Underrepresented Latina Lives

The Amado Women, by Désirée Zamorano, (Cinco Punto Press), 240 pages

The publisher of Désirée Zamorano’s The Amado Women is Cinco Puntos Press—a publisher I’ve just discovered, but I’ll be on the lookout for any new works they publish. I have been lucky enough to receive electronic ARCs of three of their latest books. Cinco Puntos describes its mission in this way: “With roots on the U.S./Mexico border, Cinco Puntos publishes great books which make a difference in the way you see the world.” Based on my reading of the first of the three ARCs I’ve received, I have to say that they’re accomplishing that mission quite nicely.

The Amado Women, set primarily in 2001-2, follows the adult lives of three sisters and their mother. All of them are middle-class Latinas. The sisters, Celeste, Sylvia, and Nataly have taken very different directions in life, becoming estranged from one another. Celeste is an investment manager and more affluent than the others. Sylvia is a mother of two daughters and has husband who isn’t around much—and wose ife would improve markedly if he were around even less.  Nataly is an artist getting by on her day job. Their mother, Mercy, divorced her philandering husband years ago and is committed to her job as a grade school teacher.

While the sisters’s relationship is rocky, they can become fiercely protective of one another in times of crisis. This tension between resentment and loyalty drives the novel. As they face increasingly difficult challenges, their loyalty becomes increasingly important.

Zamorano has explained that part of her purpose in writing this novel was to present Latina women living lives beyond the few stereotypical roles assigned to them in most fiction and film: sexy temptresses or impoverished immigrants. In other words, this isn’t a novel that reflects the way the larger world perceives Latinas; it’s a novel that clearly depicts a reality many Latinas live, one which popular culture is largely blind to. Zanorano’s determination to broaden popular perceptions of Latinas is well-suited to the mission of Cinco Puntos Press.

Zamorano is also a playwright, and the dialogue in her novel reflects this fact. The voices of the characters are distinctive and genuine, easy for the reader to hear in her own head as she makes her way through the novel. The quality of this dialogue is matched by the quality of the women’s internal monologues. The book moves between action and reflection skillfully, creating a balance between the two.

The Amado Women is an engaging powerful read, one that I strongly recommend. I’d also recommend looking for additional work by this author and from this publisher.

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