Frederick Luis Aldama captures comprehensive Latino experiences in timely new book

Given President Trump's recent executive orders directing construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and barring citizens from seven Muslim countries from admission into the states, this is an apt time for a book exploring the comprehensive experiences of immigrants or descendants of immigrants in America.

“In Long Stories Cut Short: Fictions from the Borderlands,” Frederick Luis Aldama — OSU professor and co-creator of comic expo Sol-Con — presents snapshots of the lives of U.S., Mexican and Central American Latinos. The style is flash fiction, which means no tale is more than 750 words.

“I wanted all the stories to be that way, to really operate through that means of inviting you, the reader, to fill in the rest of the world,” said Aldama, who will launch the book with a reading at the Wexner Center on Thursday, Feb. 9.

Aldama chose the book title to reference story length, but also the greater Latino experience. “Historically, we have not been allowed the full freedom and potential to live the long stories,” said the Mexico native, referencing examples from lack of access to quality education “to incarceration of youngsters for really nothing, to joining gangs to signing loans you didn't understand because your first language isn't English.”

Language is an integral part of the book; there is an English and Spanish version of each story, presented side by side when possible to give the reader a more expansive understanding of what it means to cross borders.

The layers of Latino experience are further deepened with the book's artwork by the Chilean artists of Mapache Studios. “We decided this was not going to be art that illustrates, like you would see in a children's book,” Aldama said. “This was going to be art that is interpreted. They are interpreting my story … distilling it in their minds and reconstructing it from the perspective of two young men in Chile.”

Featuring characters from an infant who can read before she can speak to a dying abuela reviewing her life, the book includes both the positive aspects and “dirty laundry” of Latino communities, Aldama said.

“I create these kind of ethically bankrupted characters as much as I create characters that we love to read,” he said.

And like Latinos in real life, Aldama's characters are “hybrids,” products of their heritage and shaped by — and shaping — U.S. popular culture.

“I want readers to understand that we are a complex, ever-evolving culture,” said Aldama, who recalls running around wearing a Luchador mask and “Superman” cape as a kid. “That we're as mixed up in the mainstream as anybody else, and that we're also transforming that mainstream.”