"Strength and Grace"

WINNER - honorable mention Best Fiction Novels of 2015! Southern California Book Festival
WINNER - honorable mention Best Fiction Novels of 2015! Great Midwest Book Festival

Tambien en Espanol

Genre: Female empowerment, Cultural, Youth (coming of age), Epic Adventure
Word Count: 62,120

This is the story of a young Mexican woman who stumbles into becoming a bullfighter. She so excels that she becomes a great Matador. The catch is all but a few think she is a man. It is a story of female empowerment within the Mexican male culture of the bullfight. There are also coming of age aspects to the story as the reader follows her growth from being a fifteen year old tomboy to a twenty-five year old woman who spends the majority of her time being a man. This duality creates gender identity issues that she must face along with all the dangers of her profession and the tension of her masquerade.

Reader comments:

Strength and Grace
"I remember when this bar was always full for a bullfight," recalled the Mexican bar proprietor. "Nowadays the young people are too busy chasing after each other to sit with the members of their village and enjoy the greatest spectacle of our country."

"Young people today do not understand the honor and pageantry of the matador and his company,” commented a gruff bearded patron. “Like those gringos to the north our young see the bullfight as just an event where an animal is slaughtered.”

Stiffening his head and torso, the man next to him declared, "to be a Mexican and to not understand the bullfight is to not understand what it is to be a man."

Above the bar an old black and white TV was spewing out a somewhat fuzzy broadcast of the bullfight, La Corrida, El Toreo.

There were moments in the bullfight that inspired praise from this knowledgeable group of aficionados, but their praise for the bullfighters, los toreros, was not given easily and their disgust for lazy technique and lost tradition approached violence. Today's fiesta was televised from Tijuana where many traditions had disappeared, giving the bar's patrons much to discuss.

"I cannot understand how they can disregard such traditions as the awarding of the ears and the tail." complained a patron shaking his head slowly back and forth.

"Today's toreros are just athletes like baseball or football players."

"It makes me sick, without the art and pageantry the bullfight is just a vulgar exposition."

"It won't be long before they won't allow the bull to be killed," remarked his bearded friend as he cleared his throat and nose and spat onto the dusty floor.

The neighbor held up his shot glass for a refill and added, "that's when we will know that there are no longer any men in Mexico! That's when we will know that all male Mexicans have been conquered by Norte Americano ideals and feminine skirts."

“Yeah, at this rate they will do away with the horses, and the picadors will soon be scantly dressed women.” They all chuckled at the idea of women being in the macho land of the bullring.

The chubby patron next to him added, “Coming soon to Las Vegas, topless women picadors riding burros!” This jest raised the level of chuckles to laughter.

His buddy continued, “and the matador will be in body armor!” This barb generated some more laughter.
“Yeah they might as well turn it into a freak show comedy!”

"Seriously, the young bullfighters are so sloppy in their technique and approach to the bull. They see too many meager bulls."

"The bull is so worn out by the time the matador presents himself, the battle is over."

Sitting at a table in the corner of the bar was a scruffy old man, appearing to be alone. He quietly listened to everything the others had to say. But he remained silent.

As the bar stool patrons continued their discussion with comments like, "there will never be artists like Garcia and Anuza."

The old man spoke, “excuse me gentlemen, señores.”

Once he believed he had some of their attention, he stated, “you might want to keep an eye on the next aspiring matador.”

Some of the bar group turned their heads towards the disheveled old man.

“Why is that, old man,” asked the proprietor.

"Open your eyes and witness a future great matador of Mexico.”

“What makes him so special.”

After a little chuckle to himself he continued, “this torero reacts neither out of fear nor glory. This bullfighter understands the bull, the very soul of the animal. This matador knows not only athletic prowess, but also artistic grace and acceptance."

"I think you're a little whacked in the head, a little loco, old man,” this from the bearded patron. “None of these kids understand tradition. None of them understand the pageantry that is the very existence of our culture. Does he understand the honor and machismo which is the Latino male?"

The old man began to chuckle again to himself, he tried to speak but he started choking as he tried to control a perverse type of laughter. Just as he was about to lose their attention he spoke, "Gentlemen, this bullfighter knows more about tradition, machismo, and honor than any of us ever will. Tradition can be blind to progress. Tradition can become fetish doctrine used to suppress initiative and honor. Those who know the most about tradition are those who have been prejudged by it."

With this overly indulgent commentary, the perplexed patrons laughed off the old man. “I think you've had a few too many you old crazy goat.” They then returned to an appraisal of Garcia and Anuza and what made them such great matadors.