cover image The Body Where I Was Born

The Body Where I Was Born

Guadalupe Nettel, trans. from the Spanish by J.T. Lichtenstein. Seven Stories, $22.95 (176p) ISBN 978-1-60980-526-5

Mexican author Nettel, named Best Untranslated Writer by Granta, presents a moving account of the childhood experiences that shape identity. In this, her first novel to appear in English, a woman recounts the traumas and small events of her early life to her therapist. Born with a “white beauty mark” on her cornea that forces her to wear an eye patch, the unnamed narrator is immediately branded an outsider wherever she goes. Shunned by most of her classmates and weary of her overbearing parents, she withdraws into the rich, bizarre world of her imagination and spends hours climbing trees and making up stories. When her parents unexpectedly separate, she moves with her mother and younger brother from Mexico City to Aix-en-Provence, France, where she must also overcome the barriers of language and culture. Jumping between past and the present, the narrator tells her doctor of the memories she remembers best: her parents’ enthusiastic but klutzy embrace of 1970s idealism, her friendship with the mysterious goth Sophie, her tumultuous relationship with her grandmother, and her return to Mexico City. With straightforward, honest prose, Nettel paints a vivid portrait of a girl always just on the edge of community and illustrates the beauty and strength of a mind shaped by hardship. She perfectly captures the awkwardness and insecurities of growing up and the small, strange moments that change us forever. (June)