Livin’ the Life Latina

Posted on December 23, 2015


Q&A with Robert Joe Stout

Robert Joe Stout’s books include Hidden Dangers, an examination of Mexico-U.S. relations and the conflicts they’ve generated including drug commerce and immigration. Two volumes of poetry have appeared recently, Monkey Screams from FutureCycle Press which includes poems from Vietnam, Mid-America and Mexico, and A Perfect Throw. A new novel, Where Gringos Don’t Belong, narrates the challenges faced by a young American and his novia in strife-torn southern Mexico. Previous novel are Running Out the Hurt (available on Kindle) and Miss Sally. Nonfiction books still in print: Why Immigrants Come to America and The Blood of the Serpent: Mexican Lives.
An acknowledged baseball aficionado and the father of five children, he currently lives in Oaxaca, Mexico. His essays, commentaries, short fiction and poetry regularly appear in literary and commercial magazines and journals.

Where Gringos Don’t Belong: Early in the evening of November 25, 2006, George Bynum, the protagonist of Where Gringos Don’t Belong, leaves his Mexican novia Patricia among anti-government protest marchers in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico and returns to his apartment to finish a report for his employers, the Rural Development through Education Center. Before he can finish, his cell phone rings. “They’re attacking! Killing..! They won’t…stop!” Patricia’s voice rings in his ears. He rushes out, hoping to find her, but blinded by teargas from a federal police assault trips and has to be helped to safety. He and several others, including a young woman named Claudi Auscher, make their way back to George’s apartment. Claudi, who defines herself as “a Mexican Jew gypsy bitch rebel” joins George in his efforts to reestablish contact with Patricia, who has been flown to a maximum security prison along with other innocent victims of the militarized purge. George and Claudi are fictional characters but the events in which they’ve become embroiled are based on the actual political and social upheavals that reverberated through Oaxaca from November 2006 through April 2007.

  1. What inspired you to write Where Gringos Don’t Belong?

I came to Oaxaca as a freelance journalist during the violent repression of a teachers’ union-led protest and witnessed tear gas attacks, military interventions and indiscriminate arrests and wanted to do something more than journalist reports and essays.


  1. Can you please describe the relationship between Claudia and Jorge?

They were thrown together by a police assault and become involved in seeking the release of and aiding those arrested, an involvement complicated by Jorge’s novia being among those imprisoned. Jorge’s loyalty and feelings of guilt collide with the attraction he feels for Claudia and she for him, creating frustration, tension while simultaneously deepening the feelings for each other.


  1. What are some of the main issues that you explore in this book and why did you explore them?

Conflicts like the repression of protests or war deeply affect everyone, not just participants, altering lives, allegiances, values. I experienced this in Oaxaca and wanted to put a human face on it, deal with it from the point of view of persons thrust inadvertently into a maelstrom of events that they had no way to anticipate.


  1. What was the development process like when writing this book?

Creating characters means living with those characters, becoming them in a sense, letting them grow, letting them deal with their circumstances logically and emotionally. I began knowing what I wanted to achieve but the personalities developed as the first events described led to others that I hadn’t planned ahead of time.


  1. What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

An awareness of how violent confrontations change the lives and values of those who become involved willingly or unwillingly and how emotions—love, anger, frustration—respond to the challenges and changes.


  1. What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?

Writing—creating—is both a search and a process of discovery, a process that provides a great of satisfaction. As with many professions one gets caught up in frustrating details—editors, finances, deadlines, misunderstandings—that one has to deal with but the writing process itself is wonderful.


  1. Who are some of your favorite authors?
  1. H. Lawrence, Wallace Stegner, Richard Wright, Dostoevskii, Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir.


  1. If your book would be turned into a movie, who would you imagine playing the part of the main character? (Actor can be ANYONE, living or dead.)

An American equivalent of Tom Courtenay? Or young Johnny Depp.


  1. Are you working on anything right now?

By profession I’m a journalist as well as a novelist and poet and I always have a variety of things I’m working on. I publish a lot of political and social commentary and have a new book of poems, Monkey Screams, that’s just been released.


  • And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?

Greater distribution in translation, particularly of contemporary writers whose political and cultural perceptions are creating excellent novels, nonfiction narratives and cinema and who have limited followings even in their home countries.