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Mother tongue

Martinez, Demetria

396 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0927534428 / ISBN 13: 9780927534420
Published by Bilingual Press/Editorial Biling?e, Tempe, 1994
From Bolerium Books Inc. (San Francisco, CA, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

121p., review copy with sheets laid in, fine first edition in cloth boards and unclipped dj. The first work of fiction by the poet won the 1994 Western States Book Award for Fiction. The author, a columnist, was indicted on charges of smuggling Central American refugees into the USA. She was later acquitted. Bookseller Inventory # 71889

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Mother tongue

Publisher: Bilingual Press/Editorial Biling?e, Tempe

Publication Date: 1994

Binding: Hardcover

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


Mary is nineteen, subject to depression, and still grieving over the death of her mother when she meets Jose Luis, a political refugee from El Salvador.
Though ostensibly Mary plans simply to help Jose Luis adjust to his new life in the United States, she has another agenda - she plans to fall in love with this man whose life seems so fundamentally different from her own.
During the early days of their relationship, Jose Luis, a student and poet, teaches Mary to speak Spanish and slowly reveals his terrifying past to her. In return, Mary offers him the alms of sex and adoration, hoping that she will be able "to take the war out" of him and in the process find definition in her seemingly meaningless life.
This is a novel about searching - about a woman looking for herself in a man, about a man looking for his place in the world, about two people who find each other but do not find the simple solutions that romantic love supposedly offers young lovers.
This story, told from Mary's point of view, spans twenty years. During this time her story evolves and becomes not just about a woman's love for a man, but about a woman who must wrestle her own devils and who, as a result, gains dimension and intelligence.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Poetry, politics, and no-holds-barred emotions burst from the tiny binding of a notable first novel by poet and activist Mart¡nez (Turning, not reviewed). Striking from the very first line is Mart¡nez's ability to combine poetic language and imagery with novelistic structure and suspense: ``His nation chewed him up and spat him out like a pi¤¢n shell, and when he emerged from an airplane one late afternoon, I knew I would one day make love with him.'' It's 1982, civil war rages in El Salvador, and Mary, a 19-year-old Mexican-American, is helping smuggle refugees into New Mexico. Mary picks up a man at the airport and brings him back to her mentor's house, where the two hide out and house-sit while Soledad is away for the summer. The refugee picks an alias, Jos‚ Luis; she clothes him in Ivy League apparel; and they fall in love--at least, Mary falls deep in dreamy-eyed love with Jos‚ Luis, who, though he loves her, is bitterly realistic and somewhat distant. She pushes for asylum- securing marriage; he remains torn between the comforts of the US and his El Salvadoran cause. All this is conveyed by Mary, an avid diarist and storyteller, with contrasting perspectives provided in some essays and poems by Soledad, Jos‚ Luis, and, later, Jos‚ Luis Jr. The anxiety of a probably doomed love affair is palpably evoked as Mary struggles to ``develop [her] inner resources'' so she won't obsess over Jos‚ Luis. Their struggles come to a head on the night of their son's conception--shortly before his father's desertion. Believing it's important to remember everything, Mary unloads all of the family's skeletons onto the printed page so that their son will know the truth. Beautiful writing and astute commentary on identity, love, and El Salvadoran crises, wrapped cozy as a tamale with a maybe- happily-ever-after epilogue. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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