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Fire from the Andes: Short Fiction by Women…

Fire from the Andes: Short Fiction by Women from Bolivia, Ecuador, and…

by Susan E. Benner, Kathy S. Leonard (Editor)

Other authors: Marjorie Agosín (Foreword)

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My favourite authors from this diverse set of stories: Aminta Buenaño, Laura Riesco, Gladys Rossel Huíci, Gaby Cevasco, Alicia Yánez Cosrío, Nela Martínez, Mónica Ortiz Salas, and Elsa Dorado de Revilla Valenzuela. Buenaño's work in particular reminded me of the "Fortunato" character from Gilbert Hernandez. ( )
  allison.sivak | Dec 22, 2010 |
With the literary successes of Allende, Valenzuela and others, it's fairly easy to find fiction written by Latin American women in general. However, when broken down by individual countries, the picture is a bit different. Many countries are very under-represented, with the central Andean nations of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador falling solidly in that category. As the editors say in their introduction:

It is not that Bolivian women are not writing; on the contrary, many of them are actively writing and winning prestigious national awards. Publication, however, is difficult, and authors complain that they themselves must often finance the publication and promotion of their books.

Part of that is economic. These countries, Bolivia in particular, are among the poorer Latin American nations and literacy rates are low. Another part of it is a cultural phenomenon in countries that have a strong tradition of consigning women to roles as wives and mothers, not as writers.

I found the stories in this collection are somewhat uneven in terms of holding my interest (though, as very short stories, there isn't enough time for attention to wander). My favorites—coincidentally, one from each country— were Mónica Bravo's "Wings for Dominga," about an old woman who convinces Death to wait while she finishes knitting a shawl describing her life's story; Virginia Allyón Soria's "Prayer to the Goddesses," in which a chola woman, contemplating prostitution, turns away from the gods she was taught were her protectors; and Catalina Lohmann's "The Red Line," a satirical look at authority and revolution.

With few exceptions, these stories are rather dark. Most are reflections on marginalization or prejudice, whether directed at women, the poor, at indigenous people...or, as if often the case, some combination of these.

They also come across as very personal stories. Whether presented as the aggrieved, as in the afore-mentioned "Prayer to the Goddesses," or as the prejudiced one, as in Mónica Ortiz Salas' "Mery Yagual (Secretary)," the women's stories are very intimate, often told from an interior perspective.

As I have said, I found the quality of the stories inconsistent—some I would let pass by without notice, some I would definitely recommend. As a whole, given the dearth of fiction from this part of the world, I would recommend the book. ( )
  TadAD | Mar 26, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Susan E. Bennerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Leonard, Kathy S.Editormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Agosín, MarjorieForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0826318258, Paperback)

This anthology provides an opportunity for English-speaking audiences to read previously untranslated fiction by women from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. Much of this work is inspired by an awareness of social injustice--particularly for women, indigenous groups, and other marginalized members of society and by a desire to transcend that injustice through personal revelation. Most of the stories focus on women's inner lives and their struggles to make sense of experience.

Like Mónica Bravo's heroine attempting to outwit death, or the mayor's wife, in a story by Alicia Yánez Cossí­o, surviving the news of her husband's infidelity, many of the protagonists are strong women, wise and shrewd. Perhaps the same could be said of the twenty-four authors who have drawn from their experience and imagination to create these compelling, often haunting, stories of life, liberty, love, and loss.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:58 -0400)

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