For those who enjoy books written by and/or about Latinos, Manuel Ramos’s King of the Chicanos
will be a disappointment. The narrative is bare bones, lacking ambiance and effective detail, written in a lackluster style. At times, the chapters have no apparent relation to each other; one pointless chapter describes an incident involving a UFO sighting.
The author failed to create a single truly compelling and memorable character including Ramon Hidalgo, the titular king. All of the characters are flat and leave the reader wondering what they look like, what their mannerisms might be, what their feelings are. It seems that Ramos didn’t have a clear idea himself about what he wanted to say and doesn’t take his readers seriously. His writing is clumsy and annoying, as in a chapter set in 1964 during a neighborhood meeting with an ambitious politician where Hidalgo anachronistically quotes a Bob Dylan tune which hadn’t yet been released. Particularly amateurish is the way Ramos uses passages of compressed accounting for events which make the book read like a synopsis rather than a full blown novel. Similarly, much unnatural dialogue is obviously used to fill the reader in on information not provided elsewhere.
On a positive note, the Chicano movement is an interesting subject, and to his credit, Ramos provides a helpful bibliography of relevant nonfiction works.
This novel might be used effectively in conjunction with an ESL program, or as part of a YA collection. Otherwise, it is not recommended.