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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Startling, Shocking, Stark!

Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement 

I had been watching the U.S.-Mexican version of the series, The Tunnel, so when I saw this title I vaguely thought it might have something to do with disappeared young women in Mexico.
It does! Really, anything one might say seems trite in the face of the grim truths related. 
It is a bleak comment on the fate of young girls and women in areas of Mexico. 
The story is set in the hillside area of Guerrero, an hour from Acapulco. An area that drug lords and dealers have ravaged. A place where the village men might be taken to work drug crops, or where they cross the Border into the U.S. to make a simple living. In the beginning they send money home. Then that dwindles into a trickle and into nothing as the men establish other families, U..S families, as part of their new lives. They women and families in Mexico are left behind, not widows or fatherless, just discarded. They are abandoned and powerless. They fall prey to the cartels, are there for the taking, for abuse, and more. So begins the dressing of girls as boys, the hiding in holes to avoid capture, as the trafficking in girls as young as seven escalates. As Ladydi's mother declares, 'The best thing you can be in Mexico is an ugly girl.'

The stark, unadorned description about life in this part of Mexico is seen through the eyes of Ladydi Garcia Martinez from when a young girl. As Ladydi grows up, we grow with her and see life from her and her communities  viewpoint. The lengths that these girls and their mothers go to to survive, and their ties to each other are amazing. There are betrayals, there are the stories of girls taken, like Ladydi's friend Paula. 
Later in prison, fellow prisoner Luna comments to Ladydi on the letters of the alphabet.
'Can you believe there are only twenty-six letters to say everything? There are only twenty-six letters to talk.' I find this such a big thought! And Jennifer Clement uses these same twenty-six letters to bring us a 'tour de force.' 
We hear about stolen girls who mark themselves with virtual constellations of cigarette burns. So that when their bodies are found, authorities will know they were stolen.  Then perhaps their families would be told. A story, a revelation of the darkness, the shadows that surrounds women in these areas of Mexico and the daily travesties that this darkness permits. And yet, even in prison there is some joy. In many ways prison is the safe place. A tragic indictment of what things have come to. Ladydi's story is beautifully and starkly written, as gold shining through the dross, and includes a legion of indomitable spirits.

A NetGalley ARC

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