Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Coachella by Shelia Ortiz-Taylor

'Against his will he has plunged into mystery, somehow held captive in that temporal zone between the question and the answer. But if you could ask him what shape life ought to take, he would tell you this: that life should be like a map on which one could chart one's clear course. And those of others. Life should have a legend by which one could calculate distance, speed, points of intersection. Somewhere on the map it should say: YOU ARE HERE. By traveling at a certain speed, for a certain length of time, one should be able to estimate one's approximate time of arrival and probable outcome.' Shelia Ortiz-Taylor

"Ortiz-Taylor writes novels that help to illuminate the Mexican-American lesbian experience." -Tina Gianoulis

Need I say more? Doubtful, but I want to make sure you have a full picture.


  • Casa Diva, (seemingly its own character) a spa house for gay men that is over-run with AIDS.

  • Marina Lomas, Victim of her abusive husband and recently turned lesbian.

  • Yolanda Ramirez, local phlebotomist and lesbian.

  • Crescencio, a man in love with with a dying, married woman.

  • Ella Townsend, the dying, married, before mentioned woman.

  • Mr. Townsend, Ella's abusive husband.

  • A few other Indians, Mexicans, and Gays. (Not that I am grouping them all together, but the author seemed the think those were the superior beings on earth.)

The women of Coachella all believe they need extensive plastic surgery on the regular basis. This is not an idea put in their heads by their abusive husbands, but in fact a sad truth that they themselves can see as their boobs sag, bellies pooch, and faces age. However, all of their surgeries require extended hospital stays where they are eventually given blood transfusions.

All the Gay men living at the Casa Diva, most notably the owner, are getting nagging colds that refuse to go away and soon turn into pneumonia.

The phlebotomist, Yolanda, is seeing a surprising increase in the number of people with low white blood cell counts. She realizes that this is an indication of AIDS.

Yolanda thinks that AIDS may be a virus, and it may be carried in the blood. The blood bank might be contaminated. She takes her research to the doctor, after a brief discussion, they decide that they are more like business men than doctors. They hide the fact of the tainted blood so that they don't loose money on it.

Marina comes to town with her baby girl as she tries to escape her abusive husband, David. She starts working at the Casa Diva and meets Yolanda. The two women soon become lovers and move in together. When they hear that David is coming after Marina, they hide out with a friend. Yolanda's father, Crescencio stays at their trailer and shoots David to death.

That night there is an announcement on the News. Everyone is made aware of the tainted blood, but most of them will die anyway. We are not too sad, since Davis has been killed, Ella escaped her abusive husband by dying of AIDS herself, and all the good people of Coachella know that Yolanda was really the one who made the important discovery.

General Conclusions :

  • All straight men abuse women because their scarred emotions don't know any other way of asking for love.

  • Women understand women better, and men understand men better, so you should not attempt to have a romantic relationship with the opposite sex.

  • Mexican culture is far superior to American. If all the Mexican natives would throw off American bondage and be gay they would live much happier lives, but still die of AIDS.

  • If you are a lesbian, your books will get published without the content even being scanned.


Carlton said...

You didn't say whether or not you liked the book.

Elizabeth said...

Loved it!

Nihil Novum said...

"If all the Mexican natives would throw off American bondage and be gay they would live much happier lives, but still die of AIDS."


Christopher said...

What caused you to read this?

Elizabeth said...

My white, American boyfriend forced me to read it. I guess I showed him.

Carlton said...

Your white, American boyfriend sounds like a real douche.

Nihil Novum said...

Shut up, white American.

Brooke said...

I'm not trying to start a fight here, but are these maybe your "General Conclusions" because you were generalizing?

I am sure this is not true of you, but to an outsider reading this review it looks like your problem is not with the book itself but with the community that it portrays. Especially since this review is in the middle of all your C.S. Lewis.

Elizabeth said...

Yes, my general conclusions are a summary of my overall impression of
the book. The only way to get the entire context is to read the book.

An outsider may think that I have a problem with the community

However, the review was intended only to communicate my views about the characters and situations presented in the book, not the community at large, and the truth is that Coachella is poorly written and mildly racist.

1. Ortiz-Taylor creates underdeveloped characters, all of whom are strongly stereotyped.

The Americans in her novel force their Hispanic counterparts to forsake their culture and live in the rushed, lesser culture that they both hate. Both abusive husbands marry Hispanic women and then move them away from their families, change their Hispanic names to American ones, and
refuse to allow them to speak Spanish or to teach the language to their children.

2. There is not much plot and the story is repetitive.

The narrative is chopped up and comes across like the lost tenth story line of Love Actually. We aren't sure if the conflict is with the hospital for spreading AIDS or with men for being abusive. We do know that the only way any of the characters finds resolution is by partnering up with a gay Hispanic.

3. The book has an immature voice and style.

The theme is forced and doesn't arise naturally out of the story. The plot should be built around a concept, but this concept is left slight and underdeveloped. We're forced to draw our conclusions based on the thin, offensively stereotypical characters, not a substantial, well-developed thesis.

Picture this: A fifteen-year-old boy is boasting about how smart he is and what a great vocabulary he has all the while using the lingo found in the latest fantasy dime novel.

The problem with Oritz-Taylor isn't
her subject matter. it's her inability to deal with it in a believable, convincing way.

Carlton said...

You are never going to get two 50 if you write two reviews for each book.

Brooke said...

Elizabeth, I hope you know that I did not mean to attack you with my statements. I was not upset by what you said, but simply the way that you said it. That is all.

I do appreciate your clarification.

Elizabeth said...

Fantastic. I wasn't upset with you either. I just wanted to clarify because you made a good point.