Luisa in Realityland by Claribel Alegría (tr. D J Flakoll)

a nutshell: flitting between poetry & prose vignettes, this short autofictional book conjures Alegría’s mystical, occasionally haunting memories of her early life in El Salvador

a line: “Any psychoanalyst would tell you that you’re horribly envious of Chagall”

an image: Luisa refuses to take home a bird from her childhood friend, saying her grandfather believes birds should be free – the boy then reveals, twisting his bare & dirty toes, that his mum is planning to cook her as they have nothing but the bird to eat

a thought: in its afternote, the book mentions that the author has long been an outspoken advocate of the liberation struggle in El Salvador and Central America more widely – this comes across in the later stages of the book, particularly through the poetry

a fact: Alegría was born in Nicaragua but when she was nine months old her father was exiled for protesting human rights violations during the US occupation, so she grew up in Santa Ana (western El Salvador) where her mother was from and considered herself Nicaraguan-Salvadorean

 

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