cover image Witches


Brenda Lozano, trans. from the Spanish by Heather Cleary. Catapult, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-1-64622-068-7

Mexican writer Lozano (Loop) delivers a layered narrative about healers, storytelling, and family trauma. Feliciana is a curandera, or folk healer, living in a village in San Felipe, Mexico. Zoe, a 30-something Mexico City journalist exhausted by never-ending stories of femicide and rape, nevertheless feels obligated to cover them “from the trench [she’d] dug at the newsroom,” and agrees to report on the murder of Feliciana’s cousin Paloma, also a curandera. Zoe is also eager to meet the famous Feliciana, despite having “never been into supernatural stuff.” The author alternates between Zoe’s urbane narration and transcriptions of her interviews with Feliciana, whose elliptical and mystical language makes for a sharp contrast. A story emerges of Feliciana’s and Paloma’s struggles to become curanderas in a male-dominated family (Paloma, a Muxe, or third-gendered Zapotec person, was assigned male at birth, and Feliciana’s abilities don’t match Paloma’s, whom Feliciana claims could see the future “like it walked in front of her”). Feliciana demonstrates her power with Zoe, though, by helping her work through her sister’s sexual abuse when they were teens. Lozano does a wonderful job distinguishing the disparate characters and their fluid identities, and Cleary’s translation strikes the perfect balance of immersion and clarity. Powerful and complex, this marks a new turn from an intriguing writer. (Aug.)