I started working on Amigoland in 2002, basically right before Brownsville came out. I had the the seed of the idea, but I had no real idea of how to make this seed into an actual book, into an actual narrative that I could sustain for more than five pages and eventually make it into a 300-plus-page book. And so it took me a while to sort of understand the story I wanted to tell and understand how to tell that particular story.
The story, its sort of genesis, is in actuality a family legend, and the legend has to do with how my great-great-great-grandfather came to the United States and, at one time, had been in Texas and had just come to the United States, and the story was that he had been kidnapped in Northern Mexico by Indians and brought across the border and left in the United States. I grew up hearing this story. I mean, it’s probably one of the first stories I ever heard.
This was a story that my uncle would repeat pretty often, but along with hearing the story, I would hear my father, sitting across the room, saying, “Don’t believe a word your uncle just said,” and this was an ongoing argument between the two of them so I never knew who to believe. And when I asked my father, “Well, how did we get here?” all he’d say was, “Well, not that way.” So I didn’t have another narrative or legend to go by. So I think on some level, a part of me wanted to figure out that story, at least in my own mind. I wanted to sort of understand what that was about.
The deeper I got into writing the book that would actually become Amigoland, the more I was intrigued not as much with the original legend as much as I was with the argument between these two brothers and what that revealed about them and their relationship. So that actual seed, the original seed becomes the story within the story for the novel.
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