Though a craven animal by nature, the average book critic usually can manage not to be intimidated by the average novelist-professor. But I'll admit that when I emailed Benjamin Bac Sierra to ask whether he'd send me his new book Barrio Bushido, and he replied, “I will be lowriding to work tomorrow and can simply drop a copy off,” I got nervous. I didn't know much about the guy, but I knew this: Mission homeboy by birth, Marine Corps combat veteran of Gulf War I by choice, graduate of UC Berkeley and UC Hastings law school, City College professor of English. A man who might want to kill me, would know how, and could conceivably find a legal and literarily significant way to do it.
Super, I thought. So he'll roll up to the apartment and I'll answer the door in my clunky glasses and Ben Sherman shirt and J. Crew corduroys, all, “Hey dude, yeah, sorry about gentrifying your neighborhood — but thanks for coming by to hand me your ferocious, blood-soaked epic of brotherhood and brutality and violent disenfranchisement. Um, hope I like it!”