THE NUMBER ON MY FATHER'S ARM / EL NÚMERO EN EL BRAZO DE PAPA



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Papi rarely talks about it, and Tomás suspects the number tattooed on his arm is not just his “lucky number”—it’s just like those of concentration-camp survivors in the slides Mrs. Franklin shows at school. Tomás’ secret search for the truth takes him through his father’s war mementos, which leads him to a buried box in the family’s garden. Later, Tomás and his mother connive to mind-trick Papi into admitting that he was a POW in a Nazi concentration camp and agreeing to speak to Tomás’ class about his experiences. Still, it’s a long while before he reveals the real reason for the tattoo. Alvarado bases his story on the experiences of the first Mexican American to register as a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, but the text fails as a novel. Tomás’ voice sounds like a reflective adult’s rather than a teen’s; the plot is contrived; and the psychological trickery is unsettling to witness. California, the earliest adopter of Holocaust education and the setting of this novel, didn’t start putting it into schools until 20 years after the story takes place, and, troublingly, the tone taken by both teacher and narrator is removed, describing Jews and the Shoah as if they were subjects of a nature documentary. An afterword that separates fact from fiction reveals that significant liberties were taken. Baeza Ventura’s Spanish translation is bound back to back with the English text.



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