Iron River

By: Daniel Acosta
1958. The people who live by the iron river are mostly Mexican. Do their lives matter? Not to the cops.


1958. The people who live by the iron river are mostly Mexican.Do their lives matter? Not to the cops.

A river runs through young Manny Maldonado Jr.'s life, heart and imagination. Sometimes at night it even shoots through his brain like a bullet. But this river isnÍt water, it's iron—the tracks and trains of the Southern Pacific railroad that pass along his tight-knit neighborhood in the San Gabriel valley just ten miles east of L.A. The iron river is everything to Man-on-Fire, Man for short to his friends, Little Man to his uncles and cousins. He watches it, he waits for it, he plays nears its tracks, he listens for the weight of its currents (strong currents flowing east pulling two hundred boxcars, light current going west with less than fifty cars), he whiles away long summer days throwing rocks and bricks at it with his friends Danny, Marco and Little. They line up cans and bottles in mock battles to try to throw it off track. But nothing derails the iron river, and nothing stops the vicious stinking cop Turk from trying to pin a hobo's murder on the four young boys.

Daniel Acosta was born and grew up in California. After a half year as a novice in the Claretian order, Daniel left the seminary and enrolled at California State University, Los Angeles. Following college, Daniel was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He was discharged from the Army in 1972 and returned to CSULA to earn his teaching credentials. Daniel earned a Master's Degree from CSULA and spent thirty-four years teaching English and creative writing at Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra, California. A former member of the L.A. Barrio Writer's Workshop, Daniel retired from teaching in 2007 and returned to his writing. His fiction has appeared in national print and digital periodicals. Iron River is his debut novel. Daniel is the father of four. He and his wife, Linda, live in Rosemead, California.

Awards and Accomodations

Paterson Prize
Best YA Historical Fiction of 2018, Kirkus Reviews
Southwest Book Award
Skipping Stone Honor

5 reviews for Iron River

  1. Kirkus Reviews
    A dense story with rich associative leaps, the novel will prompt discussions about race, class, sexuality, and gender.

  2. School Library Journal
    An essential title for any library.

  3. De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children
    The many layers of this beautifully built-up picture of an intelligent, goofy young kid who’s well aware of his surroundings and faces them head-on is a brilliant debut of a promising young writer. Iron River will prompt discussions of race, class, culture, and teenage sexuality, and resonate with middle-grade through high school readers. It’s highly recommended. —Beverly Slapin

  4. Booklist Online
    A powerful debut. —Karen Cruz

  5. LatinoLA
    I was so enthralled at the way [the book] tugged at my heartstrings that I read it twice…the story takes the reader on a colorful & nostalgic, albeit uncomfortable at points, trip into the recent past of an American Chicano community and family. It brings forth a multitude of emotions, should you allow yourself the luxury of immersing yourself into a good book.

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