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“A slow-paced, culturally rich story.” – KIRKUS REVIEWS

Releases April 3, 2023


by James Villanueva


A striking and honest depiction of the struggles that exist when trying to straddle cultures, worlds, and desires.

Seventeen-year-old Santos Ramos is a curandero – Latinx shaman – living in desolate West Texas. When a mute boy crosses the border through a sinister smuggler, Santos finds himself fascinated by the voiceless teen.

Santos craves a more traditional high school life of parties, studying for the SATs, and writing for the school blog but he was born with el don – the gift. People come to him for spiritual healing. Like his past Aztec roots, though, asking God for healing comes with the sacrifices of fevered charms, personal objects, snake venom and even the blood of animals.

He struggles keeping his identity of el don from his All-American best friends’; Maverick and Victor who, like most of the town, are intrigued to know about the mysterious “Monster of Southland.” The legendary hidden figure lurking at night leaving behind a trail of animal carcasses as sacrifices.

Sixteen-year-old Dulcero Lopez and his younger sister immigrate from Honduras after witnessing the brutal murder of his parents’ causing him to have aphasia and losing the ability to speak. The two head north – to the USA where Dulcero is separated from her by ICE. Voiceless Dulcero is sent to live with his abusive uncle, Juan, who is a coyote and who he cannot pay for bringing him over. His only way out of this hell, and to be reunited with his little sister, is through the healing hands of Santos.

The end of his junior year has Santos questioning everything about who he is as a curandero while craving the freedom of becoming the teen he aches to be. When Dulcero arrives, Santos finds himself like the trailing dying light of a midnight star, falling – falling fast in love with the voiceless visitor who needs his healing hands.


Hardcover - $19.99
eBook - $9.99

Releases April 3, 2023

About the Author

Award winning writer and educator, James Villanueva, is the author of, Remembering Slaton, Texas: Centennial Stories 1911-2011, published by The History Press and the young adult novel, Flick. He has been featured in several publications and magazines including Texas Monthly, Latino Lubbock Magazine, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has presented and been a special guest speaker for several writing workshops and conferences throughout the United States. The teleplay for his novel, Flick, was an entry in the Austin Film Festival. 

The Secret Language of Prairie Dogs is Villanueva’s third full-length book. James is on the board of the Wild Lark Books Fund, a registered nonprofit entity with the mission of making publishing accessible by providing resources to historically excluded – and thus under-heard – writers. The Wild Lark Books Fund serves historically excluded communities and minority voices. This includes young writers, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and historically oppressed ethnicities. Generous donations and all proceeds from sales make the vision of The Wild Lark Books Fund possible. 

James is also the director of the Wild Lark Books Young Writers Project which hosts writing workshops for teens throughout the South Plains and will be used for the creation of the anthology, The Trailblazer, Young Voices of the Texas Panhandle, to be published by Wild Lark Books in 2023. James currently teaches English at Lubbock-Estacado High School where he assists with One Act Play and coaches speech and debate. He lives in Slaton, Texas with his larger-than-life miniature dachshund, Oliver, and is busy editing his next book.

Also Written by James Villanueva

Remembering Slaton, Texas: Centennial Stories 1911-2011 by James Villanueva
Remembering Slaton, Texas:
Centennial Stories 1911-2011