Elizabeth grew up hearing the tale of her grandfather, Antonio Gonzalez, the real El Tragabalas. She has taken dramatic license with actual events in her novel, but there is a basis of fact to the story - for example, Gonzalez was indeed shot in the face by the Texas Rangers - that has also provided the basis for other dramatic interpretations over time. Elizabeth's cousin, the Mexican movie star, Lalo Gonzalez, made a comedy about El Tragabalas in 1966, and well-known Texas folklorist, Jovita Gonzalez, produced a short story in 1935 riffing on the same legend. Now the interviews editor at The Rumpus, Elizabeth's stories and essays have appeared in The Idaho Review, The Rumpus, Ploughshares, PANK, and elsewhere, and have received numerous Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations. Her first novel, Mona at Sea, was a finalist in the 2019 SFWP Literary Awards judged by Carmen Maria Machado, and was named a 'Most Anticipated' book by The Millions, The Rumpus, and other publications, with Elizabeth appearing on NPR's Weekend Edition.
"An utterly original, wild ride rendered by Gonzalez James' masterful hand that turns the traditional redemption narrative on its head. In cracking open her own family legends, The Bullet Swallower brings to vibrant, three dimensional life the people and history of the Mexican and Texas border. Full of heart and humor, the magic in this book is not what is invented, but that it makes you wonder what it is, in all our histories, we may have forgotten? * Xochitl Gonzalez, New York Times bestselling author of Olga Dies Dreaming * One Hundred Years of Solitude meets Lonesome Dove. A gunslinging Western laced with magical realism that illuminates the complicated history between Texas and Mexico, and the impacts of colonialism and generational trauma. The Bullet Swallower is the historical novel of our time because it asks: ""What do we owe for the crimes of our ancestors?"" A masterpiece! * Mary Pauline Lowry, author of The Roxy Letters * The Bullet Swallower is a rollicking, inventive tour-de-force, a novel you don't so much read as fall into like a dream-vivid, violent, and magical. Part Western revenge narrative, part family epic, part study of colonialism and displacement, this is the Texas-Mexico novel I wish had existed decades ago. We're lucky to have it now. Elizabeth Gonzalez James is a force. * Katie Gutierrez, bestselling author of More Than You'll Ever Know * Mythic, epic and multigenerational in scale, this novel reclaims North American history through its grand story-a gritty and bloody, iconic and subversive, smart, heartbreaking, and often funny fireside tale. The Bullet Swallower contends with such big and necessary questions and will mark new edges on a far larger map of the American literary and historic West. * Robin McLean, author of Get ’em Young, Treat ’em Tough, Tell ’em Nothing * To the lineage of Saramago and Borges add Gonzalez James. Resplendent and magisterial, The Bullet Swallower is an exploration of great evil, desperate longing, and redemption. This is a triumph: one of those rare stories which dwells in this our world but is not of it. * Tom Lin, author of The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu * Elizabeth Gonzalez James has accomplished an astounding feat - a book that is as thrilling as it is beautiful, that challenges toxic masculinity as it envisions what manhood could be. Yet, my favorite part of The Bullet Swallower is the elegance with which it collapses boundaries between genres, crafting an entirely original text-a magical realism western that calls to mind Don Quixote? Sign me up, please. Gonzalez James is a master storyteller who has gifted us a wild, unexpected story. Bravo! * Cleyvis Natera, author of Neruda on the Park * James is a writer to watch * ADAM JOHNSON, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Orphan Master's Son * James makes such deft use of tropes from Westerns, Gothic literature, and magical realism that they don't feel like tropes at all . . . she gives them life with prose that's both spare and intensely rich. This novel is valuable for its gorgeous language and gripping story . . . Mesmerizing and important. * Kirkus Reviews * Readers will find this a refreshingly modern recasting of the classic western . . . Gonzalez laces magical realism into her vivid epic of the Texas-Mexico border and the violence that shapes a family for generations * Publishers Weekly * With a powerfully drawn setting and viscerally convincing characters, James's novel is a strong addition to any general fiction collection * Library Journal *"