Bloodline tells the story of Abram, a young Mexican-American high school student navigating the world of masculinity and violence. Conflicted over his family’s history of crime, Abram falls in love and tries to figure out a way to improve his life, which leads him to make a life-changing decision to follow his uncle and use his fight skills to make money. Echoing William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Bloodline asks the question: Are we destined to become like the men in our families, or can we change our fates?
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"...Your grandmother’s laughter. From deep inside, a fountain-like dribble at first, a spurt like a water wheel that soon, suddenly, erupts into huge spewing laughter. You never thought you’d hear it. Not like this. Like a ribbon of birds emerging from a marvelous grove of cypress trees. You wake to the sound of her joy, the smell of bacon and hot coffee. It’s Saturday morning, and there’s a newspaper on the table in which your Uncle Claudio has buried his face.
“Abraham. Good to see you,” he spits, rustling the paper. His eyes course over the edge of the grey sheet.
“He’s looking for a job,” your grandmother informs you, pointing proudly at your uncle with his face covered in words.
As you make your way across the room to your grandmother, who is busying herself at the sink, you think this scene imagined and unreal. Are you dreaming? Snagged in some alternate version of how things might be?
Beneath your feet, the floor is luminescent, cold underneath your sockless soles and your toes. In her grip your grandmother holds a yellow dishrag, and when she hugs you, her hands smell of lemon rind and Comet.
“Amá. Leave it there. I’ll clean,” your uncle grunts, chewing sloppily. “My turn,” he says, turning to you, his grin sharp, over the goatee peppered with crumbs. From behind the newspaper his knuckles jut out. Rough, worn. You’ve seen them before, these proven parts of a man’s body that have gone through things—walls and doors, faces and ribs.
Leaning back in his chair, your uncle, in his grey sweats and his undershirt, opens himself to you for a hug, arms stretched like two giant tongs. His arms are covered in tattoos. Intricate black and grey swirls, women in bikinis, sporting magnificent Aztec headresses, watchtowers and proud peacocks with their splendid tail feathers, and webs. Before you step into him, before the arms pull you in. Smeared with grey, his thumbs press into your back and cause it to fold. From his neck bone a rosary dangles in the ink of his chest. He hugs you and leaves his dark thumb smudges on your neck and shirt, and something inside the folded parts of your heart stifles itself, halts its motions and dents.
Pulled back, the kitchen’s red curtains show the sky, which is grey and hard and without light, behind the behemoth pecans, behind your grandmother shaking off her wet hands and her face aglow with an unremitting lunge into today and the next and the way she wished, faithfully and with will, the rest of life would be.
The pot on the stove whistles.
The water in the sink sings.
The kitchen is yellow.
The heart inside you is yellow, then, too.
And when your uncle touches you, everything comes to an abrupt stop. For the entirety of a moment it does—you hear the earth and the voice of your bones, and you walk slowly out of your uncle, toward the sink. The kitchen, how it will mark your mind, just like this: A tender downcast square of a room, idled, snared. The room standing as still as an arm bone, one left to bleach in an open field under a heavyweight sun or in a dead creek with its cumbersome limestone. This kitchen, with its white little stove of blue gas flowerets and its low popcorn ceiling, its awkward Formica table that glares too harshly without a tablecloth, that never stands upright or balanced unless paper is folded into a fat square and shoved beneath the table’s unwieldy leg. At night, the sparse light of the little room emerges from a simple bulb, but the full elbow of the sun leaning in, now, by day, over the cluttered countertop, during the long hours, through the long wide window above the white sink—cooking, eating, rinsing, sitting, waiting—these are the echoes you’ll remember, these friends..."
Joe Jimenez’s debut YA novel is beautiful in the hardest way—luminous and poetic, heartbreaking and violent. Bloodline is the story of 17 year old Abram and all the questions he’s grappling with—family and relationships, school and the future, loneliness and dreams, and all the struggles that come with trying to discover who he really is and who he wants to be. In the outside world, Abram fights with his fists, and on the inside, he fights to listen to the inner voice urging him towards life.
-Ire'ne Lara Silva, author of furia, flesh to bone, Blood Sugar Canto
Joe Jimenez extiende chingazos unafraid and painfully poetic in this story of love, loss, and family. I constantly felt a tension waiting for the collapse of Abram and his world; wanting to shield my eyes but not being able to. In Bloodline everything is beautiful and everything hurts, as it is whenever we chase that kind of truth and love that is always within our reach but still too far away.
- Isabel Quintero, author of Gabi, A Girl in Pieces
Pay attention to this novel. It’s a a story that provocatively asks if we need fathers to be men. Jimenez’s storytelling offers up a grandma who wears man-pants, Abram who throws fists full of hard questions, and a game-changing uncle Claudio who together play out a surprising answer for readers. With his spectacular visual poeticism, his strong representation of place, and an excellent command of voices underrepresented in literature, Jimenez expertly delivers the heart wrenching blow-by-blow of this important tale.
- Richard Villegas, author of I Heart Babylon and La Música Romántica
This lyrical debut novel documents an entire ocean that is a young man's innter beauty struggling to balance between interminable, raging and violent seas. In gorgeous language portraits that only a poet like Jiménez can unapologetically conure, where a room stands as still as an arm bone, and where all the world becomes light and silence, this contemporary Hamlet-inspired story features a Claudio, an Ophelia, a Polonius in Afghanistan and living and non-living men who intersect with each other and with the inevitable destiny that is their bloodline. This is a complex and honest portrayal of angst inside the mind of a brilliant and sensitive teenager who is in love, who is bursting with vision and who allows his bones to breathe new life as he tragically remembers his one wild and precious life.
- Natalia Treviño, author of Lavando la Dirty Laundry