cover image Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir

Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir

Cherrie Moraga. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-374-21966-6

Activist Moraga (coeditor, This Bridge Called My Back) tells the story of her mother, Elvira, in this compassionate memoir that explores family and cultural legacies. Moraga weaves her coming-of-age as a queer Mexican-American woman with the story of her mother, who spends her final years battling Alzheimer’s. At the center of the narrative is Moraga’s attempt to resurrect her family’s Mexican and indigenous cultural legacies, both of which she and her mother came to distance themselves from in order to assimilate. Elvira came of age as a young woman in 1930s Tijuana, where she worked as a cigarette girl in casinos; in 1952, she gave birth to Moraga and followed the “dream of Suburban America” by moving the family to San Gabriel, Calif. In 1977, Moraga, who had become involved in women’s and gay rights activism, moved to San Francisco. Two decades later, however, Moraga embraced her ancestry by falling in love with a Chicana woman named Celia, “allowing my return to the love of a Mexican woman in my life.” During this time, Elvira reached the late stages of Alzheimer’s, and Moraga prepared for her mother’s death hoping she would finally embrace her own ethnicity. Moraga’s captivating and perceptive memoir successfully conveys her belief that “we are as much of a place as we are of a people.” [em](Apr.) [/em]