For author and Brownsville native Rudy Ruiz, the border continues to be a rich source of inspiration.
Ruiz, who graduated from St. Joseph Academy in 1986 and went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard University, received four Latino Book Awards in 2014 for his short story collection “Seven for the Revolution,” published in 2013. Last year, Ruiz was awarded the Gulf Coast Prize in Fiction for his Brownsville-based short story “That Boy Could Run.”
Most recently, his short story “Vexing Gifts,” about a Latino family trying to survive in the shadow of the border wall, appeared in the Notre Dame Review, the literary magazine of the University of Notre Dame. On top of that, Ruiz has signed a multi-book deal with Blackstone Publishing, which acquired the rights to Ruiz’s magical-realism debut, “The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez.”
The novel chronicles the life of a mercurial immigrant hero battling a family curse while searching for success in the United States and struggling to win the love of an American woman. Through the course of the narrative, the book explores themes of acculturation and race as well as the power of physical and spiritual borders to divide and heal.
Ruiz said both novels Blackstone picked up are complete, though he spent a number of years on them.
“’The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez,’” I started working on that novel 20 years ago, he said. “I’ve been trying to get it published for a long time. I was always editing and rewriting, adding new dimensions to it. Finally the timing was right and the story was ready.”
Rick Bleiweiss, Blackstone’s head of new business development, said the publishing company was thrilled to acquire the novel, calling Ruiz an exceptional author with a unique voice, whose work Bleiweiss predicted “will have international appeal and gain a devoted following.”
Ruiz, who always dreamed of being a writer and studied creative writing and literature at Harvard while earning degrees in government and public policy, settled in San Antonio in the mid-1990s, and works as president and CEO of Interlex Communications Inc. Still, the border continues to fuel his writing. Ruiz said he draws on his experiences growing up on the border, on the stories his father told about working hard to be the first college graduate in the family in the 1950s, and even his grandmother’s stories of the Mexican Revolution.
Writing fiction combines his disparate passions and makes it possible to produce political critique through the lens of magical realism, he said.
“Literature has the power to make a point, to change how people look at issues and see each other,” Ruiz said.
He feels his border stories are particularly relevant given the current political climate in the United States, he said.
“The border that I grew up in, the priority was building bridges. Today it’s building walls,” Ruiz said. “It’s a frightening time really for a lot of immigrants and their descendants, because the debate about the border and immigration has shifted. A decade ago it was about comprehensive immigration reform. Today it’s about turning refugees away before they even reach the river. You can see how the debate has been reframed. It’s quite disheartening.”