Buried Onions
Buried Onions

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Annotation: When nineteen-year-old Eddie drops out of college, he struggles to find a place for himself as a Mexican American living in a violence-infested neighborhood of Fresno, California.
Catalog Number: #41857
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
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Publisher: Harcourt
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition Date: 2006
Pages: 149 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-15-206265-3 Perma-Bound: 0-605-47127-4
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-15-206265-1 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-47127-6
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 98053886
Dimensions: 18 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Soto's clear, finely honed poet's voice shines in this tale of barrio life in Fresno, California. Nineteen-year-old Eddie has dropped out of junior college and is attempting to support himself through the occasional gardening job and painting curbside numbers in the wealthier parts of town. However, he's relentlessly followed by the unbearable heat of the Central Valley summer and a wholly believable run of bad luck: his cousin is killed, his employer's truck is stolen, and his buddy is stabbed right in front of him. On top of that, his aunt urges him to avenge his cousin's murder. The broad and easy humor of Crazy Weekend (1994) is lacking here, but Eddie's wry observations in the face of his many predicaments provide welcome relief. Although the coach at the neighborhood playground offers Eddie material assistance and moral support, there is no upbeat ending. The buried onions, which Eddie imagines as the underground source for the world's tears, pervade the tone and plot, but the unvarnished depiction of depressed and depressing barrio life is as important as the positive images of Latinos Soto has created in his other works.
Horn Book
In a somber book, Soto writes of the inexorable no-exit circumscription of life in the Fresno barrio. Nineteen-year-old Eddie's cousin has been murdered, and several people want Eddie to find the killer and take revenge. All Eddie wants is a future, and from the daringly ambiguous final scene, we don't even know what he finally chooses. We talk a lot about the need for more 'boys' books'; here is one for young men.
Kirkus Reviews
Eddie, a young Mexican-American scraping by in the mean streets of Fresno, California, counts four dead relatives and one dead friend in the opening, in-your-face lines of this new novel from Soto (Snapshots from the Wedding, p. 228, etc.). In bleak sentences of whispered beauty, Eddie tells how he dropped out of vocational college and is attempting to get by with odd jobs. His aunt and friends want him to avenge the recent murder of his cousin, but Eddie just wants to find a way out. Everything he tries turns soura stint doing yard work ends when his boss's truck is stolen on Eddie's watchand life is a daily battle for survival. This unrelenting portrait is unsparing in squalid details: The glue sniffers, gangs, bums, casual knifings, filth, and stench are in the forefront of a life without much hope``Laundry wept from the lines, the faded flags of poor, ignorant, unemployable people.'' Soto plays the tale straightthe only sign of a ``happy'' ending is in Eddie's joining the Navy. The result is a sort of Fresno Salaam Bombay without the pockets of humanity that gave the original its charm. A valuable tale, it's one that makes no concessions. (glossary) (Fiction. 12-14)"
Publishers Weekly
This bleak, claustrophobic novel perfectly captures the cyclical despair of Eddie, a 19-year-old Hispanic teen in depressed Fresno, Calif. Every time he tries to improve his life--painting house numbers on curbs on the rich side of town, planting trees or doing odd jobs--his efforts are crushed. His employer's truck is stolen, his friend is stabbed to death and his aunt is encouraging him to seek revenge on the killer of his cousin. Soto, who often mixes humor with his vivid and tattered Fresno settings, leaves this bitter street tale unsweetened to the end. Though the """"buried onions"""" analogy of the title is a tad overworked--Eddie imagines a giant onion buried underground, causing everyone's tears--the sorrow it yields reverberates. Soto gives the reader no place to hide from Eddie's life: """"I felt like crying. I sat on the steps for a few moments. My eyes were raw, my soul trampled by bad luck and bad luck's brother, hard times."""" Although it's a realistic antidote to simplistic advice that tells kids to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, the novel offers little hope and may shake up young teens who haven't yet had to venture past the curbs of their own suburban neighborhoods. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7--In southern Missouri in 1937, Rass Whitley, 12, is frustrated by his stern father's injustices. For solace he visits with kindly Mr. McMulty, a black sharecropper who helps the boy appreciate the strong bonds within his imperfect family. When a drainage dike gives way and sweeps a huge wall of water upon the Whitleys, Rass ignores his father's order to save the mules and saves his father instead. With the house destroyed and, far worse, no way to plow without mules, the family is reduced to sharecropper status and little hope. Their landlord orders Mr. McMulty to vacate his house for the Whitleys and to leave the land he had hoped to buy. When the landlord's prized calf is destroyed, everyone knows McMulty is guilty, but only Rass knows where the wounded man is hiding, and he must decide what to do. Rabe's take on hardscrabble, old-time farming conjures up the era, but the author's efforts to capture speech patterns may prove difficult for less experienced readers. Rass's character seems to belabor the injustice of the times and the plot meanders to fit everything in--Klan cross burning, night riders, tar and feathering. Still, there is a neat depiction of Rass's growing understanding that relationships are complex and puzzling, and the ending is upbeat. Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Cat Running (Delacorte, 1994) is a stronger story about a farm family during the Depression.--Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY
Word Count: 39,728
Reading Level: 5.3
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.3 / points: 6.0 / quiz: 19051 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.9 / points:9.0 / quiz:Q01669
Lexile: 850L
Guided Reading Level: Z+
Fountas & Pinnell: Z+

Eddie's father, two uncles, and best friend are all dead, and it's a struggle for him not to end up the same way. Violence makes Fresno wallow in tears, as if a huge onion were buried beneath the city. Making an effort to walk a straight line despite constant temptations and frustrations, Eddie searches for answers--and discovers that his closest friends may actually be his worst enemies. Includes a reader's guide and a glossary of Spanish words and phrases.

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