Are We Ever Our Own

BOA. May 2022. 240p. ISBN 9781950774616. pap. $17. F
Winner of the BOA Short Fiction Prize, this follow-up to Fuentes’s debut novel, The Sleeping World, bracingly profiles women in the Armando Castell family, originally from Cuba but “strewn across tiny islands and vast continents” and over decades as well. In the opening story, the ghost of real-life sculptor Ana Mendieta, reputedly killed by her husband, haunts the Donald Judd Museum in Marfa, TX, and inspires the scorched-earth first work of teenager Caridad Armando-Mendoza. In other fantasy-edged stories, a woman arrives in town on a storm, vanishes after giving birth, then returns years later to reclaim the daughter who perhaps summoned her, while a traveling musician who plays her father’s fiddle feels that it speaks beyond her (“June’s voice rising with my bow and echoing in the dark red wood”). Elsewhere, tragedy is visited upon two proud mestizo friends during their town’s occupation, downtrodden servant joins the revolution, and a filmmaker traveling to Cuba for the first time resists her controlling boyfriend to make the work she wants.
VERDICT Lyrical if tough-minded stories linked by their strong portraiture of women who resist being appropriated by anyone.
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