Although Momotombo Press publishes emerging Latino and Latina writers exclusively, From Here You Can Almost See the End of the Desert by Aaron Michael Morales is not solely concerned with issues exclusive to Mexican-Americans; these are, in fact, periphery issues. This three-story collection wrestles with the state of humanity, specifically the impact of masculinity—how it oppresses, harms, and even kills—and the way in which men, women, and children manage, or don’t manage, to cope with its potentially odious nature. Morales’s focus on male brutality suggests a hyper-real presentation of his fictional Tucson. Men may not be, in reality, be as steadily abusive as they are in his writing, but his emphasis on corrupt masculinity gives the reader an obvious issue on which to muse while experiencing the lives of his characters. Undoubtedly, Morales does not mean to suggest that all men are evil; rather, he describes how masculinity causes pain in those who become victims of its misuse. Female and homosexual characters suffer in the looming presence of heterosexual men as they flaunt machismo and maleness as tools of control. However, Morales also displays the way in which children inadvertently learn from overbearing male role models how to misuse their developing masculinity.
In “Flashflood,” the protagonist Rebecca understands how she, and subsequently her son, is damaged by her husband’s sense of ownership and entitlement. He destroys her school books, which ceases her formal education and stifles her development as a person. Rebecca understands that her husband will prevent their infant son from maturing into a sensitive, insightful person. She envisions the aggressive behavior her son will practice as a boy adhering to ignorant ideals about masculinity:
Should I tell our child [. . .] that he will spend the majority of his years fighting and playing tough because that’s what all the boys do [. . .] They find the smallest one and push him and steal his lunch and call him a pussy and his father a chingón and his mother a puta until he runs home crying to her.
Morales uses Rebecca as an example of how women must counterbalance aggressive masculinity, and how doing so often results in a quandary: how can a woman raise sensitive children when the father is aggressive, hindering her ability to nurture? This theme is explored in “Easter Sunday,” which can be interpreted as a “what if” parallel to “Flashflood,” had Rebecca allowed her husband to raise their son
In “Easter Sunday,” women are noticeably absent, excepting the little girl who Davey confronts. The father bullies his son, Davey, into participating in a citywide Easter egg hunt in hopes of finding a “golden egg” worth five hundred dollars—money the father intends to flaunt by paying for prostitutes. Davey’s desire for toys and a bike are irrelevant to his father, as his ability to nurture Davey is nonexistent. Morales does not explicitly state that Davey has learned from his father that women can be overcome with brutish behavior. Rather, he artfully displays this message through Davey’s violent actions toward the little girl who denies him the golden egg she possesses.
Morales understands how violent upbringing manifests itself in violent adult behavior, an issue he explores in “Real Man Stuff.” The teenaged boys and father figure in “Real Man Stuff” abuse Jaime and his boyfriend because of their homosexuality—in this case, Morales replaces the hopeless females of previous stories with a homosexual couple. As in “Flashflood” and “Easter Sunday,” the weak feminine must confront powerful masculine, albeit with substantially different outcomes. This is not a story about defeat, but a story about overcoming pain caused by hate and ignorance.
In From Here You Can Almost See the End of the Desert, Morales not only reveals the struggle of a specific group of minorities, he also explores how masculinity can be used to destroy rather than create, and how the feminine must neutralize harm caused by abusive men. Writing from various perspectives—a woman, a child, a teenager, and a man—Morales dissects masculinity and destruction without blatant didacticism.
About the author:
Lia Siewert attends Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where she is earning an M.A. in literature.