Friday, April 30, 2010


To anyone interested in El Salvador and the Sanctuary movement, I enthusiastically recommend a short novel, MotherTongue by Demetria Martinez. A New Mexican poet and journalist who was once jailed for her alleged participation in smuggling Central American refugees, Martinez has written an often lyrical, poetic story of a young woman (Maria) falling in love with a Salvadoran refugee (Jose Luis, a divinity student of liberation-theology bent) and dealing with the emotions and consequences engendered by that relationship (as well as a forgotten, troubling past of her own). Although at times the shifts in tense and voice were somewhat disconcerting, as well as the jumping around in the telling of the story, I thoroughly enjoyed this novella. Several times I stopped, re-read, and even underlined sentences and passages that I just liked, such as: "I thought my arroyo of grief had long ago dried up, leaving only an imprint of the storm." Another, "the letters lassos with which I struggled to rope in feelings that galloped off in no clear direction." The book is full of these gems, which makes the rather simple story so much more vibrant and moving. I think especially women will like it (although I hesitate to call it feminist writing, because its messages are broader than that). It would be a great book for high schoolers, because it might bring up a lot of discussion possibilities. . . about U.S. participation in the third world, reactionary movement in South America and the destruction of the peasantry and leftist activities, the impact of terror and torture, the human spirit (good and bad) and risk, love, taking chances. There is a lot packed in this slim volume. One could whip through it in hours, but it is best to read it in sections, enjoying each tidbit separately. I was, however, slightly unhappy with the ending, but I can't say why in order to avoid spoiling it for the reader.

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