Ito Romo was born and raised on the border in Laredo, Texas. His recent work, dubbed “Chicano Gothic” and “Chicano Noir,” shows the dark and gritty life along Interstate 35 through South Texas, where his family has lived for nine generations. He lives in San Antonio and is Associate Professor of English and Communication Studies at St. Mary’s University. Romo received his PhD from Texas Tech University’s Creative Writing Program. He is the author of The Border is Burning (2013) and El Puente / The Bridge (2001), both published by University of New Mexico Press.
•Portrait, Vincent Valdez, 2011
Loners, families, fathers, wives—anyone who lives on the border between Mexico and the United States also lives on a border of violence and complexity. Here a master of Chicano noir explores that world in lean and haunting stories that you will never forget.
“The Border is Burning is a ferocious portrait of San Antonio and Laredo and the landscape in-between. Filled with desperation and despair told in sparse, gritty language and dialogue that is remarkable for its authenticity, Ito Romo’s stories are like scenes suddenly flashed in a lightning storm, sharp and brilliant like shards of glass on a highway. These stories will be compared to Raymond Carver, but their true lineage is from Juan Rulfo. Without any sentimentality, yet with a lot of heart, Ito Romo takes us to the belly of the beast.”—Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street
“Romo’s short stories cut the reader like a knife. His dark and authentic vision of life along the border
captures the gritty reality of social relations in the era of free trade and narco economics. There are no innocents on either side of the U.S./Mexico divide. Everyone is implicated in the exchange of
drugs, love, guns, grace, and bodily fluids. Romo’s riveting gothic prose is a fresh iteration of Latino noir, the perfect antidote to the saccharine-sweet convention of minority fiction, firmly placing him in the company of John Rechy and Junot Díaz.”
—María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo, author of The Revolutionary Imagination in the Americas and the Age of Development and Indian Given: Racial Geographies across Mexico and the United States (Latin America Otherwise)
“Speed and day laborers, horse trailers and drug dealers, one-night stands that last all year—Ito Romo doesn’t just know the border, he knows the hearts of the people who live there. And he writes it on the page with blood. You better buy at least two copies of this book. Because you’ll be giving it away, making people read it. But you want one for yourself, too. It’s fiction that stays with you.”—Stephen Graham Jones, author of Growing Up Dead in Texas
This tenderly wrought novel by a gifted new writer about a town on the Rio Grande resonates with pure border voices. Thirteen women--all ages and backgrounds--react in unexpected, humorous, and mysterious ways when one day the river suddenly turns crimson red. The bridge, which the women cross and re-cross in the course of this cycle of stories, becomes a site where the women acquire knowledge about their lives and their landscape as the mystery of the color of the river unravels. Romo illuminates a cross-section of border life in classic, lyrical prose, rich with elements of fable, ancient morality tales, and magic, all the while capturing the extraordinary textures of contemporary border life. El Puente/The Bridge captivates and entertains with its mix of closely observed reality imbued with deep spirituality.
"A story cycle that bridges together, like a string of papel picado, the lives of several women on both sides of the Tex-Mex border. The world, according to Romo, is bizarre, troche moche, heartbreaking, rasquache, endlessly romantic, tender and touching. As funny as a fotonovela, triste as a telenovela and wild as any Fellini."--Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street and Woman Hollering Creek
"Each voice of the women Romo has created blooms into a real life that we recognize immediately. He has created his own bridge between the seeming ordinariness of the women with an extraordinary event, beautifully told. We stand captivated in the presence of full human beings."--Helena María Viramontes, author of The Moths and Under the Feet of Jesus
"Ito Romo's El Puente/The Bridge will charm its readers--meaning both delight and enchant them. Thirteen women's lives are woven together into the story of a possible miracle, or perhaps it is a hoax, or maybe sabotage with political overtones. Like an old-fashioned folktale, this deceptively simple novel unfolds the secrets of a community. Ito Romo is our storyteller at the border, bridging two cultures and many lives with his first novel."--Julia Alvarez, author of How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, ¡Yo!,and In The Name of Salomé
Europa Verlag, 2001
Arcadia 10.1: "The New Chican@" Guest editor, Ito Romo. The issue features short fiction by Luke Neftalí Villafranca, poetry by Octavio Quintanilla, fiction and nonfiction by Sarah Cortez, and a poem by Tim Z. Hernandezm, with original art from Vincent Valdez.
Romo writes in his introduction, "I wanted to put together a group of artists who, with their art, be it visual or literary, tell a story honestly and beautifully - those were my only criteria. And so, I've chosen a group of Mexican American artists who have recreated for us, with images and words, the current strange and dark malaise of the invisible, of the forgotten."
Issue 19.1: State of the Union
"Donald Trump and the Frito Bandito"
In my Mexican American Literature class, one of my favorite lectures is entirely about corn. As you might well imagine, my students and I discuss all things corn from the time of it’s domestication in the Tehuacan Valley of Mexico as early as 2400 B.C. to the Taco Bell Dorito Locos Tacos of today. Sometime during our discussion, my students meet the Frito Bandito, the racist caricature star of the TV commercials that the Frito Lay Company ran from 1967 to 1971. This essay is about that . . . and about storytelling . . . and about telling your own stories before someone else tells them for you. Just ask Donald Trump.
Akashic Books continues its groundbreaking series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each story is set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the city of the book.
Brand-new stories by: James Crumley, Joe Lansdale, Claudia Smith, Ito Romo, Luis Alberto Urrea, David Corbett, George Weir, Sarah Cortez, Jesse Sublette, Dean James, Tim Tingle, Milton Burton, Lisa Sandlin, Bill Crider, and Bobby Byrd.
From the introduction by Bobby Byrd:
“Seems like everybody who lives in Texas has a snotty attitude about the place where they live. Even if they hate it. Like the bumper sticker from the 1980s, Lucky me, I’m from Lubbock. That was popular the year after Lubbock almost got wiped off the map by a series of God’s worst tornadoes. But what you learn from living in this state is that most of Texas is not Texas. It’s not the stereotype that the rest of the nation carries around in the collective consciousness . . .
The real Texas hides out in towns and cities like you’ll find in Lone Star Noir, and in that very Texas reality, among the everyday good folks of Texas, you’ll find the hard-boiled understanding of guns and dope and blood money and greed and hatred and delusion that makes these fourteen stories come alive on the page. Sure, you might catch a glimpse of J.R. and old Woodrow Call, like a shadow at the edge of your sight, feel their heat at your back, catch a whiff of the dead flowers which are their Texas dreams. This is basic foodstuff for a Texas writer telling a story, but the story must always stay true to its place and the people who live there. That’s the strength of these stories in Lone Star Noir—the particular place they come from, the language that the characters speak. Yes, they are pieces of the larger puzzle that is Texas, but they are more true to the pieces of ground they reveal.”
El Paso Times
Concho River Review
Letras Latinas Blog, University of Notre Dame
The Texas Observer
San Francisco Chronicle
--OKC LitFest, Oklahoma City, OK, April 15th-16th, 2016
--Texas A & M University, Corpus Christi, Texas April April 21, 2016
--Big Read, Mason County Library, Mason, Texas, 02/23/2015
--The Pennsylvania State University, Mary E. Rollins Reading Series, College Park, Pennsylvania, 09/11/2014
--Gemini Ink, San Antonio, Texas, 09/27/2014
--Our Lady of the Lake University Visiting Writer, San Antonio, Texas, Fall 2014
--Our Lady of the Lake University, Visiting Writer Reading, 10/22/2014
--George West StoryFest, J. Frank Dobie Dichos Program, George West, Texas, 10/31/2014
-- The Twig Bookstore, 08/19/2014
--Association of Hispanic Journalists Convention, San Antonio, Texas, 08/07/2014
--Texas A & M International University, Voices of the Monte Lecture Series, Laredo, Texas, 04/10/2014
--Our Lady of the Lake University, LitFest Headliner, San Antonio, Texas, 04/09/2014
--Honors College, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, 04/07/2014
--San Antonio Book Festival, San Antonio, Texas, 04/05/2014
--Brazos Bookstore, Houston, Texas, 03/27/2014
--MAP, Artist Foundation of San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas, 03/08/2014
--Laredo Center for the Arts, Laredo, Texas, 02/14/2014
--Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum, "Border Dialogues" with
Blaine De St. Croix and Dan Goddard, San Antonio, Texas, 02/05/2014
--San Antonio Central Library, San Antonio, Texas, 12/11/2013
--Texas Tech University 11/21/2013
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