cover image Abuela in Shadow, Abuela in Light

Abuela in Shadow, Abuela in Light

Rigoberto González. Univ. of Wisconsin, $22.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-299-33760-5

PEN/Voelcker Award–winning poet González (The Book of Ruin) sifts through his complicated heritage to present a moving and lyrical tribute to his grandmother, an Indigenous Mexican woman of the Purépecha people. In 1988 at age 17, González left his home in the Coachella Valley for college, distancing himself from the years of sexual abuse he endured by his older cousin and embracing the queer identity he hid from his family. Eventually, though, a desire to “recover the woman I had left behind” brought him back to the roots of his abuela, who had died in 2011, more than two decades after González moved away. In contemplative passages braided with his grandmother’s native language, González reflects on the impenetrable woman he lived with as a teenager following his mother’s death. Despite “challeng[ing] the depictions of those matronly, domestic older ladies we watched on Mexican telenovelas,” she suffered years of abuse at the hands of her husband, which left her “emotionally detached” and indifferent to her grandson’s own physical and psychological pain. No real reconciliation is given in González’s elegiac narrative, but there’s much wisdom to be found in his story of intergenerational silence and the “unresolved” pasts one inherits. Pain begets beauty in this poignant family reckoning. (Apr.)