First Place - Patricia Santana

The Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility

ìMotorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility succeeds on many levels, one of which is a captivating portrayal of Mexican American family life.  Set in 1969 when young Chicanos were returning from Vietnam, the novel is challenging, warm, provocative, often humorous, always engaging.

The heart of the novel explores the relationship between Yoli, the younger sister, and Chuy, her brother who has returned from Vietnam.  The novel traces Yoliís rites of passage through a series of initiations that lead her from the innocence of childhood into a deeper, more serious understanding of her complex world.  In the end she becomes the curandera, the healer, the mother who can rescue Chuy from his tormented, post-Nam mental breakdown.

On a deeper scope, the novel explores a societal loss of innocence.  Chuy loses his innocence and soul in the killing fields; he lives in horror until he can find a way to return to the circle of the family.  The family, too, loses some of its innocence as Yoliís brothers and sisters move away from the center, seeking  paths in a wider world.  La familia, the center of Mexicano culture also changes as its traditional values are questioned.

An observant, first person narration allows the reader a view into wonderful family scenes which are a major part of the novel.  Few Chicana/o novels have attempted a presentation of so many varied characters.  In penetrating sketches we get to know Yoliís parents, brothers and sisters, barrio characters, and school friends.  Revelation of character in these scenes lends strength and reality to the novel.

Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility is also about freedom, the freedom Yoli seeks for herself and for Chuy.  A novel should also change and broaden the perspective of the reader.  Yoliís story does that.  It carries us into a deeper understanding and acceptance of the changes set in motion within the Chicano community of the 1960ís, and the ripples those changes created.î

 - Rudolfo Anaya (25th Anniversary Prize Judge)