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Lopez, Jack 1950–

Lopez, Jack 1950–

Personal

Born February 2, 1950, in Lynwood, CA; son of Robert and Agripina (Estavillo) Lopez; married Patricia Geary (a novelist), 1988; children: Denis. Ethnicity: "Latino." Education: Portland State University, B.A., 1983; University of California—Irvine, M.F.A., 1987.

Addresses

Home—Redlands, CA.

Career

Writer. Orange Coast College, Costa Mesa, CA, instructor, 1987; University of Redlands, Redlands, CA, instructor, 1988; California State University, Northridge, professor of English, 1989—. Formerly worked in a ski resort, at a sailboat factory, on a farm, in a brewery and cannery, and in construction.

Awards, Honors

First Place Short Story, Ninth Chicano Literary Prize, 1983, for "The Boy Who Swam with Dolphins"; University fellow, University of California, 1986, 1987; National Hispanic Scholar Award, 1987; Pushcart Prize special mention, 1994, for "In the South"; First Place Award for Best Literary Stories, Latino Literary Hall of Fame, 2002, for Snapping Lines.

Writings

Cholos and Surfers: A Latino Family Album (essays), Capra Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1998.

Snapping Lines: Stories ("Camino del sol" series), University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 2001.

In the Break (novel), Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.

Work represented in anthologies, including Mirrors beneath the Earth, Iguana Dreams, Pieces of the Heart, and Muy Macho, as well as in textbooks. Contributor to periodicals, including Massachusetts Review, Quarterly West, and Blue Mesa Review.

Sidelights

Jack Lopez grew up in south Los Angeles, until his father's job moved the family south to Huntington Beach, California, one of the top surfing towns in the world. The surfing culture of this area, as well as that in Hawai'i, influences much of Lopez's writing, including his essay collection Cholos and Surfers: A Latino Family Album and his young-adult novel In the Break. In addition to writing, Lopez is a professor of English at California State University, Northridge.

In the Break focuses on fifteen-year-old Juan Barrela, who joins best friend Jamie on a road trip to Mexico that starts with stealing Juan's mom's car and ends in tragedy. Jamie is hoping to escape the wrath of an abusive stepfather by keeping out of sight until things cool down, and his sister Amber comes along for the ride. The road south along the California cast is lined with tempting beaches that tempt the two tenth-grade surfers and transform In the Break into what Booklist critic Gillian Engberg described as "a wild, soul-searching surfing expedition" that doubles as an "authentic" coming-of-age tale. Praising Lopez for creating "realistically drawn" characters, School Library Journal writer Melissa Christy Buron added that the teens' "mood and emotions ring true, and the fast-paced plot holds readers' attention throughout." The characters' dialogue is delivered in what a Kirkus Reviews writer described as "a gritty, dead-on teen-speak" that fuels the author's "fast-paced plot," making In the Break likely to "score big with surfing and sports fans."

Regarding In the Break, Lopez told SATA: "The genesis for the novel came from a number of events that happened in and around my neighborhood when I was in high school. Some of this appears in an interview with California Readers. After that interview, I realized that I had left out a main component. Here's the gist of what I told Bonnie O'Brian for the interview and what appears on their Web site: When I was in high school two brothers who lived a few blocks over from me met up with some runaway girls, and they went to the mountains, broke in a cabin, and stayed there a few days. When caught, they got in a lot of trouble. When I was in high school a kid's mother shot his father while he slept. The kid's mother used the battered-wife syndrome as her defense, and was acquitted. When I was in high school one of my friends had a father who was abusive. Many years later I found out that his stepfather and my friend fought when he was sixteen. Sixteen was the important detail because that was the age my friend beat up his stepfather and was no longer hit by him. The biggest influence for the writing of the book was the fact that when I was in high school, my friends and I found this bay way down in Baja California where the waves were really large and the water was full of dolphins.

"Yet I somehow forgot about and left out of that interview a major component that influenced the writing of the book. On the last day of school when I was in the eleventh grade—which was a half day—I went surfing at a surf spot called Trestles with my good friend. He was a senior, I was a junior. We surfed a glorious June afternoon. In those days Trestles was part of the base at Camp Pendleton, and access was restricted; therefore there were no other surfers in the water. That same night there was a big party to celebrate the end of school, and I met up with my friend. He had a motorcycle, a 250cc Scrambler, and a station wagon in which we could take our surfboards. That night he was riding his motorcycle. Before I left the party, I told him I'd call in the morning, as we were going to surf the next day. I went home, slept, and when I awoke, I called my friend so that we could go surfing. His mother answered the phone. She was weeping. She somehow conveyed the information that my friend, her son, was dead. Run down on the Pacific Coast Highway in the early morning hours as he rode his motorcycle home from the party.

"You don't ever get over a shock like that. Expecting to surf with your friend only to find out that he's no longer on this earth. As a teen, of course, I didn't know how to process it. How do you process such a thing? I know I didn't cry about it for well over a year. I just buried it deep in my psyche, where it floated then submerged and finally surfaced, becoming a part of who I am.

"During my high school years two friends and one acquaintance were killed on the Pacific Coast Highway, one as a pedestrian, two on motorcycles. The character Jamie, Juan's best friend in In the Break, is, I suppose, a belated tribute to my high school friend."

Geared for adult readers, the essay collection Cholos and Surfers deals with Latino culture as well as the larger human condition. In essays that focus on his family and tragedies such as the death of a brother from AIDS, Lopez expresses the love and pain that exist in every family. In the short fiction collected in Snapping Lines: Stories, Lopez fictionalizes elements from his experience with family and friends, often focusing on young men looking for love and trying to find themselves in a world without borders. Reviewing the collection—published as part of the University of Arizona's Latino literary series—a Kirkus Reviews contributor described Snapping Lines as a volume comprised of "rich, moody Chicano adagios."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

American Book Review, January-February, 2002, T.R. Hull, review of Snapping Lines: Stories, p. 10.

Booklist, September 1, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of In the Break, p. 115.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July-August, 2006, Cindy Welch, review of In the Break, p. 506.

Hispanic, October, 2001, Robert Con Davis-Undiano, review of Snapping Lines, p. 78.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2001, review of Snapping Lines, p. 143; July 1, 2006, review of In the Break, p. 679.

Kliatt, March, 2007, Serri Ginsberg, review of In the Break, p. 52.

Publishers Weekly, October 3, 2005, Jason Anthony, "Baja Blues," p. 8.

School Library Journal, November, 2006, Melissa Christy Buron, review of In the Break, p. 140.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 2006, Ava Ehde, review of In the Break, p. 488.

ONLINE

Jack Lopez Home Page,http://www.jacklopez.net (April 15, 2007).

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