It is a cultural and stylistic shock to the short stories of Luis Alberto Urrea after reading Penelope Lively’s short stories. “The Water Museum” as in most short story anthologies republish stories originally published in literary journals and in this case from an earlier anthology of Mr. Urrea “Six Kinds of Sky”. Two are original stories: “The Sous Chefs of Iogua” and “A Visit to the Water Museum”. The former is an immigration story told from the perspective of an Iowa farmer who has watched his migrant hands move up the economic ladder by opening restaurants in their small town and not succeeding in the Americanization of foreign cuisines. Iogua is their mispronunciation of Iowa.
“A Visit to the Water Museum” is a coming of age story during a sustained drought. A number of stories plow sexual innocence, even in a moderately tough Chicano neighborhood. “Amapola” is the most gripping story. Trying to make the young daughter of a drug kingpin is not a healthy adventure.
These stories are about characters and are mostly told through dialogue. Mostly it is the Chicano experience in the Southwest and Midwest United States on the lower economic level. There are a couple of stories that fit within the magical realism genre.
Only one story came up short, but as it was only about five pages, it was a filler.
A Pulitzer Prize finalist, Mr. Urrea can write. It is a good collection of stories.