The Premio Aztlan Literary Prize is a national literary award, established to encourage and reward emerging Chicana and Chicano authors. Renowned author, Rudolfo Anaya and his wife, Patricia, founded Premio Aztlan in 1993, and the prize was reestablished in their honor in 2004 by the University of New Mexico Libraries.
Tree of Sighs by Lucrecia Guerrero
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this book. The writing was skillful, sensitive, and beautiful…a carefully edited yet emotionally unrestrained literary novel. The cover illustration by Alfredo Arreguin ("Nuestra Señora de la poesia" 1994)--well, it is one of my favorite book covers ever (and I'm an illustrator, so I can just drool openly).
The story centers on a girl named Altagracia (Grace); her youth in Mexico and subsequent servitude to a woman in the U.S. From the back cover: "After escaping servitude and imprisonment, Grace endures life on the streets and a succession of jobs, and she eventually lands in a comfortable marriage. But a phone call from a person in her past sets her on a journey to the border, where she meets a man who holds the key to her past, learns the truth about her grandmother, and ultimately finds herself."
Tree of Sighs begins in 2000, but then quickly flashes back to Altagracia's childhood and by page 40 we realize her life is about to take a devastating turn. We realize it in the same way Altagracia might have realized it, when a cardboard sign indicating she is mentally deficient, is hung around her head to get her past the border guards and into the U.S. Life becomes very hard for Grace, very quickly. And it stays hard for a long while. But she is a survivor and eventually returns to ask her grandmother why, all those years ago, she gave her granddaughter to strangers.
Lucrecia Guerrero is an exceptional storyteller and I can't wait for her next book; which I will read as if it were a special meal I was waiting weeks for; enjoying the longing a bit and knowing the object of my anticipation would be everything I hoped for!
Also, Tree of Sighs is a good choice for book clubs. It will start discussions and also introduce new readers to books in this genre (Mexican, Mexican-American, Latin)…a culture and sensibility about which I am just starting to learn, and love.
- Here is a link to purchase Tree of Sighs from an independent bookstore (in-store or online).
- Here is a link to purchase Tree of Sighs from Barnes and Noble.
- Here is a link to purchase Lucrecia's book on Amazon.
- Here is a list of past prizewinners on Goodreads.
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