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“Half Outlaw”

By Meagan Russell
In Bayou Pages
Aug 1st, 2022

by Alex Temblador

“I settled back into a rhythm that I had long forgotten. I used the long stretches of time to watch the Lawless write their story on the Highway. Their tires drew endless ribbons of black lines across the road, telling a story that would never be read or understood. Motorcycle clubs like the Lawless were chapters left out of books.”

Alex Temblador’s adult novel explores the challenges of identity, familial connection, and abandonment. Upon the death of her parents, four-year-old Raqi is left with her Uncle Dodge, a stranger ill suited for guardianship. Immersed into Dodge’s all white, male-dominated motorcycle gang called the Lawless, the Mixed child navigates a world of crime, drugs, violence, and bigotry. Ten years after abandoning the group and becoming a successful attorney, Raqi is summoned to a Grieving Ride to commemorate her uncle’s passing. Hesitant to return, though lured by learning her real grandfather’s name after a lifetime of estrangement, Raqi joins the Lawless on a cross-country quest, reflecting on her past to make peace with her present. 

The story is told in tandem, with chapters alternating between Raqi’s childhood with the Lawless and the Grieving Ride to scatter Dodge’s ashes. Along the way, Raqi encounters fragments of Dodge’s past, characters portraying a seemingly reformed version of the uncle who loved better from a distance. Raqi wrestles with the man she remembers, the girl she left behind, and the woman carrying the weight at breakneck speed on the back of a hog. Raqi oozes toughness like a job, consistently shedding a protective second skin. She mourns her uncle with an amalgam of attachment and hate, illustrating the complexity of childhood trauma and desire for healing.

Temblador’s strength lies in articulating a riveting plot, while delving into the gritty texture of story and character. Raqi feels real, aware of her flaws, yet reticent to confront the duality of resenting her past and accepting its manifestation. Temblador layers in subtle magical realism, a nod to the spirit world where we search for answers unmarred by reality. The novel’s fundamental theme of Mixed heritage, residing in one culture while the product of another, is embodied in the story’s flirtation with the real and the unreal. Temblador dares readers to question if where we come from determines who we are, and who we are when our origin story seems lost. 

Half Outlaw is Alex Temblador’s second book. Her young adult novel Secrets of the Casa Rosada debuted in 2018, winning several awards. She graduated from the University of Louisiana Monroe and The University of Central Oklahoma and now lives and writes in Dallas, Texas. 

“Sometimes they loved me too much. They never gave up on trying to win me back even when they weren’t sure they wanted me in the first place.” 

“The ethereal cloud of smoke moved around his head. It was churning, transforming into the scene that played out below. And I stood there among it all. Watching. Witnessing.”