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Barriers to Love by Marina Peralta

Barriers to Love

Embracing a Bisexual Identity

by Marina Peralta

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Peralta, a Mexican woman now living in Southern California, surveys her romantic past and her struggle to understand herself as a bisexual in this memoir.

Growing up in midcentury Mexico, Peralta was told that sexual desire was dirty. Her love for dancing and applause earned censure, too: “Only lower-class women go into show business,” her mother said. She was even criticized for dancing too close to a boy in a socially approved setting in an event hall. “By now I should know that feeling pleasure in my body is wrong,” a 16-year-old Marina concluded. But if desire for boys was wrong, desire for a woman was worse, according to Peralta’s mother. She told her 18-year-old daughter that “[i]t is better to be a whore than a lesbian,” after she found some love notes a woman wrote to Marina. Over the next decades, the author grew up, had a family, started a dance school, got divorced, had lesbian affairs, became a therapist, and moved back and forth between Mexico and the United States. Throughout this memoir, Peralta traces her growing self-understanding as a woman attracted to both men and women. Her story is particularly valuable for readers who wish to understand the social and familial forces that were arrayed against gays and lesbians in the past. But, overall, the memoir often comes off as more emotional than thoughtful about the events of Peralta’s own life. On the breakup of her marriage, for example, the author writes: “I never considered the aftermath of a divorce….I didn’t expect to grieve over my broken marriage or have regrets for the breakup.” The memoir also doesn’t delve very deeply into other people’s experiences—although a final section about the author’s mother does make an effort in that direction.

An intriguing but strangely unreflective memoir.