Marco A. Vásquez. Steven Isn't Normal. ISBN: 13: 978-1-888205-51-0 $22.95.
Steven isn’t normal. But, then again, nobody is. Still, ask anyone, and they’d tell you that Steven is retarded—because he is. Steven is a retard by definition and by practice. Mostly, he is a retard by circumstance. It’s an epithet given to Steven by his community: his neighbors, his peers, his family. It is a title that has been embedded in his psyche—a designation that has dictated his absurd existence. This absurdity is exemplified by his determination to fulfill his quest: the killing of his mother. Steven is convinced that his mother is plotting the elimination of the one thing that Steven holds dear: his bottle collection—the hundreds of bottles, from which he has meticulously removed the labels—which he has perfectly sorted and aligned against a secluded wall near the railroad tracks. On his journey, Steven’s chaotic family history is revealed, as Steven encounters an array of grotesque characters that, in their efforts to reinforce the label that burdens Steven, they exhibit their own retardation that has been, until then, successfully camouflaged and ignored by their own complacency.
Marco A. Vásquez' writing is always authentic, fresh, and steeped in pathos. It never fails to surprise with its insights into the darkest and most humorous moments of ordinary people . . . He's one of my favorite writers.
—John D. Payne, Professor of English
Only a born poet could do what Marco A. Vásquez has done with Steven Isn't Normal. This novel is as much about voice and what a master can do with language as it is about his fascinating story and characters. His work sings like Gwendolyn Brooks' fiction, but it is rooted in the complex and ominous world of Steven's East Los Angeles.
—John Brantingham, author of The Greens of Sunset and Let Us All Pray Now to Our Own Strange Gods.
Marco A. Vásquez, a cross between William Faulkner and Stephen King and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, has spun a fabulous, sometimes freaky yarn full of lurid drama, violence, and sex. In this evocative, sock-it-to-you, no-holds-barred Los Angeles "Barrio Gothic," the young, talented author has masterfully plotted a novel written with powerfully placed prose about another world of modern, previously untold sounds and furies that will shock and rock your soul and chill and roll your bones.
—Joan Jobe Smith, founding Editor of PEARL and Bukowski Review; author of Charles Bukowski: Epic Glottis: His Art & His Women and Tales of An Ancient GoGo Girl
Marco A. Vásquez’s first novel Steven Isn’t Normal is a bit poignant, a bit macabre, a bit absurd, a bit abnormal. It is one man-boy’s quest to find the line of social acceptability in a world that is far from normal; it’s a bit of an underrepresented sub-culture of “Americana”—more like a crumb than a bit, but when you taste it you will want it all.
—Timothy Matthew Perez, Author of The Savagery of Bone
Marco A. Vásquez has taken on a subject that demands knowledge, sensitivity, intelligence, narrative and stylistic skills, and versatility. Marco was amply prepared by personality and education for this venture, and the result is a complex and compassionate tale of the highest order, deserving of a broad and sophisticated readership. It is an accomplishment of an award-winning excellence.
—Gerald Locklin, Professor Emeritus of English, Author of A Simpler Time, A Simpler Place
Steven Meresko, the main character of Marco A. Vásquez’s novel, is strange and funny and sad all at the same time, much like those characters in Being There and Bless Me Ultima. Vásquez has written a novel in clear and vivid prose, an entertaining story about a curious and individual Chicano boy and his dysfunctional family, who live in the same, very recognizable side of town where we all live. It is a very enjoyable journey.
—Rafael Zepeda, the author of Desperados and Tao Driver and Selected Poems, is a professor at California State University, Long Beach.
Marco A. Vásquez presents us with a riveting narrative of barrio life, social conditions, and conflict. Steven, the protagonist, does not appear normal or rational, but then the characters that surround Steven’s life seem equally challenged and defy then the definition of normality. The account of normality articulated in this compelling narrative is flouted by the ways in which being normal is carried out by the other participants in this barrio story. Vásquez leads us to conclude that the negotiation of normality is a precarious route for a social group in a barrio setting. Articulations of a yearning to be normal are replete with tensions; there are expressions of resistance, resignation, violence, and culture. Despite claims by some contemporary social theorists that diversity is the new normality, the accepted constraints of variance are limited for those who have been segregated for a lifetime in a barrio.
—Roberto Cabello-Argandoña, Editor. LatinoBooks.Net
Marco A. Vásquez received his MFA in Creative Writing at California State University, Long Beach. He is the author of Standing at the Corner of Trouble and Sacrifice, Tripping Over My Machismo, East L. Alien, and As We Go Along, which was edited by Gary Soto as part of his Chicano Chapbook Series. He is a Pushcart Prize nominated author whose work has been featured in magazines throughout the country. He lives in Southern California with his wife and two boys.