cover image Bad Girls

Bad Girls

Camila Villada, trans. from the Spanish by Kit Maude. Other Press, $24 (208p) I

Argentine actor and writer Villada debuts with a mystical if diffuse portrayal of travesti (trans women) sex workers in Córdoba, Argentina. Camila, 21, attends college by day and at night joins a group of tight-knit travestis in Sarmiento Park, servicing johns from all walks of life. After Auntie Encarna, the group’s 178-year-old leader, finds an infant boy in a park ditch, she gets the other women to help her care for him. The novel is grounded by Camila and Auntie Encarna, but each chapter introduces new travestis. There is Deaf and mute Maria, who slowly turns into a bird, and La Machi, their medicine woman whose gravitas makes her an authority figure, among others. These portraits enrich a series of painful stories about the violence in the women’s lives and point to a central tension, that travestis are both desired and despised by the world (“to punish us they say no one will want us. But life couldn’t go on without us there,” Camila narrates). While the chronicle finds strengths in its convincing characters, driven by sympathetic Camila, the disparate portraits and episodes don’t all hang together. Still, Villada makes this thoroughly heartbreaking. (May.)