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He Does It All--for Love of Written Word : Alejandro Morales: Writer; College Professor

For Alejandro Morales, opening a bookstore in Tustin was an extension of his love for the written word.

A professor in the Spanish department at UC Irvine and author of five books, Morales has also been involved in printing through the Pacific Writers Press, a small publishing house.

Last month, he bought Courtyard Books, a small store in a shopping center near Tustin’s downtown.

Morales is busy rearranging display tables and shelves. But the biggest difference customers will notice is the variety of works by ethnic writers seldom found in chain bookstores.

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“People can come here and read authors from Latin America, African-American authors, Chicano authors,” Morales said. “But at the same time, I don’t want to lose the clientele this bookstore already had.”

To that end, he and his partner will try to provide a balance of books, from the more commercially successful ones to those by smaller printing houses.

Orange County’s ethnic diversity is growing, he said, and it means that there are more and more children in the school systems whose families have come from other countries.

“They need to know there is a literature dealing with them,” he said. “Teachers need to know there is material for them to teach from.”

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He was especially interested in starting his business in Tustin, and he had been eyeing this particular bookstore for years. He and his wife, Rohde, are Tustin residents and raised their two children, Alessandra and Greg, in that city.

Morales is trying his hand at various aspects of publishing and bookselling, but he still sees himself as a writer first. His fifth book, “The Rag Doll Plagues,” published by Houston-based Arte Publico Press, was recently released.

“I’m a writer. I love to write,” he said. “But I also love to be involved in publishing. “Our dream is to eventually control every aspect of a book--the writing, the distribution, the selling, creating. . . .”

Morales was born and reared in the city of Montebello in Los Angeles County and earned his master’s and doctoral degrees at Rutgers University.

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His fourth book, “The Brick People,” was his first to be written in English. Morales said he felt more comfortable writing his first few books in Spanish.

“That language allowed me to express myself better,” he said. “It was the very first language that I knew. It was the most personal to me.”

“The Brick People” is a fictionalized account of the people who worked in the Simons Brick Factory, an actual company in Montebello where bricks were turned out, mostly by Mexican workers. Two generations of Morales’ family worked there.

“This is an important book,” he said. “This is the story of my father and mother. It’s a nonexistent town but a true history of this factory and the people who lived there. But it is history that is not recorded anywhere.”

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