Posts Tagged ‘novels about Guatemala’

Mamalita is 8

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

My memoir, Mamalita, was published in November 2010, eight years ago this month. A lot has happened since then: My daughter, Olivia—whose adoption is the subject of Mamalita–is now a young woman of 16. Her brother, my son Mateo, is 14. Both my parents have died. Olivia’s older half-sister in Guatemala is the mother of two children. Olivia has attended four different schools. Mateo has transferred schools once.

I’ve met countless people touched by adoption, both in person and virtually, including (maybe) you if you’re reading this. “Adoption people” are my tribe, in a deep, lasting way I never expected. We speak the same language, a shorthand that feels sometimes to belong only to us. No explanations are necessary. There’s a comfort to that.

A few years after Mamalita was published, I began jotting down other ideas for stories. Adoption remained my obsession, but after penning a memoir and many essays, I realized some truths can only be expressed through fiction. One day, I opened a new Word document on my laptop and wrote: “Three trucks carried the soldiers up the dark mountain road to San Rolando. They rolled past corn and bean fields, past grazing pastures for cows and sheep, past rows of adobe houses with thatched roofs.”

The scene had come to me in a recurring dream, with details so vivid I felt I’d lived them.

In 18 days, I’ll graduate with an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch LA. My thesis project opens with the San Rolando scene and contains the first 140 pages of my novel. The full novel draft contains 320 pages or 90,500 words.

I can’t predict if the novel will ever be published. All I know is I wrote the best book I could. I’m happy to have finished.

Thank you for walking this journey with me. xoxo

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Hard Red Spring by Kelly Kerney

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Kelly Kerney’s novel Hard Red Spring tells the history of modern Guatemala through the lives of four Americans whose stories are linked by the book’s inciting incident: the mysterious disappearance in 1902 of an ex-pat little girl.

The book is divided into four time periods critical to Guatemala’s evolution: 1902, 1954, 1983, and 1999. During each of the four periods, a story is told through a different point of view: Evie, the young ex-pat girl who disappears; Dorie, the wife of the American ambassador to Guatemala during the presidency of Jacobo Arbenz and reign of United Fruit; Lenore, the wife of an evangelical pastor sent to Guatemala to serve in a model village under Efrain Rios Montt; and Jean, the adoptive mother who returns to Guatemala for a Roots Tour with her teenage daughter, Maya.

Each of these characters is an outsider in Guatemala, and much of the book’s drama revolves around the characters’ struggles to understand and navigate their outsider status. No clear villains or heroes emerge: Everyone is flawed, and in many ways, everyone is guilty—of selfishness, of pride, of good intentions gone awry–or if not guilty, not innocent, either.

I turned every page of Hard Red Spring in awe of Kelly Kerney’s ability to seamlessly weave the history of Guatemala through the epic narrative. The plot of each of the four sections is gripping and unexpected—perhaps because the history of Guatemala is both those things–and the characters are unique and memorable. At the same time, Hard Red Spring was, for me, a difficult read. Not because of the novel’s density—although at times it was dense—but because of the underlying message: That as a citizen of the United States, I am forever an interloper to Guatemala, regardless of how fervently I wish to belong.

Despite my discomfort, I wholly recommend Hard Red Spring. It’s  a monumental and important novel that affected how I think, and won’t soon forget.

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