-Peña and Alfredo Véa, Jr.," p. 163.

Rapport, January, 1997, Dorothy H. Rochmis, review of The Silver Cloud Café, p. 16.

Tucson Weekly, September 9, 2000, Randall Holdridge, review of Gods Go Begging.

ONLINE

Penguin Putnam Web site,http://www.penguinputnam.com/ (October 12, 2003).

WeeklyWire.com,http://weeklywire.com/ (November 29, 1999), Ann Peterpaul, review of Gods Go Begging.*

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