Manuel and the Madman
Half-Chicano and Half-Anglo,
Manuel Ryan Survives Seventh Grade
Award-winning author Gerald Haslam moves in another direction in Manuel and the Madman, a young-adult novel written in collaboration with his wife, Janice. Set in modern Bakersfield, the story follows 12-year-old Manuel Ryan into junior high school after he moves in with his Latina grandmother. Manuel must deal with challenges that range from tension over his emerging sexuality to the increasing threat of gangs.
He is also one of the few blonds at Our Lady of Guadalupe School, so he experiences some reverse discrimination but learns much from his classmates including Spanish (the book contains a glossary). Moreover, the neighborhood where Manuel lives is slowly integrating, and it offers him rich experiences with pals like Flaco Rojas, Tran Nguyen, Keeny Padilla, and David Avila, as well as with his first girlfriend, Linda Garcia.
An aging neighbor, Mr. Samuelian—called "the madman" by Manuel's grandmother—becomes the boy's mentor, while two old vaqueros (and inveterate storytellers), Jefe and Ramon, teach the youngster pride in California's Latino past as well as its blended present. He learns to value his own mixed heritage, because the braiding of cultures is nothing new in the golden state.
Gerald Haslam's publications earned him the 1999 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Western Literature Association. He is Professor Emeritus at Sonoma State University. Janice E. Haslam teaches at St. Vincent de Paul High School in Petaluma, California. They live in rural Penngrove and have five blue-eyed children and several brown-eyed grandchild.