1) What is the book?
2) Who wrote it?
Marytza K. Rubio
3) What is it about?
Maria, Maria is a collection of short stories that are centered around the themes of magic, nature, and mythical animals. The stories feature wildly intriguing elements of magical realism and many feature heroines whose interaction with supernatural forces leads to new insights about regeneration and resurrection, life and death. Many of the stories deal with themes of ineffability and the realization of speculative worlds, as experienced through the lens of Mexican, Latin-American, and Caribbean cultures.
4) Why did I read it?
I've always loved speculative fiction because I'm fascinated by any book that attempts to imagine possible futures or alternate realities that take the reader on a journey beyond the current horizons of the possible. Rubio's imagination was influenced largely by her upbringing in Santa Ana, California where the parrots, fruit trees, and lush gardens served as a geographical template for the kind of colorful terrain she wanted to depict in her fiction. This emphasis on lush nature and wild birds is contrasted in the stories with a focus on diabolical and macabre themes, resulting in a style that has been referred to as "tropi-gothic." The practice of brujeria, a form of witchcraft native to Latin American and Afro-Caribbean cultures, is a central motif throughout. Tarot, the magical significance of eggs, and a unique brand of Mexican-American mysticism also feature heavily.
5) What do I think?
Maria, Maria is filled with fantastical imagery and literary invention. Although most of the stories take place in southern California, Rubio also takes the reader to locales such as Brazil and New Orleans. The title story of the collection is a powerful evocation of both Latinx and female agency, and Rubio's tales are filled with aunts, sisters, mothers, daughters, mermaids, vampires, and witches. The importance of familial and generational ties provides a genuinely moving emotional anchor to these supernatural flights of fancy, and even when the stories are exercises in sheer verbal brilliance, the boldness of Rubio's vision and her macabre humor transport the reader to new and exciting places. For readers who want to dip in and sample the stories, I would recommend beginning from either the beginning or the end. "Brujeria for Beginners," which begins the collection, is a brief and humorous introduction to this particular brand of witchcraft as if it were being introduced through the syllabus of a community college course. "Maria, Maria," the eponymous novella of the collection, caps the stories in a way that sees all of the previous themes coalesce. Following a family of Marias through generations, it handles themes of psychic powers, ancient technology, civilizational collapse, and self-discovery.
You can place a hold on your copy of the book by clicking on the cover below:
Hello! My name is Tom, and I am a librarian here at the Niagara Falls Public Library. Welcome to a recurring blog post that comes out the 5th of every month, where I answer five questions about a book in our collection.