Ocotillo Dreams



“These simple, direct sentences are like blows to the stomach, blunt and bleak. And poetry? These words metaphors, symbols, and ideals are sprinkled throughout Palacio’s novel like fine chili seasoning; not overpowering, but with just a bit of bite and much love and beauty.” -- Margo Wilson, Southwestern American Literature

Accomplished poet Palacio seamlessly transitions to fiction in her debut novel about identity, stereotypes, and prejudice in a Phoenix suburb. Isola leaves her San Francisco home and university community to claim the house in Chandler, Ariz., she inherited after her mother's death. Palacio's poet's eye reveals a vibrantly painted desert culture of fragile beauty and uncompromising harshness. -- Publishers Weekly

Though the novel patiently traces Isola's great political awakening, its strength is the fearless depiction of the anxiety-inducing sweeps in which "Mexicans are picked out like head lice" and the complex portrayals of the undocumented aliens, who are never characterized as innocent and without flaws.
Palacio makes an effort to look at the sweeps from every angle, including through the business owners whose businesses are punished for "hiring wets. --Rigoberto González, El Paso Times
Also see Small Press Spotlight, Critical Mass, National Book Critics Circle, also by Rigoberto González

Ocotillo Dreams depicts great reversals of fortune, but the novel doesn’t laud anyone’s ledger. Politics relating to U.S. Immigration policy play a prominent part, but Palacio is not didactic or fervently myopic, and she’s not looking for converts. She’s here to tell her randy little yarn, to delineate the contours of characters that are invisible and unsung to most people. In fact, many of Palacio’s characters might not have their papers, or mica, but they are made flesh and bone by Palacio’s stylus. --Yago S. Cura, News Taco

To put a human face on, and show the intricate complexities of, an overly generalized political talking point is no mean feat, and Palacio manages it with grace, style, and utmost care. Ocotillo Dreams is a must-read for anyone truly wishing to gain an inside perspective of immigration and what it means to those on both sides of the border. Here is a case where in fiction, one finds truth. -- Chris Fisher, ForeWord Reviews

Ocotillo Dreams is an evocative and powerful statement about human life and the conditions of imigrantes in the U.S.  Melinda Palacio has created a strong protagonist, Isola, and will no doubt leave an indelible mark on her readers as this book finds its home in the pantheon of Latino literature. Isola unravels her deceased mother’s secrets after she discovers an illegal immigrant living in the house she has inherited.  The challenging world of the tumultuous Chandler INS raid of 1997 is portrayed with compassion and a clear eye.

--Denise Chávez, Novelist and Director of the Border Book Festival

High drama in the desert evokes passion, longings, love, suffering, and yes, ocotillo dreams. The red ocotillo flower, the color of blood, is the image for the illusionary, Doña Marina who has drifted in and out of the life of her daughter, Isola. Melinda Palacio puts us on an incredible journey with Isola, as she uncovers secrets in letters, documents, memories, and men--like Cruz, who hold in part the history of who she is. Facing up to her mother's dedication to Rescate, an underground immigrant network, Isola is faced with the most baffling decision of her life. Unabashed by Arizona Minute Men, border patrol, la migra, and the darkness of those closest to her, Isola forges on to the reality of what it means to embrace Ocotillo Dreams. A must read for those who seek the heart's truth on both sides of the border.

--Stella Pope Duarte, author of If I Die in Juárez and Women Who Live in Coffee Shops and Other Stories.

Ocotillo Dreams is the kind of book you don’t easily forget once you’ve put it down. Melinda Palacio is a writer of grace and wisdom whose prose is seductive, heartfelt, and unflinching. I see only great things in this writer’s future, and so will you once you finish this novel.

--Alex Espinoza, author of Still Water Saints

Though Melinda Palacio's debut novel takes place during the infamous immigration sweeps in Chandler, Arizona, more than a decade ago, her tale could not be more timely.  She has created a powerful protagonist in Isola, the young San Franciscan who inherits her mother's Arizona home only to find an undocumented immigrant living within.  Palacio writes with courage as she confronts  issues of identity, politics and family secrets.  Ocotillo Dreams is a startling, moving and, indeed, necessary novel as our country roils with xenophobia and unfettered disdain for "the other."
-- Daniel A. Olivas, author of Anywhere But L.A.

"Melinda Palacio’s Ocotillo Dreams is a beautiful and powerful novel, and it is a cuento that filled me with sensual knowledge: buried deep within us is a desert we must all cross to discover forgiveness and love, clemencia y amor that becomes all the more potent because of the dreams and stories we share on this journey. Palacio’s words tie us to the earth with a thin, invisible, fragile and needed thread——and I am grateful for the care she has taken to make that thread necessary for our lives."
-- Fred Arroyo, author of The Region of Lost Names