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Yanez explains personal life in book


Richard Yanez, author of “Cross Over Water,” as he reads his book to CSU-Pueblo students. Photo from Felix Cordova
Rich Yanez, author of “Cross Over Water,” shared his thoughts about his book, on Thursday, Sept. 27, at CSU-Pueblo, as part of the Southern Colorado Reading Series.

The Diversity Resource Center, the SoCo Reading Series and the Department of English and Foreign Languages sponsored this event.

Juan Morales, assistant professor of English and director of creative writing, gave an introduction for the event and read a poem. Rich Yanez dedicated poem to his family, because Yanez explained his family as a hard working family.

Yanez started by introducing himself and transitioned into some details about his life.

“I lived in a brown town, surrounded by brown people, brown food and brown land,” Yanez said. “My family crossed over the border to El Paso and they’ve stayed there ever since.”

For two generations, Yanez’s family has lived in El Paso, Texas, and they have been submerged in Mexican culture. Yanez said that his family might have been on U.S. soil, but their lifestyle was a lot like the lives of those in Mexico.

“We would cross the border on weekends to have a few drinks, because we didn’t need valid identification there,” Yanez said. “But we quickly made our way back.”

Yanez explained that some of his personal experiences were embedded into the story of the characters in his book, and many facts about pop culture were written into the story. His motivation came from the lives of his parents. He heard their stories, saw what they went through and knew he had to write a book with characters similar to them.

Yanez read two portions of the book and gave a brief summary of what the sections were about. The first portion was about how the main character, Raul, was drowning in Mexican-American culture and eventually was drowning in a river.

“The feeling of suffocation reminded him of being home and he wanted to change some things in his life,” Yanez said.

The second portion was about how Raul saw a mural of Cesar Chavez and didn’t know who he was. So, Raul took action and read about Chavez in some encyclopedias at his parent’s house. Yanez explained how this situation opened up Raul to wanting to know more about the world.

Yanez pointed out that his book was written in episodes, like a TV show, and this made the chapters, in the book, seem longer.

Following the reading, Yanez saved some time to answer questions. A member of the audience asked Yanez what he felt Chicanos expected from Chicanos. Yanez started clapping and took a step backwards.

“What do Chicanos expect from Chicanos?” Yanez said. “Chicanos expect too much from Chicanos.”

Yanez explained that he received some bad reviews in Texas, because they expected his book to be more Chicano. Yanez knew some people would feel this way, but he wrote his book for himself.

“One reviewer called my character, Raul, ‘Porky and Dorky,’” Yanez said. “I like that description.”

Yanez made light of the bad reviews, but Yanez explained that the bad reviews came from some people who he had considered friends.

The event ended with a book signing and some refreshments.

For more information about Rich Yanez’s book, visit his website at