[A] lucid, poignant collection of essays and poetry ... The horror of countless public displays of mutilated, tortured bodies has rendered a terrified population into silence, their trauma too painful to articulate. But in this slim book, Rivera Garza tries to do just that, functioning as both a physician diagnosing the source of her country’s pain, and an archaeologist unearthing its layers and then artfully transforming the grief into words ... Rivera Garza’s focus never waivers ... Such weighty subject matter might sound like a heavy lift. But Rivera Garza’s essays leave the opposite impression. They are deeply hopeful, ultimately love letters to writing itself.
Across some 200 pages, Garza applies a lingual scalpel to the narrative of systemic violence ... Although Garza’s writing style is easy to enter into and become subsumed by, this collection should be read slowly in parts or sections and not devoured in one sitting (as I did) ... the stories she tells are often simply too painful to read: there needs to be time to stop, to read, to grieve, to repeat, to remember, to move on ... a powerful call to action.
Like everybody’s favorite guest at a dinner party, Cristina Rivera Garza is an excellent conversationalist. She pays careful attention to those who have spoken before her, then makes her own contribution, which unfailingly proves relevant, fascinating, and productive ... Garza untangles a complex knot of themes and weaves them into a harmonious tapestry. Though firmly rooted in the liminal space that she calls home, she speaks for a vast community that transcends geographical and linguistic limitations ... simultaneously a testament, a manifesto, and a living embodiment of its own call to action ... With this text, Rivera Garza is grieving rather than simply writing an essay collection. As she asks her words to make available to readers what she experiences and witnesses, she enthusiastically cherry picks techniques from across genres, media, languages, and grammars. She wields language like a pioneer wields a machete, using familiar tools to discover new spaces. Just as the reader begins to recognize the terrain, it transforms. Ms. Booker, the writer ’s long-time translator, matches Rivera Garza’s daring linguistic arsenal blow by blow ... All the amplitude and precision of Rivera Garza’s linguistic space occupies Booker’s translation. That she can achieve so much significance nearly with syntax alone is a true testament to her artistic skill ... A historian by training, [Garza's] writing blends the patience of the archivist, the lyricism of the novelist, and the righteousness of the activist ... Garza’s feminism runs deeper than thematic analysis. Her feminism is not hers alone and she does not grieve from the ivory tower of the academy. Other female academics and activists, like Cavarero or Elvira Arellano, are her inspiration, not her competition. She includes the words and stories of female victims of violence not to appropriate them, but to amplify them, to legitimate their pain while venerating their beauty. Multivocality, the recognition of a unique female positionality, its generative, performative nature, and a story arc with frequent climaxes and an indeterminate resolution make this a feminist text in its form as well as its content.
...concise but weighty and timely ... Rivera Garza’s approach is spare and kaleidoscopic, offering a poet’s touch to the unspeakable. The effect can be distracting, jumping from one subject to the next (many of the 27 pieces are only a few pages long). Yet within the destruction and devastation that threads the book together, there are glimmers of hope.
This book is an act of resistance against the institutional violence of Mexico and the US, and shines a light on the policies that make poor Mexican bodies, especially female bodies, disposable ... Rivera Garza’s pen is unflinching in recounting the atrocities committed against civilians ... I read this book slowly, with more breaks between essays than I usually need, but the subject matter is necessarily brutal, and witnessing it, even vicariously, was harrowing ... I often felt helpless reading this book, yet I understood the power of Rivera Garza’s words and the necessity for me, a white American woman, to read them and not look away ... Rivera Garza’s prose is elegant and scathing as she takes the reader through the #MeToo movement in Mexico: #RopaSucia (dirty laundry) and #MiPrimerAcoso (#MyFirstAssault).
Rivera Garza’s remarkable writing captures a sense of place through evocative imagery and detail. Her incisive look at Mexico’s national grief emphasizes the humanity and struggle of daily life there ... a thought-provoking, moving analysis of social and political reckoning in Mexico.
As Rivera Garza ably demonstrates, so much of the responsibility for the violence can be attributed to the failure of the state ... A compelling work of social criticism that speaks to a desperate time.