Plascencia’s The People of Paper

Salvador Plascencia was born in 1976 in Guadalajara, Mexico. Plascencia’s father was a factory worker who moved frequently between California and their home in Jalisco. Plascencia tells that he grew up at his grandparents’ farm, where his extended family passed along some oral stories which formed the inspiration for his novel The People of Paper. His family eventually settled east of Los Angeles in the city of El Monte when Plascencia was 8 years old and at that time, he spoke no English.

He received the National Foundation for Advancement of the Arts Award in Fiction in 1996 and the Peter Nagoe Prize for Fiction in 2000. In 2001 he was awarded the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, becoming its first fellow in fiction. The People of Paper is Plascencia’s first novel.

In the novel, Plascencia’s characters feel the presence of their god, represented in the text as Saturn. While Saturn controls their world, characters blame him for their fate. A group of migrant farmers, led by Frederico de la Fey begins the war on omniscient narration. They refuse the commodification of their sadness. As this ‘war’ continues, Saturn’s world begins to mirror theirs, to intertwine with it, as the sky begins to literally crack and falls to the ground. The more control Saturn loses, the more rebellious his characters become. At this point, the reader thinks if the narrator has control over the story or his characters are taking his power away by controlling their fate.

As the characters’ fight against Saturn-As-god, the cause of all their pain and suffering, represents their battles with the loss of true love and the ephemeral happiness which appears to be made of paper dissolving in the rain. By recounting multiple stories of Mexican migrants in the U.S.A, Plascencia turns this quest of healing into a world that neither loses its sense of reality nor seems entirely like our own.

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