One Book One Valley 2019 Selection

Did you guess the title?  It’s The Lat of the Menu Girls by Denise Chavez!

https://vaillibrary.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/61PSt9BqW3L.jpgThe Last of the Menu Girls is a collection of seven interrelated stories about Rocío Esquibel, a young Mexican American woman in southern New Mexico who seeks to understand herself, her family, and her community. Rocío’s development from girl to woman gives unity to the collage of stories. Rocío observes those around her she provides a portrait of a culturally diverse community and a clear insight into the human condition.

The title story introduces Rocío at age seventeen beginning her first job as an aide in a hospital in her home town. It is the summer of 1966. One of her tasks is to take menus to patients and get their requests for meals. Rocío studies the patients with great attention. She sees them as individuals with differing needs, and her heart reaches out to them so fully that she suspects she is too emotional for the job. Her emotional investment, however, helps Rocío understand others and makes her better able to understand herself. By the end of the summer Rocío has been promoted to other duties in the hospital and the system has changed; she is literally the last of the menu girls. Her compassion for others continues to serve her well as a way of understanding herself and her relationship to the world.

In the other stories Rocío increasingly looks to the past, to her personal history and to that of her Mexican American culture. She also tries to envision the future, to create the woman she hopes to be. By the end of the stories Rocío has found her mission. As her mother says, it would take a lifetime to write even the story of their home; there are stories all around. Rocío dedicates herself to writing the lives of the ordinary people she knows, people who often cannot speak for themselves. In the process of telling their stories, Rocío will speak for herself and for her culture.


Denise Elia Chavez  is an American author, playwright, and stage director. She was born to an Hispano family in Las Cruces, New Mexico, United States, and graduated from Madonna High School in Mesilla. She received her Bachelor’s from New Mexico State University and Master’s degrees in Dramatic Arts from Trinity University. While in college, she began writing dramatic works. Upon graduation, she worked at the Dallas Theater Center while continuing her studies in drama and writing. She then entered the MFA program at the University of New Mexico (UNM) and earned a degree in writing. In 1986, she published her first collection of short stories, called The Last of the Menu Girls. She received several awards, including the American Book Award, the Premio Aztlán Literary Prize, the Mesilla Valley Author of the Year Award, and the 2003 Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature. Chavez was offered a professorship in creative writing at UNM, during which time she wrote the novel Loving Pedro Infante, which earned her critical acclaim. She left the University, however, to work at a rape crisis center. She is the founder of the Border Book Festival that is held every year in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She also serves as Executive Director of the Cultural Center de Mesilla, and manages its book, music and arts store.


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