Fiction Writing

Barrio Bushido is Benjamin Bac Sierra’s first novel, set to be released in 2010.

Barrio Bushido Summary:

Set in the barrio of an unnamed California city in the early 1990’s, Barrio Bushido narrates the story and fate of three adolescent Latinos who join forces to rob organized crime gangsters. Lobo (wolf) hunts, scheming for street stardom, manipulating his homeboys for his Machiavellian goals. Unlike Lobo, Toro (bull), an ex-Marine, does not plot; he charges full-force at the red cape of life. Santo, the saint of the gang, venerates homeboy, not Christian ideals. A genuine cholo, he never admits that paranoia and pressure take him to the brink of madness.

Written in a style that captures street realism and compassion, Barrio Bushido will appeal not only to Latino and other minority audiences but also to readers of literary fiction. With both subtle and explicit savagery, Barrio Bushido also utilizes all facets of the urban landscape: the comedic, dramatic, and tragic.

Critical Praise

I read BARRIO BUSHIDO in short doses, braving the pain and suffering and violent life of its young characters and their/our world. Suspense pulled me onward; I had to know how crimes, wars, hopes come out, but more importantly–Will the author be able to pull off a novel with meaning, or will this be another nihilistic thriller? On the level of world politics, is there homecoming for the Iraqi war vet? Benjamin Bac Sierra has taken upon himself the labor of Dostoevsky writing CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. Is there redemption for those who’ve lost God’s love? The reader feels the joy of murderous combat, and the heartbreak of compassion.

—Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Fifth Book of Peace

Barrio Bushido tells the story of three young Latino men in the 1990s struggling to live by the homeboy code in a California neighborhood rife with poverty, drugs and violence. Bac Sierra uses a generous narrative voice and surreal absurdities to illuminate harsh realities, creating a world that straddles the line between myth and actuality. Barrio Bushido brings a Latin American literary tradition to American soil, situating Bac Sierra among magical realists such as Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

—Shawna Yang Ryan, author of Water Ghosts

“A Latino Elmore Leonard.”

—Earl Shorris, author of The Life and Times of Mexico

As if delivered in a single, sustained breath line, Benjamin Bac Sierra’s Barrio Bushido alternates rhythms of waiting and combat, reverence and mayhem, the sacred and profane. As in vertical time, the end is in the beginning, no spoiler alert sparing us from the weight of its final chord. Irresistibly, we are bound to Lobo, Toro, and Santo; since we cannot save them, we go down with them. Read this: dare to know.

—Sandra Park, author of If You Live in a Small House

Feral and poetic, Barrio Bushido, is a cautionary tale about the dangers that lurk behind brotherhood and honor, love and loyalty. A gritty, relentless, unforgiving portrayal of the equally unforgiving world of the barrio.

—Nami Mun, author of Miles from Nowhere

With energy that explodes on the page Barrio Bushido is rough, raw, uncompromising, and unflinching. Ben Bac Sierra has created three modern day musketeers that define the country we will live in for the next hundred years.

—Alejandro Murguia, author of This War Called Love

Benjamin Bac Sierra moves from lyrical beauty to savage brutality with all the grace of the symbolic matador who haunts his gripping novel of criminal life in a California barrio. Bac Sierra’s voice gets inside your head and stays there, binding the reader to the compelling narrative as tightly as the novel’s characters are bound to the twisted code of criminal honor that leads to their tragic downfall.

—Karl Marlantes, author of Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

Ben Bac Sierra sears the pavement with his bleeding-edge account of the barrio and its three most vital inhabitants: Lobo, Toro, and Santo. As rough as asphalt, as true a vision as you can find, Barrio Bushido demands to be read.

—Seth Harwood, author of Jack Wakes Up

“A truly poignant lyrical novel. Ben Bac Sierra gives a steely eyed lesson in barrioology as only a true homeboy can. A must read.”

—Professor Pedro Ramirez, San Joaquin Delta College; California Statewide Puente Leadership Conference

Bac Sierra’s novel about three homeboys living in a California barrio speaks of the wounds of poverty and racism and of the world of crime and heartbreak. Ultimately the novel is about what both bonds and separates us from our friends, families, and homes.

Written in gritty and evocative language, Barrio Bushido resonates with a raw energy that sings off the page.

Louise Nayer, author of Burned: A Memoir


An Excerpt from “El Lobo” from Barrio Bushido by Benjamin Bac Sierra

And, oh yeah, there she was, and I smiled, and she mattered, which is more than I can say for myself because I was El Lobo: a fighter, a robber, and a mack to the fullest. I would let my false tooth shine in the brilliance of broad day and be a mean mugging monster in the majesty of the moonlight. I didn’t matter cause I didn’t give a fuck if I mattered or not.

But she did. She mattered because I saw that she didn’t give a fuck either.

On that sultry night, I was kickin it, choppin it up with the homeboys at our corner liquor store. With just one look, I knew I had to have her. I examined her walking down my street with her face painted up like a beautiful Bozo the Clown, her hair a tall brick wall of hairspray, and she was shaking her sexy thick ass like the Playboy Playmate of the year. She was a diamond in the mud. And even though she was baby doll fine, I didn’t think of just going up in her at the time, didn’t think of only tearing off them panties. For her to address the world with such style, I appreciated she had more than a body. What I really wanted was her soul. I wanted her to give me more than just her cooch; I wanted that woman to devote to me her eternal faith.

It was my once in a lifetime chance—my dream girl was in my presence, and I had to impress her, shock her, and love her right at that moment or never again. One shot, one kill. So I prowl up, smile, and says, “What’s up, gorgeous! You are a wildflower blooming in front of my eyes. I’ve been waitin to pick you all my life, and now you’re here, and it’s not a dream. I’m in your face as a man that aint got too much on the materialistic side, only got a good time when you’re with me. I want to fall in love with you tonight and forever.”

“Huh?” she snarled, as if I could give her some nasty disease, “Are you serious or just retarded?” I sucked in the cotton candy scent off of the angel’s mouth.

“Yeah, I’m serious as a heart attack.” I took the stupid smirk off of my face and stared her down as if I was the incarnation of El Diablo himself. “Check out, let’s go get us a coupla fortys, sit down at Bajo Park, and talk about life. Let’s go kick back, listen to some live ass homeboy soul oldies, and let’s laugh about the act I’m gonna play for you and the Academy Award movie star you’re gonna be just for me.” She unfolded her arms. “We’ll do this much for each other, and we’ll give each other illusions of how we wish we were, we’ll laugh at our insecurities, and we’ll love each other for less than a second yet pretend it’s forever.” I released a genuine smile from somewhere mysterious in the depth of my soul, and I yanked her into my heart. She gave me her unyielding faith by flashing me her precious sunbeam. I captured her around her little waist and confidently led her into the world of my truth.

It was paradise. We’d wake at three in the morning and start out our day after having gotten drunk off our asses the whole day before. We’d walk five miles, catch the bus, or steal a car and cruise to the beach to watch rats and raccoons duke it out for scraps of trash. We’d stroll down the shoreline listening to the splitting waves crash on the beach front, and I’d make love to her right there on the freezing sand as fantastic fog rolled in over us. Afterwards she would embrace me with all of her strength and tell me, “Don’t ever leave me, Lobo.” I’d answer her by prying her off me, jumping my naked ass into the forty degrees ocean, and shouting, “Never!”

It was three weeks later when she doubted me. She had her homegirl’s Regal, and it was her, her chubby cousin Tracy, and me. We had just bought some fortys and a bottle and were on our way to have a good time somewhere by the beach or at the pier, but she gave me a fucked up attitude cause I busted open my forty in her homegirl’s fucked up car, like if I was gonna contaminate the interior with a few spilled drops of malt liquor foam. And so she pulled the car over, all high and mighty, and commanded—             “Lobo put the cap back on until we get to a cool spot.” As if she was the leader of something. And so I said, nice and sincere, like only a charming cholo can—

“Bitch, fuck you.”

Her mouth dropped. Who in the hell did I think I was? I can’t talk to her like that, oh no, she’s a lady, a princess, a goddess. But Goddess didn’t have a chance to say none of that nonsense cause I just took my forty, adjusted my pistol under my shirt, stepped out of the car as if the past twenty one days of falling madly in love with her didn’t mean anything to me, and left her listening to James Brown with her mouth open and no words coming out. I walked away without looking back.

I always look forward.

So I’m a wolf on the prowl and dead straight in front of me there’s a flock of business guys in suits strolling down the street that beautiful Friday morning in the downtown, busy ass traffic city of Inten, and I pulled out my .38 from my pants belt, ripped out some stomach hairs in the process, and said…

“Your fuckin money.” Sober and serene as a priest at mass. They all jumped like little bunny bitches and strangely started throwing their chump change on the sidewalk as if they expected I was actually gonna bend the fuck down and pick up their leftovers like some stereotypical garbage man. I smashed a heavy redneck in the head with my forty. My forty, for some reason, didn’t break, but he buckled to the floor anyway.

“You,” I pointed my gun directly at the guy’s glossy forehead that was standing in back of buckler, “grab the fuckin money and give it here.” He bent over and scooped up the money that was shining and sparkling on silver and gold money clips. I stayed looking at his four eyes as I put my forty down on the hard ground and accepted the money from the scared man that I could tell had never met a true garbage wolf up close and personal. He had never known that garbage wolves have honor too. He’d never known how it is to live in the garbage can, without hopes and dreams—except for distorted fantasies of going to La Pinta, selling drugs, or getting killed. I stuffed his dirty honest money in my pocket and dropped the weight of my gun and the full force of my arm on top of his bald eagle head. I grabbed my Old E and walked back to Sheila in her piece of shit, fat homegirl’s Buick.

She hadn’t left. Nope, not my Goddess, the car door was still open, just like her honey filled mouth, inviting me inside. She had thought I was actually gonna leave her. Silly rabbit.

“Drive,” I said as I scooted in and shut the door. I didn’t look at her as she drove away, and she didn’t look at me either. She simply drove, and her love was telepathically proved. She had the passionate love of a true believer, a partner who would never leave my side.

Mi amor. My love.

Vida loca. Crazy life. The homeboy philosophy. My philosophy—cause it didn’t make any sense to do the shit I did, but it did. It made me normal in a world where I had to fuck a motherfucker up to feel good inside, to be accepted by the locos, to keep my respect as a man. I had to get over on someone and make them feel like shit so that I could say I was a true street soldier. I couldn’t justify or explain it. It went beyond justification. It went beyond the simplicity of an explanation. There was no explanation or theory that could satisfy the lust of La Vida Loca. All I knew is that I was there, and I had to do what I had to do to keep the little piece of planet that was the varrio mine. Reality is what counted, and it is what was strong. The crazy life was reality—as real and genuine as the crazy death.



Short Fiction entitled “The Super Red Kung Fu Uniform”

They think they can command me. They believe I should care about what they value, but they cannot understand that I must do what I want, even if it destroys me.

That’s why I wear the red kung fu uniform out on the streets. That’s why I shout that I am a Wing Chun master, even though I have never even taken a class. I am what I am in my own mind, the only place where it matters.

So I had been subpoenaed to be a witness for my down homeboy, a true brother in arms. Since I had been there at the incident, I could help with truth. The bullshit was that it was an assault with a deadly weapon case; in reality my homeboy, Loco, was simply supposed to be another three strikes notch under their belt. And the district attorney, he was salivating to get me up on that stand and prove me a liar. Upon cross examination, he would expose to the jury an angeldust idiot. The district attorney expected me not to help Loco, mi carnal, but to bring him down. The fancy lawyer bet I would nail the homeboy’s coffin.

He did not imagine I could only nail my own.

With sharp razor, I balded my head—todo bodo down—then purified my body, my soul with water. Clean. Bare chested, I donned my Super Red kung fu armor, and cinched the trousers with my thick “Mision” weight training belt. I marched to the 850 Bryant Street courthouse. Along the way, I patted children on their heads, shook the hands of homeless bums, and bowed to the beauty of women with clown faces. And then I was there where I was always destined to be.

Walking through justice’s entrance, I did not disturb metal detectors; strutting through the hallways, I did not interfere with anyone. Upon entering courtroom eighteen, I admitted my essence: Confident, shouting, crying—“I am a Wing Chun master!” Off with my belt, I flurred it in space as if it were a butterfly. “I am a Wing Chun master!”

Most of the jury looked away or down, but a few of them admired me; I know it.

Sheriffs surrounded me. “I am here now, and I am not going to wait for you!” I said this maddogging the judge’s eyes. “I am going to testify now!” My will was more powerful than theirs because they could go no further. The sheriffs took me into custody. The judge ordered a recess. He commanded that the attorneys confer with him privately in chambers. In my kung fu identity, I meditated in a holding cell.

When they finally released me that night, Loco was outside waiting for me with a homeboy hug and handshake. “Bro,” he said, “after you did that shit, the judge took the D.A. and my public defender into his chambers, and he told the D.A. that that jury had been tainted, that the trial couldn’t continue. The judge was gonna declare a mistrial and they would have to pick a whole new jury and present all the evidence all over again. And the D.A. was pissed!” Loco shot me a smile.

“But then the judge said that we wouldn’t have to go through all that if the D.A. just offered me a deal he knew I would take. Well, they dropped the assault charges, and I pled guilty to disturbing the peace, nothing, a misdemeanor. Thank you, hermano.” With bowed head, I accepted his embrace.

Three months later, in my red kung fu uniform, I inhaled deeply—angeldust genius—and then slowly exhaled out my last living breath.


  1. […] Benjamin Bac Sierra […]

  2. This book just blew my mind. It WOW! me all the way through out. I loved it from the beging to the end. This should be a movie and it would go place. The creativity and immagination mixed with reality that was live as hell. i have not read a book this great in a long time. It made me want to read everybook you suggested in class. Loved It. Dellfinia

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