Stories from a Life Lived Along the Border

Octavio Solis honored with the 2019 Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater Award
Oct 5, 2018

The William Inge Center for the Arts will honor playwright Octavio Solis with the 2019 Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater Award. Solis will be presented with the award at the 38th annual William Inge Theater Festival, which runs May 22-25, 2019, at Independence Community College in Independence, Kansas.


Book Page
Oct 16, 2018

"Set in the gritty border town of El Paso, where Solis spent his youth during the 1960s and '70s, the stories of Retablos are as harsh and dry as the sunbaked land along the Rio Grande that he so vividly evokes. . . . Like the images he emulates, Solis’ stories transcend the limits of borders and time."—Deborah Mason, BookPage

San Antonio Current
Oct 4, 2018

"There has never been a border book like Retablos, a collection of smoldering epiphanies suffering the baptizing waters of recall. . . . The stories in Retablos are invigorating in their unapologetic economy and intoxicating in the poetry of their moral excesses."—Roberto Ontiveros, San Antonio Current  

Book excerpt on Book Post
Sep 14, 2018

Octavio Solis grew up just a few miles from the Mexican border in El Paso, Texas. Join him as he remembers his Saturday visits with his family to neighboring Juárez.

Booklist Online

"In all, a beautiful, evocative, and timely expression of border culture for every collection."—Sara Martinez, Booklist

Buzzfeed's Best Books of Fall 2018
Aug 31, 2018

"In Spanish, a retablo is an altarpiece; Octavio Solis describes it as a painting on an 'old beaten tin' on which 'a dire event is depicted, [...] some terrible rift in the person's life, but which the person survives thanks to the intercession of the Divine.' It is a lot of meaning to pack into one scene, but all of it is there for the viewer who takes a moment to look. The fragments of Solis's memoir do similar, impressive work: Each depicts the details of a life lived along the Mexico–US border — sometimes chaotic, sometimes tragic, often poignant — but presents a host of 'divine intercessions' as understood in retrospection: survival by family, imagination, and faith. Still, it's hard not to consider the border itself as a representation of a 'terrible rift,' a split between homes, communities, identities, generations. While reading this generous and eye-opening account, it's easy to see how, for the country at large, the rift has only deepened."—Arianna Rebolini, Buzzfeed's Best Books of Fall 2018

"Retablos" is included in the CBC's international book preview
Aug 16, 2018

"Here are 15 works of nonfiction from around the world coming out in the second half of 2018 that we can't wait to read. What it's about: In Mexican folk art, a retablo is a devotional painting featuring images painted on repurposed metal and typically laden with Catholic iconography. In Retablos, American playwright and director Octavio Solis examines his Mexican heritage, personal traumas and rites of passage and what it truly means to grow up brown living at the U.S./Mexico border." 

Kirkus Reviews

"In this coming-of-age memoir, a playwright illuminates the culture of the El Paso border as he perceived it when he was young. . . . An intriguing work that transcends category, drawing from facts but reading like fiction."

The Millions: Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2018 Book Preview

"A memoir about growing up a mile from the Rio Grande, told in vignettes, or retablos, showing the small and large moments that take place along the U.S. border. Julia Alvarez says of the book, 'Unpretentiously and with an unerring accuracy of tone and rhythm, Solis slowly builds what amounts to a storybook cathedral. We inhabit a border world rich in characters, lush with details, playful and poignant, a border that refutes the stereotypes and divisions smaller minds create. Solis reminds us that sometimes the most profound truths are best told with crafted fictions—and he is a master at it.'"—Lydia Kiesling

Foreword Magazine, Starred Review

"The stories that make up Octavio Solis's Retablos are as taut, riveting, and immersive as the sunrise in a red rock desert.  Be forewarned—they're addictive. . . . Writing is original and laser-sharp, alive with adjectives that start and images that linger. Encountering a river-soaked girl who’s just crossed the border the narrator notes the 'fugitive dullness’ of her face, and the ‘animal lurch’ of her body as she turns to flee from him."