Xánath Caraza, author of Conjuro, and Corazon Pintado, returns to the page in a collection of short narratives, Lo Que Trae la Marea/What the Tide Brings (Mouthfeel Press).
Caraza wields her weapons of mass instruction. She is an educator who brings with her world travels, multiple dialects, a zeal for culture and zest for all the nooks in which it can exist -- people, places, language and time.
Lo Que Trae La Marea/What the Tide Brings is a bilingual collection perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon. It can be enjoyed in one sitting.
Experience the signature Caraza style that creates a love affair between musicality, color, and flavor. An orgy of history, mythology and folklore is rocked into the sea. With it the sea carries, delivers, sweeps away, engulfs and is the bearer of goodbyes.
These pages run wild with goodbyes. Loss, being lost, losing loved ones and being charged with finding a way home, whether home is life or whether it is death.
The Forward by Norma Elia Cantú does a masterful job dissecting the stories ahead. Yet, perhaps the prefacio should be saved until last as not to spoil what is so ripe about Lo Que Trae La Marea.
These pieces take the reader both by surprise and by the hand, leading them through character testimonies, tugging them passed mirrors and reflections, through eavesdropping and direct contact.
Caraza develops a symbiotic & voyeuristic relationship between the reader and the character. As the reader unfolds, line by line, a character and their past, their now, she discovers all the while the character has been watching her too.
Even with her poetic prowess, her gift for rhythm, her cultural awareness and championing, this is what Caraza does best. The author tip toes into the reveal, the twist that solidifies the characters in the reader’s consciousness. Effortlessly does she create that “wow” moment. The reader snaps away to experience the “whoa” and then makes an immediate return, thinking “there’s no way she made this up.”
It’s difficult to discuss the stories for fear of giving too much away. That’s how good they are.
The writer’s technical skill really shines through even with her sneaky methods. Each story appears straight forward and simplistic, yet by the end the complexities have surfaced. This book is a journey through disappearing walls, lured by enchanting voices calling with a song.
Yes, Caraza has become a Siren, her tales as beguiling and tricky.
“La canción de la lluvia/Song of Rain” is a memory/awakening mixture that exposes how we lock the self away and the ways that we haunt. The narrative claims its intricacies through a spun web of images, the words the paint. Reading is watching the artist craft the picture, the last line the final stroke. The opus in all its layers is complete and by the end, like a mariner to the rocks, we are utterly destroyed.
Each story does something brilliantly whether it’s the use of a poetic pulse, loaning us the richness of history, adding a coloratura to the characters voice, or the artful placement of emotional and visual motifs. But, one story capitalizes on all of the author’s strengths.
“China Poblana” is not only culturally significant, structurally fascinating, or a voyage around the world. This is one that is emotionally riveting. Most of the characters of the other stories feel as if they’re protecting themselves from the reader, holding them at arm’s length. A detachment that is a part of, and lends strength to, their testimony.
But “Catarina de San Juan” lays herself bare. It may be her age that allows it. But she is travel, she is multiculturalism, she is pain, and she is passed it. The elegiac language and repetition goes to the mental state of our heroine, her age and survival.
She is the first character to fully emerge as a survivor. It is her tale -- not a confession nor testimony, but an endowment -- that helps the reader realize they are, with each page, in the company of survivors.
There is a heat wafting from the paper -- an asphyxiating heat, a sensual one. It is the temperature as we travel around the world with Caraza, and then back again but in a whole new era that stays with us once the pages have cooled.
We taste, and feel, and see, and hope. We learn to empathize, recognize the unjust and celebrate the humane.
With Caraza we stand on the shore and learn what the tide brings in.