The Five Acts of Diego León

by Alex Espinoza

Growing up in a Mexican village at the height of the Revolution, Diego León finds his passion for singing and dancing, and forges a deep connection to his ancestors, the P’urhépecha. But soon young Diego is sent to the city to live with his white, aristocratic grandparents, who insist he forget his roots and groom him to take over the family business. Feeling trapped by familial obligations and haunted by the violence that continues to rage all around him, Diego flees Mexico for Hollywood. He arrives in 1927, when Prohibition-era speakeasies are in full swing, silent films are giving way to talkies, and “Latin lover” types thrive in the cinemas but face persecution on the streets. The closer Diego comes to stardom, the more he is reminded of his painful past and his war-torn homeland. Available now for the first time in paperback, The Five Acts of Diego León is a classic Hollywood tale of romance, glamour, and betrayal, with an underdog hero that you won’t soon forget.


Praise for The Five Acts of Diego León

“A story that begins in revolutionary Mexico and travels to Hollywood during the film industry’s transition from silent films to talkies, The Five Acts of Diego León breaks greater silences—taboos of race and sexuality, of reinvention and assimilation—in a fantasy called Hollywoodland.” –Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street

“Fresh, surprising, and delightful. There is nowhere this gifted writer can’t go.” –Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter

“With its colorful narrative and historic sweep, The Five Acts of Diego León has both a story line and characters that a wide readership will surely enjoy.” –Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

“The Five Acts of Diego León highlights the dilemma many young folks face: whether to do what family and society expects or to be free and follow a dream. Hollywood beckons and the protagonist of this engaging narrative follows, only to arrive at an unjust world of racism where everyone gets ahead by stepping on someone else.

Espinoza’s deft and masterful storytelling leads readers along a path from Mexico before the Mexican Revolution to the Golden Age of Hollywood film culture where the protagonist Diego León finds his American dream isn’t at all what he expected. León must follow his heart, but is it worth going against all that he has built in his grandparents’ home? Is it worth forgetting his father’s indigenous culture? Will making it in Hollywood be all that he imagines?” –Norma Cantú, author of Canícula and Cabañuelas, Murchison Professor in the Humanities, Trinity University.

“Espinoza’s novel is highly kinetic as Diego navigates his new life.  Like the film industry, very little is static and there is a clear expression of the wish to build, advance, and create an output of  importance.” –Hometowns to Hollywood

About The Author

Alex Espinoza was born in Tijuana, Mexico. He came to the United States with his family at the age of two and grew up in suburban Los Angeles. Author of the novel Still Water Saints, he received an MFA from the University of California, Irvine. A recipient of the Margaret Bridgman Fellowship in Fiction at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Espinoza is currently the Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair of Creative Writing at UC Riverside.