"The stories in The Last Tortilla vibrate with an incredible cast of characters, a setting rich with culture, and themes that touch the heart. Troncoso is simply one of the best young writers on the scene today."
Short Story Collection Wins Prestigious Award
February 14, 2000
The 1999 Premio Aztlán literary prize has been awarded to Sergio Troncoso for his collection of stories, The Last Tortilla and Other Stories (University of Arizona Press). The short stories were judged the outstanding collection in Chicano/Chicana fiction.
The national literary honor includes a cash award of two thousand dollars, the highest award in contemporary Chicano/a literature. The prize will be awarded to Troncoso Friday, March 31, 2000 at the Zimmerman Library at the University of New Mexico, where the author will read from his work.
Established in 1993 by Rudolfo Anaya and his wife Patricia, the Premio Aztlán honors new Chicano/a writers for literary excellence in works that reflect Chicano culture and experience. This year nationally well-known writers Gary Soto and Sandra Cisneros contributed to the cash award, which was established to recognize, nurture, and encourage the efforts of emerging writers early in their careers.
Previous winners include Denise Chávez, Pat Mora, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, all of whom have gone on to develop national reputations as contemporary writers of the Chicano scene.
Troncoso's stories, set in El Paso, take readers into the world of young men caught up in realistic rites of passage which test their sense of identity and culture. Love, death, and the sometimes tragic consequences of growing up provide the major themes.
But these stories show that the barrio is also inhabited by elders trying to survive in a rapidly changing world. One of the most sensitive stories, "The Gardener," explores love between a man and a woman in their sixties. It's a delightful counterpoint to the story, "Angie Luna," in which a young man falls in love with a woman from Juárez. He is seeking the American Dream via an Amherst education, and she is bound by tradition, thus making their love affair tragic.
The stories are strong in character development, realistic in presenting the images of the barrio, and wonderfully intense in the variety of themes developed. Like other contemporary Chicano literature, the ambivalence between choosing the mainstream lifestyle and a more traditional Mexicano way of life creates a tension in these stories that Troncoso explores to the core.
In the introduction, Ilan Stavans praises Troncoso as "an American writer of the oddest kind: he tells the truth. He is as near the center of things as artists are allowed to be."
Troncoso teaches fiction writing at Yale University during the summer. He has published stories and essays in Hadassah Magazine, Other Voices, T-Zero Writers' Annual, New World: Young Latino Writers (Dell), Electric Mercado, American Way, Blue Mesa Review, and Río Grande Review. The Last Tortilla is his first book.
For more details, contact Teresa Marquez at the Center for Southwest Research at the University of New Mexico, 505-277-0582 or 505-277-6451.