cover image Linea Nigra: An Essay on Pregnancy and Earthquakes

Linea Nigra: An Essay on Pregnancy and Earthquakes

Jazmina Barrera, trans. from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney. Two Lines, $21

Barrera (On Lighthouses) offers a moving study of pregnancy, family, art, and loss in this showstopping essay. Told in small fragments that cover the arc of her pregnancy, birth, and nursing of son Silvestre, Barrera interweaves her grandmother’s history as a doula and her mother’s career as an artist with the changes wrought on her own body. Barrera powerfully captures the spectrum of feelings childbearing provokes, “when weariness and joy are mingled with a love so great it’s almost agonizing,” and confronts the loss and fear that shade “that simple, clear, almost ridiculous happiness.” She refers to two major losses, the earthquake that struck Mexico City in 2017 while she was pregnant, and her mother’s ovarian cancer discovered after Barrera’s son was born. Along the way, Barrera draws on the work of such writers as Adrienne Rich and Rivka Galchen, artists including Frida Kahlo, and photographer Tina Modotti. Barrera’s voice is meditative, bolstered by poetic turns of phrase, precise language, and fresh metaphors. “It’s impossible to be original when you write about being a mother,” Barrera reflects, though her own originality is striking. This beautiful meditation is thick with profound insights. Photos. (May)