"Uncle Rock" by Dagoberto Gilb Originally published in the May 10, 2010 issue of The New Yorker. Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage.
This story surprised me. I didn’t think, at first, that I would like it. The narrative closely follows the consciousness of the eleven-year-old Erick, as he follows his mother, a Mexican immigrant, from man to man to man. Then, it suddenly became much more than an immigrant or a child’s perspective story. The story quickly becomes a child’s perspective of a parent flailing to meet aspirations in a brutal America that doesn’t seem to recognize the American Dream.
The narrative opens when Erick is ordering his favorite American food. We then get a very nice passage that moves Erick from one man’s life to another, to free food if the man works in that industry, to a free TV if the man works there, etc. Soon we are at a Phillies baseball game (where we learn the story takes place sometime during Pete Rose’s tenure there, so 1979 to 1983) and Erick has caught a homerun ball. There is something tragic and empowering at the end, and it’s definitely worth thinking about both events.