Jesusita: Ronald Ruiz
Sometimes parents need to survive in ways that will often take their toll on not only themselves as a parent but their children too. As you meet Jesusita an immigrant born to poverty and despair her mode for survival and dealing with her four children would appear far from loving, nurturing and at times abusive. Tough as nails and bartering to live in a garage hoping that the ninety dollars she paid in advance would bring them some safety and comfort the woman she rented from often threatened her, spooked and made it clear that if child welfare services caught wind of how she was raising her children she would lose them and even more. Jesusita was resourceful to a point and left to join others working in the fields picking fruit, or as a cleaning offices at night. Following the crops and hoping for work she would toil in the hot sun with her two oldest children while Paulina the third in line took care of the youngest. But, no one can predict illness or family strive and things did not always pan out for Jesusita and her trust of others was non existent as we get to know her more and realize that she often took out her frustrations on her children in the most violent ways even justifying in her own mind that “She did nothing wrong.”
Next we meet a young girl named Angie whose mother spent many Saturdays on her back entertaining different men and sending her and her brother to the movies until they were told to return. But, Angie is naïve and fell prey to many men that entered the theater, offered her money on the spot to do things to them and them to her in order to make them feel better and give her some extra money. Week after week she would wait for this man to enter the theater and she would service him until one day he did not come back. As Angie got older she realized that she could profit greatly from allowing men to do things to her and she could have extra cash until her brother finds out and threatens to tell on her if she does not share her wealth. But, this does not stop her as she meets another man and from then on she just might service many more.
Osvaldo Montes is a young man from a wealthy family that cannot understand why there are so many people who are poor and without food. Trying to escape his home by leaving without the protection of his drivers and bodyguards he makes a rash decision and takes vows as a priest. But, his journey is hard and the Bishop and those in charge distrust him, as he is not forthcoming with his background, name or past. But, paths converge and when Jesusita meets a woman that encourages her to go on Pilgrimage and find God things change for Padres Montes and Jesusita. Throughout the first chapters we see the end result of her wrath, the toll is takes on her but even more on Paulina who feels nothing but hate for her mother and the rest fear her. Not thinking anything wrong with how she is treating and bringing up her children she and the Padre confess their own sins in a different way and come to some type of understanding that just might help them both. He is distant from his parish and not until he meets and talks with Jesusita does he open up about his life, family, parents and more. But, she lives with a woman named Juanita and everyone becomes suspicious of her when she and the Padre are seen together leaving the church talking openly and freely. Prejudice, acceptance, poverty, strife, fear, hate and family discord fill the pages of this unsettling and compelling novel of survival and hope. Author Ronald Ruiz takes readers inside the minds of these immigrants as they fight each and every hour of every day just to stay alive. Living in Fresno after WWII is a difficult time for not only Jesusita but other immigrants too. Within the holy house of St. Teresa’s Catholic Church the Padre hides from himself and others until the light begins to shine and he lifts the veil of darkness that has hidden him from others and remained in his path.
Angie becomes involved with young Filipino men or laborers and is warned by her mother to stay away from them for they only want one thing. They are not allowed to go near white women but Angie thinks she is smart, the daughter of an illiterate and unmarried mother, learns early on how to make money the old fashioned way.
And Felix, abandoned by his mother and separated from his only brother, is placed in a foster home on an isolated ranch. The interrelated lives of these people provide a complex, sometimes violent, and often tragic image of American poverty within the nation’s postwar boom. Life for Felix is not easy, as the wife of the man who hired him does not want him in her house or near her children. A good worker and not showing any reason for her feelings she claims he looks dangerous and evil.
Jesusita is hard, cold and cruel to her children and never once shows any feelings or compassion for them. Never hesitating to punish them and hide what she’s done it’s not surprising that Paulina looks at her with hate in her eyes and the others with fear. Often not eating, poorly groomed and having little clothing these children suffer from both mental and physical abuse from a mother that is anything but a mother and does not deserve the respect she thinks she is owed. But, thinks change as she goes to mass and is befriended by Padres Montes and all of a sudden things fall into place but in an odd way. When the congregation accuses her of having an affair with the priest he manages to turn it around in her favor. Treating her as a saint, giving her many more responsibilities and more respect at work, she thinks things are looking up but an incident would change it all and her true colors will come out. A trip to the lake proves fatal for one of her children so how can she convince everyone she did not cause the death of her child. Lying, feigning illness, threatening her other children and pretending to be distraught and sick, everyone falls prey to her lies and deceits except a few. When questioned by the police she outright lies and the know it. When her son is questioned why does he lie for her? When things fall apart and she goes into what some might say is a catatonic state, her children realize she is a danger to them and what happens next will make readers want to stand up and applaud their tenacity and guts to finally break free of this horrific person.
Why does the Padres believe in her so much? What is the hold she has on him? Betrayals, lies, a community that despises her, a job that she has somewhat lost and a woman pretending to be so distraught, sick and unhappy that some believe her while others wonder more. When the police search her home and want to know what happened to her other three children it takes time to finally reveal the truth.
Jesusita: Does she deserve redemption, forgiveness or the hate and distrust that so many feel for her? Why didn’t her children stand up to her before and report what she was doing? But, things spiral out of control and she hides in her home, behind herself and often justifies her actions thinking that her devotion to God might redeem her ways. Then, her children finally escape her and things within the community settle down so why do the Welfare service want to place three children with her? Why trust her with the lives of anyone? Meeting the children she takes a dislike to Fifi thinking she reminds her of Paulina. The first day she tries but the children are weary of her and Fifi has a problem that is quite unique as she is trying to remove the needles from the cactus plant to prevent them from stinging her. Three children that were placed in her home but why? What happens when one decides to scream or speak out against her? What happens when the sheriff and the police show up when Fifi does not attend school and claims she did not allow her to go? Brothers and sisters banning together. Lies told all around.
While Jesusita tries to justify her actions and the Padres condones her every move, someone shows up that will change it all as two worlds collide. A mother that wears a fur coat all the time and whose life is spent having sex with men for money. Is she the right person to bring up these three children? When a neighbor warns Jesusita about this why does she start to rant and rave discounting her neighbors words? An ending that proves that sometimes you get what you deserve and much more with a slight twist you won’t see coming as Jesusita finds herself on the receiving end for the first time.
A story about acceptance, love, racial discrimination, hate, revenge, understanding, hope, caring, forgiveness, redemption and abuse. Author Ronald Ruiz takes readers inside the lives of many Mexican and Filipino immigrants at a time when the world looked down at them, as some even do now. Day laborers hoping to make money to care for their families any way they could. One woman that thought that God and her devotion would absolve her sins and her actions. Jesusita: guilty or innocent you decide when you read this thought provoking book.