[This is a review of The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters by Lorraine López that I posted on this blog a while back. I'm bringing it forward into my Books of Interest by Writers of Color series. I will be looking at her newest novel soon also.]
I first met Lorraine López at Con Tinta in Chicago earlier this year at AWP, the national conference of writers and university writing programs. López is one of the organizers of Con Tinta, the annual pachanga of Latino writers and their literary allies from around the country. She is also a veteran of the famous Macondo writing workshop. A professor at Vanderbilt University, López is a charming, soft-spoken woman, whose second book of short stories will be published this fall by BkMk Press at UMKC. [This book, Homicide Survivors' Picnic, was a finalist for the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award in Fiction, making López the first Latina to become a finalist for that prestigious award.]
López’s first novel, The Gifted Gaboldón Sisters (Grand Central Publishing), raised high expectations since her first short story collection, Soy la Avon Lady and Other Stories (Curbstone Press), won the Latino Book Award and other awards, and her young adult novel, Call Me Henri (Curbstone Press), won the Paterson Prize. The Gifted Gaboldón Sisters exceeds those expectations handily. Four young sisters depend on the family’s mysterious and ancient Pueblo servant, Fermina, after their mother’s death. Early in the book, Fermina dies, after promising each girl a gift. Throughout the book, the story of the sisters’ journey to adulthood with the special gifts endowed by Fermina—Bette’s stories, Loretta’s healing, Rita’s cursing, and Sophia’s laughter—alternates with Fermina’s own gripping story of kidnapping and slavery told to a writer long before the girls were born. The two threads come together as the adult sisters, in a time of crisis for each, journey together across the country and into the past to discover who Fermina was and what kind of magic their capricious gifts really came from. López peoples her book with characters so fresh and alive you expect to meet them just around the block. The rich, vivid writing entwines the reader deeply in the lives of the girls, their relatives, and their lovers. Fermina’s story enlightens and interconnects with theirs from the distant past. The book’s theme focuses on the lives of women in the past and present, how the distant past informs their present identities, and how they overcome or make peace with the limitations life hands them. This is a book you will go back to again and again.
[López is one of the most gifted writers of fiction today. She writes from a position of respect and caring for even her most hapless and out-of-control characters, allowing the reader to see through her eyes the possibilities and hope at each one's core.
Her novels are published by a major publisher, and here's the Amazon link. If you'd rather buy Homicide Survivor's Picnic from the small press that published it, here's that link with a video of her reading it, as well. Readers of this blog will know that I always encourage folks to support the small and university presses who publish most of the new writers in this country.]
Back to the usual format of this series on writers of color at the end of the week.