Alright, so we had to cheat a bit with the whole letter “X” thing but trust me, this author is worthy of rule-bending. If you haven’t read anything by Francisco X. Stork, then let me implore you to read my favorite book (so far) of his called Marcelo in the Real World. It’s the story of a young man on the autism spectrum who works in the mail room for a summer at his father’s law firm in order to gain “real world” experience and not only does this experience change his life, but it changes the lives of all involved.
As is the case with all my favorite books, Marcelo in the Real World isn’t just about one thing, it’s about the many threads that weave together to make a life. Yes, it’s a coming-of-age story told from a unique viewpoint but it’s also about the cost of doing the right thing, the shortcomings of our legal system, the differences between faith and religion and how a deep connection to music can shape a life. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But in the hands of a master storyteller, all those pieces fit together in a gorgeous, seamless way that makes you feel like a better person for reading it. And what Marcelo discovers is that it is in the asking of the big, difficult questions that we find our humanity:
“For all the pain I saw at Paterson, it is nothing compared to the pain that people inflict upon each other in the real world. All I can think of now is that is is not right for me to be unaware of that pain, including the pain that I inflict on others. Only how is it possible to live without being either numb to it or overwhelmed by it?”
Just like in the lives of the teens we serve, there are no easy answers and there are hard lessons to be learned. But there is also love and humor and the joy of finding your place in the world. And for me, books like Marcelo in the Real World are the kind that stick with me and I find myself recommending again and again because they speak powerfully about what connects us as human beings, no matter the differences.
Francisco Xavier Arguelles was born in 1953 in Monterrey, Mexico. His mother, Ruth Arguelles, was a single woman from a middle-class family in Tampico. Six years later Ruth married Charles Stork, a retired man of Dutch ancestry, who adopted Francisco.When Francisco announced that he wanted to be a writer, Charlie gave him a portable typewriter for his seventh birthday. Two years later, Francisco and his family moved to El Paso, Texas, where he was sent to grammar school to learn English.
As a teenager, Francisco was given a scholarship to the local Jesuit academy and soon rose to the top of his class. Based on his success there, he received an honors scholarship to attend Spring Hill College, a small Jesuit school in Mobile, Alabama. Francisco majored in English literature and philosophy and received the college’s creative writing prize. He was awarded the prestigious Danforth Fellowship to attend graduate school at Harvard University, where he studied Latin American literature with writers like Octavio Paz, the Mexican Nobel Laureate. After four years at Harvard, Francisco went to Columbia Law School, planning to make a living as a lawyer while writing fiction. Twenty years, and twelve or so legal jobs later, he published his first novel for adults, The Way of the Jaguar.
Francisco X. Stork works in Boston as an attorney for a state agency that develops affordable housing. He is married and has two adult children.
The Way of the Jaguar (2000)
Behind the Eyes (2006)
Marcelo in the Real World (2009)
The Last Summer of the Death Warriors (2010)
What You Wish For: Stories and Poems for Dafur (2011)
Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes (2012)
Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices (2013)
You can find Francisco online at:
If you like Francisco X. Stork’s books, I’d recommend:
Matt de la Pena
Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Meet Our Guest Blogger:
Linda Jerome is the teen librarian at La Crosse Public Library and has been working with teens for the last 13 years of her 24-year library career and still finds teens to be the most fascinating, amusing and delightful group of human beings. When she isn’t reading, she’s watching sports, directing two handbell choirs, working on her family history and hanging out with her two dogs.