Valley of Shadows, the latest novel by American author Rudy Ruiz, is expected to be released by Blackstone Publishing in September 2022. Rudy Ruiz is an award-winning author, advocate, and social entrepreneur. Born in Brownsville, Texas, a multicultural city situated along the US-Mexico border, Ruiz spent most of his early childhood living in Matamoros, Mexico, across the border from his American birthplace.
Influences from his early life spent commuting daily to school from Matamoros to Brownsville and his bicultural experiences on both sides of the border are evident in his writing. A child who could not speak English until the age of five, he went on to excel at school. There, he dreamt of being a writer, an entrepreneur, and a contributor to the well-being of immigrants and minorities.
After graduating from St. Joseph Academy in 1986, Ruiz went on to study at Harvard University. He graduated from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in government and a master’s degree in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government. During his time at Harvard, Ruiz was also part of Harvard’s Undergraduate Council. It was at Harvard where Ruiz began to formally announce himself as a member of the literary community and where he was awarded a Ford Foundation grant to support his writing endeavors.
While Ruiz’s first works were published in literary publications while he attended Harvard, it was his fiction debut, Seven for The Revolution, that won him his first critical acclaim. The collection of short stories revolves around the experiences of seven characters as they immigrate to the United States. The book was selected as one of “The Top Ten Fiction Books by Latino Authors for 2014,” and won four 2014 International Latino Book Awards, including first place for Best Fiction Book and the Mariposa Prize for Best First Book in Fiction. It also receivedthree awards at the Latino Books into Movies Awards, including first place in the Action & Adventure category. Ruiz has written extensively on Latino culture, the bilingual experience, and immigration and acculturation issues.
Ruiz’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals including BorderSenses, The Ninth Letter, New Texas, and the Notre Dame Review. His short story, Vexing Gifts, gained popularity due to its use of magical realism and satire to criticize President Trump’s border and immigration policies. In 2017, Rudy Ruiz was also awarded the Gulf Coast Prize in Fiction for his short story, That Boy Could Run. In 2020, Ruiz’s short story, The Limes, was a Finalist for the Texas Institute of Letters’ Best Short Story Award, and his short story, Oblivious, was a Finalist for the Texas Observer’s annual Short Story Contest.
In 2020, Blackstone Publishing released Ruiz’s novel, The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez. Ruiz oft recalls this as one of the highlights of his career, not only due to its immense popularity but also because it was inspired by his father and dedicated to his memory. A work of magical realism, the novel weaves together an intricate web of the trials of young love, past and present events, and a mystical family curse. The novel received critical acclaim and was named one of the “Top 10 Best First Novels of 2020” by the American Library Association’s Booklist.
According to Ruiz, his latest novel, Valley of Shadows, is also inspired by a loved one. His teenage son once asked him if he would ever write a Western horror story and Ruiz, looking to explore the creative boundaries of literary fiction, took up the challenge. Valley of Shadows is perhaps one of the most personal books Ruiz has written, drawing influences from his life spent between two communities separated by an artificial dividing line, the US-Mexico border.
The plot is refreshingly unique. When the Rio Grande shifts course, the Mexican city of Olvido is stranded on the northern side of the new border between the United States and Mexico. A former Mexican lawman under the influence of a mystical curse dances with destiny as he navigates a series of mysterious and horrific crimes in the divided border town, while accompanied by a gifted and beautiful Apache-Mexican seer.
This tale of magical realism spun into a borderland Western horror story is filled with unforgettable characters who reside in one’s heart long after the novel is finished. It also brings to the surface thought-provoking questions regarding the human condition. The novel explores unique ideas and introduces elements influenced by Ruiz’s childhood spent crossing the US-Mexico border while embracing the diversity and cultural influences found on both sides.
When asked about his inspiration, Ruiz recalls how much of the motivation behind his writing comes from family. While growing up his maternal grandmother and father introduced him to an exciting world of stories about the Mexican Revolution, immigration, growing up alongside the border during the 1950s, and Westerns. These stories had an important influence on Ruiz and inspired him to share his own stories with the world.
When Ruiz is not busy working on how to mesmerize readers with vivid imagery and delightful storytelling, he can often be seen advocating social justice issues for traditionally marginalized groups. This has been one of the defining aspects of his work and has also greatly influenced his writing.
Ruiz began working on issues disproportionately impacting minority groups during years at Harvard where he was elected to the student council four years in a row. He worked on the issue of increasing minority faculty in tenured positions on a committee with the Dean of Harvard College. To this day, he remains involved with his alma mater, serving on the Harvard College Fund’s Associates Committee and working with the Harvard Alumni Association to create and fund the Harvard College Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Fund.
Ruiz was also a social entrepreneur before the term had ever been coined. In 1995, he co-founded the advocacy marketing firm, Interlex, with his wife Heather Ruiz. Through it, he has worked on various issues, from financial literacy to eliminating health disparities. Ruiz has also been an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, universal healthcare, and regulations to curb the impact of sugary drinks and fast food on obesity, writing numerous op-eds and columns as a Contributor to CNN.com.
Ruiz resides in San Antonio with his wife and their two children, Paloma and Lorenzo.