The Sons of El Rey

The tender and revelatory family drama The Sons of El Rey by Alex Espinoza (The Five Acts of Diego León) follows three generations of Mexican-American men as their passion for lucha libre sustains them through immigration, loss, and secret heartache.

In the 1960s, Ernesto Vega moves to Mexico City where he becomes the successful luchador El Rey Coyote, immersed in a world of battle and pageantry that embraces a performative version of queerness in a society shrouded by homophobia. His forbidden love for his best friend overshadows his fame and marriage, although he cannot make the relationship public without destroying his reputation. Decades later, in 2020, Ernesto is now an old man dying in the hospital and his son Freddy struggles with the pandemic-mandated closure of the family gym Ernesto founded 40 years ago after emigrating to Los Angeles. Freddy's son Julian is frustrated by his father's macho reluctance to accept his help or emotional support. Julian's financial struggles following grad school lead him into high-end sex work, in which he finds himself playing out a client's reductive fantasies about Mexican-American men.

Espinoza draws readers into the ripple effects of toxic masculinity, racism, and unspoken truths as the Vega men fight in succession to reconcile their inner lives with societal expectations of their identities with varying degrees of success. Espinoza's prose hits with raw emotional power, illuminating the ways in which "[t]he hurt is what shapes us." This saga of fathers and sons, literal and metaphorical masks, and the American dream spans several turbulent decades and highlights the need for each generation to keep moving forward and keep fighting. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

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