Tentacle by Rita Indiana (tr. Achy Obejas)

tentacle cover on kindle, spiny underwater scene

a nutshell: twisting between three timeframes, this is a mind-boggling tale stretching across themes of gender, queerness, poverty, ecodisaster, addiction, sex, colonialism, art & everything else in-between

a line: “Lies, thought Acilde, are like beans, they have to be well seasoned or no one will swallow them”

an image: repeating a name to himself, a character imagines that the letters of the name are fishing hooks searching the depths of his mind as he captured fragments of images that dissolved just as they were taking shape

a thought: I actually read this book last year but forgot to review it at the time, so dipped back into it this week and was struck, on the very first page, by the words ‘quarantine’ and ‘virus’ – these aspects of the storyline of course barely made a dent on my psyche back in July 2019, whereas now they jolted me into panic mode… how times have changed

a fact: as well as writing, Indiana makes music & she is a household name in the Dominican Republic where she is popularly referred to as “La Monstra” (the monster)

want to read Tentacle? visit here

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

In the Time of Butterflies against blue sky and sea

a nutshell: reaching from 1938 to 1994, this utterly compelling novel reimagines the lives of the four Mirabal sisters (‘The Butterflies’, or ‘Las Mariposas‘) – symbols of hope & defiance during the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic

a line: “I couldn’t stand the idea of being locked up in any one life”

an image: an extract from Mate’s fictionalised diary describes a current running among the women prisoners as like an invisible needle stitching them together into the glorious, free nation they’re becoming

a thought: there are so so many thoughts I could share here, but suffice to say that this was for me the most moving book I’ve encountered in my project so far and my life was essentially put on pause while I was reading it

a fact: after the author’s father was involved in an underground plot cracked by the the Dominican Republic’s notorious Military Intelligence Service, Alvarez’s family fled for New York City in August 1960 – less than four months before the murder of the three Mirabel sisters, who were members of that underground

want to read In the Time of the Butterflies? visit here

PS: as part of my human rights work I was involved in promoting the 16 Days of Activism a few months ago, yet it was only at the very end of the novel that I remembered this annual campaign begins on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – a day that commemorates the legacy of the Mirabal sisters.