‘Half Outlaw’ is the Latina Motorcycle Novel We Didn’t Know We Needed
If you blended a TV show like “Mayans M.C.” with a coming-of-age novel in the voice of a woman protagonist, you’d get “Half Outlaw,” an exciting story about a half-Mexican, half-white woman who was raised by an all white outlaw motorcycle club.
Author Alex Temblador’s first novel, “Secrets of the Casa Rosada,” was a success in the young adult sphere, gaining such recognition as Kirkus Reviews’ Best YA Books of 2018 and the NACCS Tejas Foco Young Adult Award in 2019. Now Temblador is back with “Half Outlaw,” an adult fiction novel that explores a mixed woman’s harrowing motorcycle journey across the U.S.
“Half Outlaw” follows the story of Raqi who was sent to California from Texas after her parents died when she was 4 years old. Dodge, her mother’s brother who has a substance abuse problem, raises Raqi among his all-white outlaw motorcycle club called the Lawless. Taking after her Mexican father in physical appearance, Raqi experiences hostility, violence, racism and sexism growing up among the club. When she can, she leaves Dodge and the Lawless behind and becomes a successful lawyer in Los Angeles.
After Dodge dies, Raqi is convinced by the Lawless to go on a cross-country motorcycle ride in honor of her uncle. If she does, she’ll be given the address of a Mexican grandfather she didn’t know existed. Along the way, she meets a host of people who help her realize that if she wants a better future, she must confront her past.
“Half Outlaw” is a magical realism novel that jumps between Raqi’s childhood and 1990, the present setting of the book. This powerful and heartfelt story examines the experiences of mixed Latinos, the exploration of one’s identity and the meaning of family.
Half Outlaw by Alex Temblador
Excerpt from Chapter 2
The shrill sound of the phone ringing woke me from my sleep.
“Hello?” Trevor had picked up the phone.
I put the pillow over my head, pissed off at being woken up in the middle of the night. I hated when anything interrupted my sleep—sex included.
“Raqi, it’s for you.”
I groaned into the mattress. Not another legal emergency. I moved the pillow beneath my head, catching my long brown hair for one second before I yanked it out, then grabbed the phone from him. Trevor fell back onto his pillow and rubbed his eyes, pushing the curled cord away from his face but to no avail.
“What?” I said sharply into the receiver.
“It’s me,” a deep, scratchy voice said.
I now wished for a legal emergency, any other emergency beyond the one Billy was about to lay on me.
“Billy, I already told you I’m not doing shit for you anymore. Whoever he is, he can rot in jail for all I care—”
“You’ll do whatever the fuck—” Billy snapped.
“The hell I will—”
“Raqi, shut up. I’m calling about something else.”
Billy only called to have me bail out one of his Lawless. I couldn’t do it anymore. People were beginning to label me as that lawyer with those criminals. I didn’t put in so many years of hard work to be associated with the drug-dealing motorcycle club I had tried so hard to escape. The one thing I’d kept from my time with them was my foul mouth—but that fit right in with the cutthroat world of Los Angeles law. That and my tattoo . . . But I had plans to get rid of it soon.
There was only one other reason Billy might call.
“I won’t do shit for Dodge either,” I said.
“You won’t have to.”
I had expected this call, in fact, years ago. Heroin, meth, coke—name it, he did it all.
“Drugs?” I asked.
Surprising . . . though drugs could cause heart attacks, too.
“So, you’re calling me because . . . ?”
“We ride out on Friday. Meet me and the club at Dodge’s that morning.”
“You’re a dumb son of a bitch if you think—”
“Goddamn it, Raqi!” Billy yelled. I pulled the phone away, my ear ringing with the volume of his voice. A crash echoed in the background. He’d probably kicked a chair.
“Be there at nine in the morning, or goddamn it, I’ll drive up to that gated community of rich slickers, kick your little Black boy’s ass, and drag you on this ride. Do you hear me?”
I squeezed the plastic phone, itching to slam it against the bed frame. “Racist asshole,” I muttered.
Trevor sat up in bed and mouthed, “What’s going on?” I was sure he’d heard Billy. My stomach clenched in embarrassment.
I gave my head a hard shake. He tried to touch my arm, but I jerked away. Trevor knew better than to try it again, so he crossed his sinewy arms and laid back on the bed. If he interrogated me after, he’d lose. He wasn’t half as ruthless of a lawyer as I was.
“You can’t bully me into coming,” I told Billy through gritted teeth.
“No, but I’ll give you something you want if you do.”
What did he have? My mind raced, and I stopped breathing. Billy waited, drawing out the silence like a long, stringy piece of cheese that stretched between a bite of pizza and its slice.
Finally, he said, “Go on this ride and I’ll give you an address.”
What was Billy talking about? “Whose address?”
Another punch. “Which—?”
My hand gripped the receiver so tightly I could hear the strain of the plastic trying to stay together. My grandfather. My Mexican grandfather. I had no idea he was alive. I thought Dodge was the only family I had left after my parents died in a car crash. I’d always believed that if there was anyone else, anyone, I would have been sent to them and not Dodge. How did Billy get this information?
“Well?” Billy asked.
As I thought about his offer, the spiral cord of the phone wrapped around my neck and squeezed slowly, leaving behind deep impressions of rubbery waves. The world had played a horrible trick giving a little brown girl to a racist white man with a substance abuse problem. Now, Billy was telling me that there was someone else, someone from my Mexican side, my dad’s side, someone who might look like me, might even be a decent human being. It became harder and harder to breathe as the cord cut off my breathing supply. I couldn’t say no to this offer, or else I’d suffocate.
“Fine,” I choked out, loosening my grip on the phone as the cord loosened its grip on me. “If I go, you give me the address and I’m out for good. No more legal assistance for you or the Lawless, no more calls. No contact—ever.”
Billy remained silent. I held my breath.
“Deal,” he said.
I inhaled deeply, not quite believing it had worked.
“Friday then, and don’t forget to cut your hair,” he added.
“I’m not cutting my hair. That’s a ridiculous tradition.”
“That’s your uncle and you’ll do it, damn it,” Billy replied.
My body had started to relax into the mattress, craving to go back to sleep, and yet my mind reeled with this news. “Whatever,” I said, hoping that would be enough to get him off the phone.
Billy sighed heavily, and the smell of the three glasses of whiskey he had consumed wafted through the phone. Dodge’s passing weighed hard on his black soul.
“They’ll be glad to see you,” Billy said.
“I bet they’ll throw me a ball.”
“Fuck you,” he said, then hung up.
I gave the phone to Trevor, and he placed it on the receiver.
“The Lawless?” he asked.
“No, it was bloody fucking Christ.” I turned away and onto my side, glancing at the tattoo on my upper arm. The one I tried so hard to hide. The one where tiny droplets of blood now rose from the faded black Gothic lettering, fresh ink to darken it after years of neglect. It wanted to look its best when it returned home.
Trevor wrapped his arms around me, cupping my left breast. He pulled me close to nibble on my ear. I pulled away and closed my eyes. Neither of us moved for a few seconds, but then I felt his arms squeeze me a little tighter. He kissed my neck and whispered, “I love you.” Although I was annoyed and frustrated by Billy’s call, Trevor’s kisses felt good.
What the hell? I was already wide-the-fuck-awake.
You can pre-order your hardcover, e-book, or audio copy of Half Outlaw on Bookshop, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Audible, through your local independent bookstore, and library. Feel free to also listen to the Half Outlaw-inspired Spotify playlist. Follow Alex Temblador at AlexTemblador.com or on Instagram or Twitter for more book news and events.
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