Authors: Rolando Hinojosa

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist

Identity: Mexican American

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Estampas del valle, y otras obras/Sketches of the Valley, and Other Works, 1973 (English revision, The Valley, 1983)

Klail City y sus alrededores, 1976 (Klail City: ANovel, 1987)

Mi querido Rafa, 1981 (Dear Rafe, 1985)

Rites andWitnesses, 1982

Partners in Crime: A Rafe Buenrostro Mystery, 1985

Claros varones de Belken, 1986 (Fair Gentlemen of Belken Country, 1986)

Becky and Her Friends, 1990

The Useless Servants, 1993

Ask a Policeman, 1998


Korean Love Songs from Klail City Death Trip, 1978 (printed 1980, includes some prose)

Edited Text:

Tomás Rivera, 1935-1984: The Man and His Work, 1988 (with Gary D. Keller and Vernon E. Lattin)


Generaciones, Notas, y Brechas/Generations, Notes, and Trails, 1978

Agricultural Workers of the Rio Grande and Rio Bravo Valleys, 1984


Rolando Hinojosa (ee-noh-HOH-sah) views his various works as a single, ongoing novel. Entitled The Klail City Death Trip, this collective novel is still incomplete, although it constitutes a substantial body of writing: more than half a dozen works of prose fiction as well as Korean Love Songs from Klail City Death Trip, a work that intermixes prose and poetry. Each component of the collective work, excepting the mixed-genre work, is set in the area just north of the Mexican border in south Texas that is called “The Valley.” Korean Love Songs from Klail City Death Trip, although much of it is set in Korea during the 1950’s, focuses on military personnel conscripted from “The Valley,” as does The Useless Servants.{$I[AN]9810001857}{$I[A]Hinojosa, Rolando}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Hinojosa, Rolando}{$I[geo]LATINO;Hinojosa, Rolando}{$I[tim]1929;Hinojosa, Rolando}

Rolando Hinojosa

(Courtesy, University of Texas at Austin)

Rolando was the youngest of the five children of Carrie Smith and Manuel Guzmán Hinojosa. The family became U.S. citizens in the 1840’s when a new boundary line between Mexico and the United States fell three miles south of where Manuel’s family had lived for more than a century. Carrie Smith had arrived in the Valley when she was six months old and her father, a Union soldier during the Civil War, moved to the area around Mercedes.

Rolando was born in that area. Hinojosa’s mother, a schoolteacher who had been raised in a completely bilingual and bicultural environment, had a deep respect for Mexican culture. Both she and her husband, Manuel, insisted that their son attend private, Spanish-language schools so that he would develop an interest and pride in his Hispanic culture. Rolando thus absorbed the folklore and lifestyles of the Mexican Americans in the area, accumulating the store of detail that would later color his prose fiction.

As a young man, Hinojosa was too close to his materials to realize their literary potential. During two years in the army, from 1946 to 1948, he distanced himself somewhat from the Valley, but it was not until 1951, when he was called back to serve in Korea, that he began to have a real sense of what he must write.

After his Korean service he resumed his interrupted studies at the University of Texas at Austin and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1953. For a time Hinojosa returned to the Valley as a teacher. He then went on to earn a master’s degree and finally a doctorate in Spanish from the University of Illinois. In 1970 he began teaching in San Antonio’s Trinity University. There he met Tomás Rivera, who encouraged his writing. Upon Rivera’s urging, Hinojosa submitted his Estampas del valle, y otras obras/ Sketches of the Valley, and Other Works to Quinto Sol Publications, who published it and named it recipient of their prize for fiction in 1972.

As in most of Hinojosa’s writing, this initial publication contains disparate sketches of life in and around Mercedes. Some of the tales contradict others in the collection, but Hinojosa is undisturbed by this, contending that it is because he is offering different points of view that some of his characters contradict others. Such, he contends, is the nature of life.

Hinojosa chooses to write sometimes in Spanish, sometimes in English, and sometimes in both languages. Estampas del valley, y otras obras and Klail City y sus alrededores were both written in Spanish and translated into English by others. Hinojosa wrote Korean Love Songs in English, because it was about Americans in Asia, but he wrote Mi querido Rafa, set in south Texas, first in Spanish and only then translated it into English.

Perhaps the most typical of Hinojosa’s books is Becky and Her Friends. Many characters from earlier books reappear in this novel, which is essentially a collection of sketches and fragmented reminiscences about Becky, the wife of Jehu Malacara, from twenty-seven people who have known her in various contexts. By presenting Becky in this way, Hinojosa also reveals a great deal about the people discussing her. What emerges from this brief novel, as from much of his other fiction, is a composite picture of the social structure of the Valley.

BibliographyCalderón, Héctor. “Texas Border Literature: Cultural Transformation and Historical Reflection in the Works of Américo Paredes, Rolando Hinojosa, and Gloria Anzaldua.” Disposito 16, no. 41 (1991): 13-27.Hepworth, Candida. “Chicano/a Fiction.” In Beginning Ethnic American Literature, edited by Maria Lauret. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 2001. Offers a detailed reading of Hinojosa’s The Valley, which includes Rafe Buenrostro’s childhood memories. Indexed.Hernández, Guillermo E. Chicano Satire: A Study in Literary Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991. Hernández argues that Hinojosa’s narrative fragments preserve cultural history and interconnect in ways that sustain a people’s identity. Indexed.Jussawalla, Feroza, and Reed Way Dusenbrock, eds. Interviews with Writers of the Post-Colonial World. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi Press, 1992. Focuses on why Hinojosa’s books include two languages.Lee, Joyce Glover. Rolando Hinojosa and the American Dream. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1999. A good book-length work in English on Hinojosa’s works. Attempts to bring a biographical and psychological analysis to the Klail City Death Trip series.Márquez, Antonio C. “Faulkner in Latin America.” Faulkner Journal 2 (1995-1996): 83-100. Identifies Hinojosa’s attraction to Faulkner’s narrative method as suitable to document the struggle for human dignity in a world of suffering.Penzenstadler, Joan. “La frontera, Aztlán, el barrio: Frontiers in Chicano Literature.” In The Frontier Experience and the American Dream, edited by David Mogen, Mark Busby, and Paul Bryant. College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1989.Saldívar, José David, ed. The Rolando Hinojosa Reader: Essays Historical and Critical. Houston: Arte Publico Press, 1985. This work contains essays by Hinojosa and by a small number of scholars treating Hinojosa’s works. Shows how early scholars analyzed The Klail City Death Trip series.Saldívar, José David. The Dialetics of Our America: Genealogy, Cultural Critique, and Literary History. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1991. Observes how Hinojosa’s writings confront and revise the self-image of Americans and their idea of a literary canon. Indexed.Saldívar, Ramón. Chicano Narrative: The Dialectics of Difference. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990. One of the most important works of Chicano literary criticism, this book contains a chapter treating Korean Love Songs from Klail City Death Trip and The Klail City Death Trip series. Saldivar’s analysis covers many of the most significant Chicano literary texts.Zilles, Klaus. Rolando Hinojosa: A Reader’s Guide. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2001. Emphasizes the importance of oral tradition and Mexican American history in Hinojosa’s representation of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Indexed.
Categories: Authors