Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

She knew and, despite the weight of it, accepted her role as liberator of a frightened man. María Isabel thought it had always been women who wove the future out of the scraps, always the characters, never the authors. She knew a woman could learn to resent this post, but she would instead find a hundred books to read.

Full review at LatinoBookReview.com

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia is a multigenerational story that traces the ways women learn to resist power structures and endure suffering with a ferocity born of love and lack of choices. In the beginning, there is María Isabel, a woman whose survival requires learning to read in secret and working as the only woman rolling cigars in a factory. In the midst of the first Cuban revolution in the 1860’s, María Isabel becomes the matriarch of a long line of courageous women navigating an unjust world. Jeanette, five generations later, is at the other end of two revolutions and a diaspora that led part of the family to Miami.

Garcia’s characters are like the heroes of so many families—mothers and guardians who make impossible choices and spend a lifetime making peace with them. Over the span of 150 years, these families witness revolutionary political changes and cope with their inherited traumas. This extensive timeline is evidence of a tendency for patterns, both good and bad, to persist no matter how much one tries to live in isolation from the past. Irrespective of time and place, Of Women and Salt speaks to the universal human desires to survive and to belong.

Spirit Run: A 6,000-Mile Marathon through North America’s Stolen Land by Noé Álvarez

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[Originally published in Latino Book Review Magazine at Latinobookreview.com]

Noé Álvarez was nineteen years old when he dropped out of college and bought a one-way ticket to Canada to embark on a 6,000-mile run across North America. As a young, first-generation Mexican-American man struggling through his first year of college, Álvarez is captivated during a presentation about the Peace and Dignity Journey (PDJ), in which runners traverse the continent on a spiritual and physical journey to celebrate, heal, and unite indigenous peoples. During a time in his life when everything about his environment was telling him that he did not belong, the PDJ offered his wandering spirit the opportunity to join forces with other kindred souls seeking to honor indigenous values and lifestyles, carrying prayers and stories all across the continent to reclaim peace and dignity.

The PDJ is inspired by the ancient First Nations prophecy of the Eagle and Condor, which predicts a unification and solidarity of indigenous peoples after hundreds of years of colonization and destruction. From Alaska to the Panama Canal, the participants run relay-style over varied, grueling terrain. Álvarez soon learns that the challenge is much more complex than putting one foot in front of the other. The runners struggle with the same issues of tribalism, sexism, toxic masculinity, and distribution of resources that pervade the larger society. In addition to the daily physical strain and navigating social dynamics, Álvarez is forced to reckon with his own self-doubt and free himself of the damaged self-image imposed on him by others.

Álvarez’s biography illustrates how self-love becomes a radical act for Latinx and indigenous people who have been oppressed on their ancestral lands. As he encounters communities that feel both familiar and foreign, sometimes at the same time, Álvarez learns that “home is everywhere in movement.” From the Lillooet territory in Canada to the Zapatista territory in Mexico, there is wisdom and healing and unexpected moments of joy and pain to be discovered at every turn.

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“We create pacts over French fries and tacos, and stack onto our shoulders the kinds of promises that weight on first-generation youth: to be the ones who save our families from things like poverty, deportation, and harsh labor conditions.”