Paperback: 248 pages
by Yxta Maya Murray
This powerful, deft, and fast-moving first novel reads like a direct line to the hearts and lives of two young girls of Mexican descent living in the gang-dominated stratum of Echo Park, a tough Los Angeles neighborhood. The story is told alternately through the voices of Lucia and Celia, who through family and love are linked to the dangerous center of an emergent, fast-growing Latino gang dealing in guns and drugs. Celia watches her beloved older brother as he rises in power as gangbanger and changes in frightening ways, yet she herself struggles to find a way to live a life of goodness. Lucia, meanwhile, transgresses barriers in her own culture by forming her own female gang, the Fire Girls. Murray has a musician’s ear for the language of these women, the first-generation children of immigrants coming of age in a violent place where the roles and rules of their mothers no longer obtain.–This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly Rather than simmer beneath the surface, anger boils over on the pages of this first novel. Murray perfectly captures the patois and fury of the Mexican women of the East L.A. neighborhood of Echo Park. Here, the gang hierarchy is set in stone. There are jefes, right hands, taggers, third raters and sheep, the last being the girls who shut up, pose prettily at rumblas and carry babies for the men. Narrators Lucia and Cecelia, however, do not fit this role: Lucia wants to be a grandola; Cecelia sees herself as ugly, a “dirt dark Indian” who can’t hold on to a pregnancy or a girlfriend. At the outset, the gun-dealing Lobos gang prevails, led by Manny, who is Cecelia’s brother and Lucia’s lover. As cocaine supersedes guns and upstart rival G-4s challenge the Lobos, the two women struggle, exhibiting a depth of character that sets them apart from other women in Echo Park. In portraying Lucia’s unrelenting criminal meanness and hunger for power and Cecelia’s ultimate resignation to a life of praying and cleaning rich rubias’ houses, Murray gives readers inner-city gang life from the eyes of women. Both narrators’ voices are insistent, unvarnished, in-your-face tough. The reader equipped with a Spanish-English dictionary has the best chance to grasp all the nuances of this convincing, under-the-skin work. (May) FYI: Murray is an associate professor of law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. A chapter of this book appeared in Buzz.