Rafael “Flaco” Herrera and his buddies, Magaña and Tiny, live in an impoverished Houston neighborhood where their choices for the future are limited. They can decide between working low-paying jobs or joining the military and possibly winding up dead, like Flaco’s cousin Carlos.
So when the boys have an opportunity to buy and fix up a rare 1959 Chevy Impala that Magaña’s godfather is storing in a barn in a south Texas town called Diamond Park, they jump at the chance. They plan to restore the car to its former glory and sell it for cash. Tagging along on the trip is Susi Taylor, a neighborhood girl Flaco has a serious crush on.
What starts as a youthful adventure quickly becomes a nightmare when a man is murdered and Susi is arrested for the crime. Feeling responsible, the boys embark on a journey into Mexico to clear Susi’s name. Their quest puts their lives and their families in jeopardy, but also transforms them into the men they have always hoped to become.
Author Phillippe Diederich, the son of Haitian exiles who grew up in Mexico City, has penned a poignant and powerful story about a compelling group of Mexican American teens. Flaco knows his mother wants more for him than the meager living she makes. He wants to become an artist, but she’s pushing him to study medicine or law. Magaña, whose father is in prison, worries that his only option will be to work at the local AutoZone. And despite his stellar grades, Tiny can’t apply to college because his parents entered the country without documentation when he was a child. Instead, he lives in fear of being discovered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and deported. Through their stories, Diederich offers a moving depiction of the injustice, poverty and trauma that many new Americans experience every day.
In Mexico, Flaco begins to find his way to hope when he reflects on how his life would have been different if his mother hadn’t come to the U.S. “It’s weird how one decision made by one person changes everything for everyone who comes later,” he thinks. There’s hope, too, when tough-talking Magaña has an epiphany of his own. “We need to shoot for more than what they expect from us,” he tells Flaco.
Tense, raw and gorgeously written, Diamond Park will resonate with any reader who, in a world filled with ample reason for pessimism, strives instead for optimism.