Aguilera's memoir is not just an account of race relations and street life in the inner city, nor of the plight of the immigrant and the dilemma of class identity for a "minority" family. Gabriel's Fire also movingly recounts the peculiarly daunting and inspiring moments of a particular age, riddled with confusion, desires, and duties and recorded by an exceptionally observant and articulate young man. Aguilera writes that he "grew into" the English language when he was eleven or twelve, and his recollections reflect his newfound delight with words—the conversations, arguments, taunts, song lyrics, and casual interchanges of his youth are rendered here with an immediacy and directness rare in contemporary memoirs.
Both a picture of American culture of the 1980s and 1990s and a coming-of-age story, Gabriel's Fire counters mainstream and mass-mediated images of the inner city, Hispanic culture, and troubled youth. In its honesty and energy, it is a poignant and compelling story of one man's formative years.
Part One Twilight Collects, 1985
Part Two Sunrise, 1986-1987
Part Three Daytime, 1987-1990
Part Four The Last Night, 1990-1991