A bilingual collection of fairy tale–inspired stories of life in a contemporary West Coast barrio.
In this debut story collection, García blends Mexican folklore and the tradition of the folk tales of the Brothers Grimm to present stories featuring Mexican, Chicano, and white characters in Santa Ana, California. In “The Carousel’s Lullaby,” the city’s 19th-century founder, Billy Spurgeon, reappears as a ghost, still fighting for white supremacy, while “Zoraida and Marisol” is a tribute to a murdered transgender woman. Witches make an appearance in “Just a House,” and in “Hector and Graciela,” the story of Hansel and Gretel is transformed into a tale of children left behind when immigration officials seize their parents; they escape from an ogrelike Minuteman through their own cunning. García draws on themes of gentrification, assimilation, and xenophobia while deftly capturing the day-to-day life of an ordinary community, and she infuses it all with a sense of magic. The writing is full of vivid imagery, local geography, and detail that evokes the place where the author wrote these stories as an artist-in-residence: “Bystanders watched the flapping flag at the top and twinkling lights underneath from afar, savoring their mangos with chile and limón in la plaza, occasionally pressing their lips to relieve the sting they craved.” The Spanish translation, which makes up the book’s second half, is also well-done; the only shortcoming is that the evocative moments of Spanglish and natural shifts between languages (“I know I’m just a vieja to most gente, but I believe in what I believe in, and not you or any of those city officials are gonna tell me otherwise”) are less evident in the Spanish versions. The stories are all satisfying narratives on their own, but they effectively combine to produce an intimate work that’s universal in its scope.
A gorgeously written collection of strong stories that blend Mexican and European folklore with the realities of contemporary America.