Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club



By: Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Sometimes the border is a mirror, sometimes an escape, and sometimes it’s just the bridge you cross to go home.

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Description

Sometimes the border is a mirror, sometimes an escape, and sometimes it's just the bridge you cross to go home.

Benjamin Alire Sàenz's stories reveal how all borders entangle those who live on either side. Take, for instance, the Kentucky Club on Avenida Juárez two blocks south of the Rio Grande. It's a touchstone for each of Sáenz's stories. His characters walk by, they might go in for a drink or to score, or they might just stay there for a while and let their story be told. Sáenz knows that the Kentucky Club, like special watering holes in all cities, is the contrary to borders. It welcomes Spanish and English, Mexicans and gringos, poor and rich, gay and straight, drug addicts and drunks, laughter and sadness, and even despair. It's a place of rich history and good drinks and cold beer and a long polished mahogany bar. Some days it smells like piss. "I'm going home to the other side." That's a strange statement, but you hear it all the time at the Kentucky Club.

Click here to listen to Ben on Words on a Wire where he talks short stories, addiction, and of course, the Kentucky Club, plus hear an excerpt from "The Hurting Game."

Benjamin Alire Sàenz is a highly regarded Latino writer of fiction, poetry, and childrenÍs literature. Like these stories, his writing crosses borders and lands in our collective psyche. Poets & Writers Magazine named him one of the 50 most inspiring writers in the world. He was the first Latino to win the PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction, and has been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and PEN Center's prestigious award for young adult fiction. Sàenz previously served chair of the Creative Writing Department at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Awards and Accomodations

Southwest Book Award
PEN / Faulkner Award for Fiction
Lambda Literary Award

6 reviews for Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club

  1. Nelly Rosario, judge for 2013 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction
    “In Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club, Benjamin Alire-Sáenz uses the straightest lines of language to encircle the muted light inside each of his narrators. Their collective voices speak artlessly, as wisdom does, and ask us to listen for the borderless poetry of the spirit. To sit with Alire-Sáenz under the dimmed lights of The Kentucky Club is to lend an ear to a writer who has surrendered you the alphas and omegas of his heart.” Visit Website

  2. Publishers Weekly
    Sáenz’s moving collection of short stories hinges on the intergenerational clientele of the titular borderland watering hole just south of the U.S.-Mexican divide on Avenida Juárez…there’s much to enjoy in these gritty, heartfelt stories. Visit Website

  3. Booklist
    Seven excellent stories … [by] a versatile writer … Sàenz writes prose that is tender, occasionally fierce, and always engaging. Read every word of his stories lest you miss some clever twist, some subtle irony, some gentle nuance of poetic imagery that he has labored to create.
    The publisher describes these seven excellent stories as being about borders. That is certainly true as far as it goes, but it is equally true that these stories have even more to do with boundaries—the boundaries people set to protect themselves from physical or emotional harm, the ones that people cross in order to survive, or the ones they cross to intrude or intervene in someone else’s life. Sàenz’s tales are about the arbitrary boundaries that society sets and the ones children build against a world they don’t understand. In today’s political climate, one that is awash in ideology surrounding national borders, Sàenz’s all-too-human characters transcend political polarization despite living within it. A versatile writer who has won major fellowships and awards, especially for his young adult and children’s titles, Sàenz writes prose that is tender, occasionally fierce, and always engaging. Read every word of his stories lest you miss some clever twist, some subtle irony, some gentle nuance of poetic imagery that he has labored to create.”—Donna Chavez Visit Website

  4. The El Paso Times
    Though the prolific Benjamin Alire Sáenz has been writing books in every genre for the past two decades, Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club is only his second short-story collection. But the wait was definitely worth it … [The story “He Has Gone to Be with the Women”] is nothing short of a masterpiece … In one story, a school counselor says the following about his troubled charges: “They came to me with a thirst in their eyes, a thirst, such a thirst and I knew that I could never give them the rain they deserved, the rain they so desperately needed.” That might as well be The Kentucky Club speaking, since every protagonist in this heartbreaking collection of stories finds his way to a confession stool at the bar. They find no solutions to their ills, just a sensitive ear that has heard it all before but is willing to listen once again. —Rigoberto González Visit Website

  5. San Antonio Express-News
    The legendary [Kentucky Club], says author Benjamin Alire Sáenz, is where people go when they’re in trouble, when they’re looking for trouble or when they’re trying to get out of trouble. That’s the underlying theme of the stories in the new collection Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club. The first, “He Has Gone to Be With the Women,” underscores why Poets & Writers Magazine named Sáenz one of its 50 most inspiring writers. —Elaine Ayala Visit Website

  6. Texas Books in Review
    Seven stunningly evocative short stories … a haunting tableau of characters wrestling with the boons and burdens of existence … Saenz, with these masterfully hewn stories, presents this hardscrabble yet tenacious city as beautiful in its contradictions, disquieting in its ambiguities, and heartbreaking in its quotidianness. Filtered through this book are the lives of its singular people: doomed, broken, resourceful, and, above all else, faithful—to the city and to the parts they play in its intricate dimensions. —James Wright

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