Best Memoirist: Domingo Martinez

Seattle’s breakout novelist during the past year is clearly Maria Semple. But among the nonfiction crowd, who mine their own lives for literature, we strongly recommend Domingo Martinez. His first book, The Boy Kings of Texas, was deservedly short-listed for last year’s National Book Award. Martinez is a former colleague at Seattle Weekly, but he’s also very much an outsider in this town. His memoir relates a hardscrabble youth in Brownsville, Texas, with a family that uneasily straddles the border. (Martinez was born on the U.S. side.) He helps smuggle pot, gets beaten up by a cousin, watches as his sisters reinvent themselves as Valley Girls (this being the ’80s), and discovers how his education and fluent English alienates him from his own kin. As he writes in the book, “The further away from speaking Spanish you are, the whiter you could be, and I wanted to be white. So white I was Jewish, actually, like Joel Fleischman, from Northern Exposure.” Is it any wonder he settled here in Seattle? (Note: Martinez will read from Boy Kings, which will be made into a HBO movie, at Queen Anne Book Co., 7 p.m. Thurs., Aug. 8.)

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