Cover image for What it takes to get to Vegas
What it takes to get to Vegas
Murray, Yxta Maya.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Grove Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
308 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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From the author of "Locas" comes an arresting novel of desire and ambition set among the gyms and street fights of East L.A.'s boxing hopefuls. "Eloquently (captures) the struggles of being poor and Mexican-American in Los Angeles."--"Chicago Tribune."

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Murray, the author of Locas (1997), has a saucy writing style that conveys the vibrancy of Hispanic street culture in Los Angeles. Rita Zapata is the image of her beautiful mother, the neighborhood loose woman, but craves acceptance and respect. Eventually, though, Rita finds herself succumbing to what her mother calls the "curse" of the Zapata women. When the neighborhood girls tag her as a slut and all her efforts to change her image fail, Rita decides to live up to the name. She patterns herself after the most successful hoochie woman in the neighborhood, a woman who snared a former boxing champion. Rita sets her sights on Billy Navarro, an up-and-comer in the boxing world, "the brown man's dream." But Billy, who has remade his own image since leaving his home in Mexico, has his own demons and can give Rita only a portion of what she wants. Yet, Rita's journey of humiliation, violence, and self-destruction mercifully leads to self-discovery. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

Rita Zapata, the Mexican-American heroine of Murray's (Locas) beautifully written but patchy second novel about coming of age in East L.A. in the '80s and '90s learns early on that it's no blessing to look just like her mother, Lola, a woman born with a "face pretty enough to make other ladies mad." Abandoned by her husband, Lola shacks up with every hombre she can find in order to forget him. Rita, too, finds attention from men thrilling, and she sleeps with every would-be boxer in the neighborhood, earning herself the title "Queen of the Streetfighters." Things change when Billy Navarro, a boxer with real promise, shows up from Mexico, and Ruben Lopez, a former pugilist who once made it to the "Vegas Bigs," agrees to train him. Billy is the first man to recognize that Rita's meant for something "bigger and better than this place," and she seizes her chance to get there. Hanging onto Billy as he climbs to the top, Rita dreams of the good life that awaits her. "Who are the women with the most gold? Boxers' wives, of course." The unfolding of Billy's secret past parallels Rita's own quest for self-knowledge. Ultimately, Billy earns himself a shot at the title in Vegas, and his success brings Rita a brief moment of respect and acceptance from other women. Her dream isn't fated to last, however, and as she watches it collapse (after she catches Billy with another woman), the city's political tension reaches a boil and a riot destroys East L.A. The novel is populated by colorful, richly drawn characters who tell stories so fascinating that at times they detract from the narrative's focus, but nothing matches Rita's own fabrications. Everything she gains, she attains by deceit, and Murray never spells out a moral position, leaving it for the reader to decide whether Rita has taken responsibility for her actions and come to any true understanding of herself. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Murray portrays the rise and fall of Rita Zapata, known as the Queen of the Street Fighters in her poor and decaying East Los Angeles neighborhood. Rita is tagged as a girl with a reputation early on, and because it's too hard for her to fight her reputation she decides to live up to it. Rita's mission in life is decided after a chance encounter with Cherry Salazar, girlfriend to the most famous ex-fighter in East L.A. Rita decides that in order to have the life she wants she will need to hook up with a boxerÄnot just any old streetfighter but a champion. Two years later, Rita has been through all the talent at Ruben's Superbox, and her sister's successful romance with Rita's last-chance would-be champion freezes her. Seven years later Rita meets Billy and finally finds her ticket to Vegas. Murray (Locas, LJ 4/1/97) chronicles Rita's rocky relationship, her long-awaited arrival in Vegas, and the surprising consequences of her return in lively and colorful language to tell Rita's story, but that can't compensate for underdeveloped relationships and a lack of depth throughout. For larger libraries.ÄDianna Moeller, OCC/WLN Pacific Northwest Svc. Ctr., Lacey, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.