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FIRST FICTION; CRANBERRY QUEEN By Kathleen DeMarco Talk Miramax: 258 pp., $21.95; LOVERBOY By Victoria Redel Graywolf Press: 216 pp., $21.95; AMERICAN SON By Brian Ascalon Roley W. W. Norton: 218 pp., $13 paper
[Home Edition]
Los Angeles Times - Los Angeles, Calif.
Author: Rozzo, Mark
Date: May 27, 2001
Start Page: 1
Section: Book Review; Book Review Desk
Abstract (Document Summary)

Gabe, [Tomas]' younger, timid and easily manipulated brother, narrates this story and looks upon his brother's petty criminality with a mixture of fear, bewilderment and acquiescence. It's the immigrant experience spelled out in Alpo: Los Angeles is a dog-eat- dog kind of town; immigrant enclaves are teeming kennels, and only a few choice specimens will be plucked out of this inhumane environment to flourish elsewhere. It's actually a pretty nifty metaphor, but Brian Ascalon Roley has more up his sleeve, filling in these bold outlines with some subtle shades: The triangle of Gabe, Tomas and their shy, helpless Filipina mother (their American dad is long gone) creates a multihued prism for looking at issues of parenting and heritage, aspiration and assimilation, birth order and rivalry, pride and embarrassment. And just when we think we'll find out if Gabe and Tomas can break out of their straitened circumstances, Roley brings his compelling narrative to a close, leaving us to wonder which fate will ultimately end up adopting these mismatched brothers.

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