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About Kathleen Alcala
"I began writing as a way to explain the world to myself. So much family history did not match the 'official' history of the Southwest, that I had to become an explorer, an adventurer, an ethnographer, a scholar and a writer in order to discover who we were and who we are today. I believe that writing, in and of itself, is a political act, and that the artistic cannot be separated from the political. Writing makes the invisible, visible; the silent, audible; the absent, present."
This is a book of wonders. Each story unfolds with humor and simplicity and perfect naturalness into something original and totally unpredictable. Not one tale is like another, yet all together they form a beautiful whole, a world where one would like to stay forever. The kingdoms of Borges and Garcia Marquez lie just over the horizon, but this landscape of desert towns and dreaming hearts, of lost sisters and ghost scientists, canary singers and road readers, is Alcalá-land. It lies across the border between the living and the dead, across all the borders - a true new world.
- Ursula K. LeGuin on Mrs. Vargas and the Dead Naturalist
Kathleen Alcalá captures the essence of the magical realism in her work. Her stories convincingly move the reader from one reality to the other. Kathleen's craft illuminates the souls of her characters: the Mexican women who carry the universe in their hearts.
- Rudolfo Anaya
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Winner of the Washington State Governor’s Writers Award and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award when it was originally published in 1997, Spirits of the Ordinary incorporates styles and themes that the author has continued to explore in her later novels and nonfiction works: speculative fiction, environmental writing, crypto-Judaism, and the Mexico-U.S. borderland in the late 19th century.
A tapestry of fascinating lives in a world where visions, dreams, and portents are part of everyday experience, Spirits of the Ordinary demonstrates that, as Alcalá writes in her introduction, “magic and holiness are all around us.”
At the turn of the last century, in a small village in northern Mexico, the Caravals have been practicing their Jewish faith in secret. The father Julio, spends his days dabbling with alchemy. His wife, Mariana, cannot speak, but is clairvoyant. Their son is obsessed with his search for gold. Central to the surprising destinies of these characters are the momentous events taking place high in the mountains, at the ancient and sacred cliff dwellings of Casas Grandes. Central to the story is the horrifying impact of the Spanish Inquisition, for 13 generations after all signs of Judaica were wiped from Spanish culture, some members of this family persist, behind bolted doors, in observing and studying Jewish rituals. For them, staying connected to their ancestral faith is paramount, and while each person's path to piety is different, each search proves powerfully moving. Alcalá embellishes straightforward prose with tinges of mysticism that will entice even the most spiritually disinterested. This tale of ordinary people in pursuit of honor, decency, and cultural connection is sure to resonate.
Something is amiss at the Hotel Angeline, a rickety former mortuary perched atop Capitol Hill in rain-soaked Seattle. Fourteen-year-old Alexis Austin is fixing the plumbing, the tea, and all the problems of the world, it seems, in her landlady mother’s absence. The quirky tenants—a hilarious mix of misfits and rabble-rousers from days gone by—rely on Alexis all the more when they discover a plot to sell the Hotel. Can Alexis save their home? Find her real father? Deal with her surrogate dad’s dicey past? Find true love? Perhaps only their feisty pet crow, Habib, truly knows. Provoking interesting questions about the creative process, this novel is by turns funny, scary, witty, suspenseful, beautiful, thrilling, and unexpected.
The new and established voices assembled here (including Kathleen Alcalá, Carmen Maria Machado, Ernest Hogan, and other luminaries) invite us to imagine a Latinx past, present, and future that have not been whitewashed by mainstream perspectives. As in the best mixtapes, this anthology moves satisfyingly through the loud and brash, the quiet and thoughtful. There are ghosts, space aliens, robots—and a grandmother who unwittingly saves the universe through her cooking. The result is a deeply pleasurable read that pushes beyond magical realism and social realism to demonstrate all the thrilling possibilities of what Latinx literature can be.
It includes original stories by Kathleen Alcalá, Betsy Aoki, Joyce Chng, Katharine Duckett, Anahita Eftekhari, Amelia Gorman, Jasmyne J. Harris, A. R. Henle, Erin Horáková, Kathryn McMahon, H. Pueyo, D. A. Xiaolin Spires, Rachael Sterling, Penny Stirling, Sabrina Vourvoulias, and Rem Wigmore, and reprints of stories from Apex, Electric Velocipede, Fantasy, Lightspeed, and Nightmare Magazines by Chikodili Emelumadu, Crystal Lynn Hilbert, Catherynne M. Valente, Damien Angelica Walters, Alyssa Wong, and Caroline M. Yoachim.
Contributors are based in or hailing from Australia, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Nigeria, Singapore, the UK, and all over the United States. Between them, they have won the Andre Norton, Eugie Foster Memorial, Hugo, Lambda, Locus, Mythopoeic, Nebula, Prix Imaginales, Rhysling, Romantic Times’ Critics Choice, This Is Horror, James Tiptree Jr., and World Fantasy Awards, and been shortlisted for the Bram Stoker, John W. Campbell, and Shirley Jackson Awards!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Kathleen Alcalá, “The Doll’s Eye”
Betsy Aoki, “And When We Die They Will Consume Us”
Joyce Chng, “Dear Son”
Katharine Duckett, “Gimme Sugar”
Anahita Eftekhari, “The Fool’s Feast”
Chikodili Emelumadu, “Candy Girl”
Amelia Gorman, “She Makes the Deep Boil”
Jasmyne J. Harris, “What the Bees Know About Discarded Girlish Organs”
A. R. Henle, “Strong Meat”
Crystal Lynn Hilbert, “Soul of Soup Bones”
Erin Horáková, “A Year Without the Taste of Meat”
Kathryn McMahon, “The Honey Witch”
H. Pueyo, “I Eat”
D. A. Xiaolin Spires, “Bristling Skim”
Rachael Sterling, “Alice Underground”
Penny Stirling, “Red, From the Heartwood”
Catherynne M. Valente, “The Lily and the Horn”
Sabrina Vourvoulias, “A Fish Tale”
Damien Angelica Walters, “A Lie You Give, And Thus I Take”
Rem Wigmore, “Who Watches”
Alyssa Wong, “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers”
Caroline M. Yoachim, “The Carnival Was Eaten, All Except the Clown”
Like the Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska, I have tried to tell the stories my characters would tell if they were writers. Most of the protagonists are women, some weak, some strong, but all driven by their connection to a power far more compelling than the restricted circumstances of their lives. Science fiction writer Joanna Russ told me my stories were important because I am writing about women whose stories would otherwise not be told.
I write about a culture in which miracles continue to flower in neglected inner courtyards, and old women grapple with the devil or converse with angels. Because these stories are difficult to classify by genre, they have appeared in magazines ranging from Calyx, a Journal of Art and Literature by Women, to Isaac Asimov's Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Half of these stories were published separately, and two nominated for the General Electric Young Writers Award.
As friends began “going back to the land” at the same time that a health issue emerged, Kathleen Alcalá set out to reexamine her relationship with food at the most local level. Remembering her parents, Mexican immigrants who grew up during the Depression, and the memory of planting, growing, and harvesting fresh food with them as a child, she decided to explore the history of the Pacific Northwest island she calls home.
In The Deepest Roots, Alcalá walks, wades, picks, pokes, digs, cooks, and cans, getting to know her neighbors on a much deeper level. Wanting to better understand how we once fed ourselves, and acknowledging that there may be a future in which we could need to do so again, she meets those who experienced the Japanese American internment during World War II, and learns the unique histories of the blended Filipino and Native American community, the fishing practices of the descendants of Croatian immigrants, and the Suquamish elder who shares with her the food legacy of the island itself.
Combining memoir, historical records, and a blueprint for sustainability, The Deepest Roots shows us how an island population can mature into responsible food stewards and reminds us that innovation, adaptation, diversity, and common sense will help us make wise decisions about our future. And along the way, we learn how food is intertwined with our present but offers a path to a better understanding of the future.
Watch the book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFG8MpTo_ZU&feature=youtu.be