Brave Crossing: the Journey In-Between, by Maria Alvarez Stroud
Historical Fiction, 212 pp.
August 2021, Publisher: Little Creek Press
Reviewed by Keridak Silk, http://keridak.com
An absorbing tale from beginning to end. Brave Crossing begins in 1916. Stroud’s father Ricardo Alvarez stands on the ship’s deck regretting his impetuous decision to leave the Philippines. He is barely able to speak English and has no plan for where to live or what to do once he arrives. Ricardo is fortunate to befriend a Filipino couple on the months long voyage. They invite him to stay with them in Chicago.
Ricardo has an ongoing yearning to go back home. Especially when he is met with frigid Midwest winters and ongoing racial inequality because of his brown skin. Warm clothing gets him through the cold. But it’s his ability to reach out to others and his tenacity that help him persist. His fears, curiosity and determination are what keep this novel fresh.
Letters from family and friends make them feel like our own. Ricardo alters how he responds to each. Understanding what he hides, what he gets off his chest, who he asks advice from and who he shares memories with are part of the rhythm of this story. Gradually daring to ask questions about his buried memories, Ricardo re-discovers his family history and his passion. He frequently flaunts expectations prepared to fail but desiring success and acceptance.
Stroud includes letters to institutions complaining, often demanding, that Ricardo be removed or thought lesser of simply because he wasn’t white. The responses are thought provoking.
Ricardo writes his sister, “Nena, who are these people who think you can treat someone like an animal?” Ricardo also reflects on his own biases. He wonders how often he unknowingly treated people differently. Questions that resonate today.
I enjoyed the historical aspects from Ricardo’s perspective. World War One, Prohibition, the Spanish Flu Pandemic, and the rise of the Klu Klux Klan. Even simple, first-time adventures such as using a phone, riding a train, or tasting German beer.
Bits of Filipino culture, food and language are brought in. One of my favorite quotes is: “Kapag tinapunan ka ng bato, tapunan mo tinapay. If someone throws stones at you throw back bread.” Readers who enjoy discovering another cultural viewpoint will find Brave Crossing fascinating. I did.
His journey takes him from naïve teenager to late twenties. Then we flash to the end of his life answering our questions. Is Ricardo destined to fail or achieve his dreams? Will he ever fit in?
Reviewer Keridak Silk is a Wisconsin/Florida author: A kaleidoscope of magic, myth and reality. Intuitive counselor, tarot reader, and hypnotist, Keridak’s nature makes her a perfect pantser. Stories surprise her as much as they will you. Her fiction and non-fiction cover multiple genres. Discover her published and upcoming creations on her website.
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