The Iguana Tree by Michel Stone — OMG! There is hope for contemporary American Fiction!

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“Tonight Hector  would call Lilia and tell of the funny gringo’s joke, of the alligator who lived beside the beautiful river beyond the trees, and of the senora’s skills in driving the tree-digging machine. He’d describe the colorful sunset and the way the pale full moon rose above the field just as it rose in their village. He’d tell her of the optimism brimming inside him, his confidence in their future, in the reality of his dreams for them.”

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      O hell, I’ve been on a review whirl-a-gig ride just long enough now to wonder what if I can pull off a decent enough conversation to actually encourage anyone out there in cyberspace to read something really worth reading.  Yes, I want to encourage folks looking for contemporary American fiction with substance and bite to consider The Iguana Tree by Michel Stone via Hub City Press, an independent publisher flourishing in South Carolina.  This title came my via one of Roxie’s posts and the title intrigued me enough to put in a library request which plopped Stone’s tome in my greedy reading palms within a day. I like The Iguana Tree very much because it’s a dam good piece of writing.  Now I doubt that statement will get anyone else scrambling to lay hands on a copy. So let’s try this: I would like to force read this book to that Huppenthal dictator of Public Education in the state of Arizona where some folks don’t want others getting any ideas about their own self-worth. Or this:  If you have no clue why the English Language Only movement is insulting and doomed to failure in the U.S. of A–then The  Iguana Tree might be a first step in comprehending the issues of migration–legal and illegal–and why people from Mexico risk their lives to come to this not so sweet land of opportunity. Or this:  Many folks fear hordes of illegal immigrants so much that they think building walls will steam the flow northward. Well those folks need to think again about that wall building. Guess what, it’s not going to keep anyone anywhere. If you read The Iguana Tree you’ll understand better why such walls are useless to prevent desperate people from migrating to where they perceive there are greener grasses agrowing. O and by the way, even if your family has been on American soil for 500 years–they’re still all from immigrants who came here for many of the same reasons espoused by modern-day immigrants–and an argument can be made that unless you’re a full-blooded member of one of the 500 plus Indigenous Nations that you’re an invasive non-native species that emigrated from another homeland nowhere near Plymouth Rock.  How am I doing on that patriotically offensive scale rating so far? Give me more words and I may crank it up a few more notches.  Hey, my people didn’t settle stateside until around 1914 when they decided they’d had enough of living in the middle of one of Europe’s favorite battlegrounds. Yet I’m aware that even knowledge of one’s own family history of migration does not breed compassion nor understanding in the minds and hearts of many modern Americans who are threatened by anyone not like themselves. Or this:  So I ask do, you know who picks those strawberries, avocados and tomatoes we all enjoy finding at the American grocery store all year round? Hint, not the sort of folks who used to work in Detroit building automobiles–and I doubt those folks would work for the wages or under the conditions of migrant workers.  Furthermore, if the folks who put their lives, hopes and dreams in the hands of the human variety of coyotes (who give the real critter by the same name an EVIL reputation) could make decent livings in their places of origin I doubt they’d be motivated to experience the adventures of Hector and Lilia in The Iguana Tree. I sure as hell would not.  I don’t think I’d be willing to place bets on finding employment with the likes of Lucas and Elizabeth in South Carolina. These are people who seriously need Hector’s willingness to work hard as much as he needs the employment opportunity their tree farm offers.   

     The Iguana Tree does not offer up any nice neat little packaged political economic solutions. What it does offer is some insight into the hearts and minds of real people all trying very hard to do more than just survive in a harsh world full of obstacles and hazardous conditions.  If you don’t care about someone in this book then there’s something wrong with your internal tic tocker for sure. It’s your heart Michel Stone is trying to touch with this story of bitter hopes.  Stone writes deftly and candidly about the horrors of border crossings, lives lived in fear of deportation, families separated, sudden injury, death, identity issues, language and cultural barriers. Being an illegal immigrant in the United States is no picnic in the park.  The Iguana Tree presents the high cost of “coming to America” as such that this qualifies as a modern shop of horrors–exploitation, greed, corruption, rape, child theft. What truly is painful is that this well crafted work of fiction reflects an all too real grim reality.  Stone softens The Iguana Tree with elements of friendship, love, and relationships built on mutual benefit.  There is the suggestion that the only way to humanely deal with the issue of illegal immigration is with humanity and treating people as valuable in their own rights.  

     So I hope you soon meet Hector, Lilia, Miguel, Pablo, Lucas, Elizabeth, Carlos and Rosa.  If you’re an American wondering what the hell is going on at the border between Mexico and the United States maybe you’ll get a few ideas. I’m not saying you’ll like what you learn. But you might gain a sense of the human complexity of what motivates illegal migration. I seriously doubt The Iguana Tree will bore anyone.  It might make you want to visit Puerto Isadore or South Carolina–legally, of course.

     By the way, The Iguana Tree is a story about love.

        Hub City Press link http://www.hubcity.org/press/

       Roxie’s blog post regarding The Iguana Tree  http://roxieh.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/top-twos-day-physical-photos-and-layers/

 

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2 Comments

  1. Roxie said,

    May 21, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    yay!!! Michel Stone deserves so much recognition, glad you gave her some ‘space’! She’s a gift to literature! kudos for giving her props 🙂

    • May 22, 2012 at 5:55 pm

      The pleasure was all mine, Roxie. The world is a changing–no matter how much many folks deny it.


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