The hired help, the landscape crews, the busboys, the illegal nannies of the rich and powerful ... Mario Bencastro’s compelling new novel, Odyssey to the North, spins just one tale of the humble many who, behind the scenes, sustain Washington, D.C.’s privileged few.
Decades of civil wars in Central America, coupled with the need for manpower in the United States, have made the Hispanic immigrant a fixture in modern American life. This is one such story: that of Calixto, who comes to the United States “with his stomach empty but his soul full of hope.” Showing the heartbreak as well as the humor of missteps and misunderstandings in a strange culture, award-winning author Bencastro creates a sensitive and caring portrait of Calixto as he seeks not only work, but safety from unjust persecution in his homeland.
Through conversations, court transcripts, newspaper articles, and letters, Bencastro’s novel deftly allows Calixto and his fellow Guatemalan, Salvadoran, and South American migrants to tell their own stories as they struggle to survive in the restaurant kitchens, bars, crowded tenements, and detention centers that become Calixto’s proving grounds.
MARIO BENCASTRO, a native of El Salvador, is the author of The Tree of Life: Stories of Civil War, the novel A Shot in the Cathedral, and other works. A Shot in the Cathedral was a finalist in the international “Novedades y Diana” literary competition.
Translator SUSAN GIERSBACH RASCÓN, an attorney, has since 1990 taught Spanish at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.
About Mario Bencastro
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Published September 8, 2011
by Arte Público Press.
Literature & Fiction, History.