Second Place - Francisco X. Stork

The Quest for Amanda

ìThe Quest for Amanda probes the life of a young Chicano climbing the ladder of success in search of the American dream.  Ismael, a barrio boy from El Paso, cuts loose from family and familiar surroundings to attain a law degree in the east.  He is courted by a prestigious law firm then winds up marrying a very aggressive and successful Boston woman.

But Ismael has courted the great white whale, and all is not well for a homeboy seeking the good lie within Brahmin society.  He doesnít know the most intimate rules.  And having a law degree doesnít mean he wonít encounter white society racism.

The novel opens with Ismael in prison.  It is through a series of flashbacks that we learn about Ismaelís past, a past that continues to haunt him.  There is Amanda, the woman who first led him into a love that involved both flesh and soul.  Amanda is a Mexicana who provides deep love, a language and tradition Ismael understands, but one he chooses to leave in search of the bitch goddess of success.  There is a warning here: You canít go home again.

Wonderfully contrived and executed, the narrative reveals Ismaelís path with engrossing intensity.  Part of the strength of the novelís style is the penetrating portrayal of characters.  The prison inmates who share Ismaelís block all evolve as unique characters.  They reveal Ismaelís present circumstances and his eventual path.  The Mexican characters from Ismaelís past serve the same purpose.

The story captures the role of destiny in a manís life.  Ismael didnít accept, or understand, the signs given to him, and so he forsook Amandaís love.  By the time Ismael tries to return home it is too late to return to the life he knew.

On many levels, the novel questions the purpose of life, the purpose of the hunt.  Should one hunt the great white whale, and what are the repercussions?  Can a homeboy who has climbed the ladder of success go home again?

The novel raises serious questions about the assimilation process.  How much of oneís culture can one leave behind and still live a fulfilling life in the mainstream society?  These are questions a culturally diverse society must answer, and one which The Quest for Amanda brings to the forefront in excellent form.î

- Rudolfo Anaya (25th Anniversary Prize Judge)