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Song of the Water Saints: A Novelby Nelly Rosario
Synopses & Reviews
Invasions - 1916
SANTO DOMINGO, REPÚBLICA DOMINICANA
Graciela and Silvio stood hand in hand on El Malecóoacute;n, sea breeze polishing their faces. Silvio hurled stones out to the waves and Graciela bunched up her skirt to search for more pebbles. Her knees were ashy and she wore her spongy hair in four knots. A rusty lard can filled with pigeon peas, label long worn from trips to the market, was by her feet. Silvio's straw hat was in Graciela's hands, and quickly, she turned to toss it to the water. The hat fluttered like a hungry seagull, then was lapped up by foam. Silvio's kiss pinned Graciela against the railing.
It was a hazy day. The hot kissing made Graciela squint against the silver light. Beyond her lashes, Silvio was a sepia prince.
-That yanqui over there's lookin' at us, he murmured into Graciela's mouth. He pulled out his hand from the rip in her skirt. Graciela turned to see a pink man standing a few yards away from them. She noticed that the yanqui wore a hat and a vest-he surely did not seem to be a Marine. When she was with Silvio, Graciela forgot to worry about anyone telling on her to Mai and Pai, much less panic over yanquis and their Marine boots scraping the cobblestones of the Colonial Quarter.
Passion burned stronger than fear. Graciela turned back to Silvio.
-Forget him. Her pelvis dug into his until she felt iron.
Graciela and Silvio were too lost in their tangle of tongues to care that a few yards away, the yanqui was glad for a brief break from the brutal sun that tormented his skin. With her tongue tracing Silvio's neck, Graciela couldn't care less that Theodore Roosevelt's "soft voice and big stick" on Latin America had dipped the yanqui the furthest south he had ever been from New York City. Silvio's hands crawled back into the rip in Graciela's skirt; she would not blush if she learned that the yanqui spying on them had already photographed the Marines stationed on her side of the island, who were there to "order and pacify," in all their debauchery; that dozens of her fellow Dominicans somberly populated the yanqui's photo negatives; and that the lush Dominican landscape had left marks on the legs of his tripod. Of no interest to a moaning Graciela were the picaresque postcard views that the yanqui planned on selling in New York and, he hoped, in France and Germany. And having always been poor and anonymous herself, Graciela would certainly not pity the yanqui because his still lifes, nature shots, images of battleships for the newspapers had not won him big money or recognition.
-Forget the goddamned yanqui, I said. Graciela squeezed Silvio's arm when his lips broke suction with hers.
-He's comin' over here, Silvio said. He turned away from Graciela to hide his erection against the seawall. Graciela watched the man approach them. He had a slight limp. Up close, she could see that his skin was indeed pink and his hair was a deep shade of orange. Graciela had never seen a real yanqui up close. She smiled and folded her skirt so that the rip disappeared.
The man pulled a handkerchief from his vest pocket and wiped his neck. He cleared his throat and held out his right hand, first to Silvio, then to Graciela. His handshake swallowed up Graciela's wrist, but she shook just as hard. In cornhashed Spanish the man introduced himself: Peter West, he was.
Peter. Silvio. Graciela
A debut novel chronicling the lives of three generations of remarkable Dominican women ranges from the early 1900s to the present day as it follows Graciela, who flees the strictures of her poverty-stricken rural life; her daughter Mercedes, who builds a new life in New York City; and Leila, a restless young woman coming of age in the high-spirited 1990s. Reprint. 12,500 first printing.
This vibrant, provocative début novel explores the dreams and struggles of three generations of Dominican women. Graciela, born on the outskirts of Santo Domingo at the turn of the century, is a headstrong adventuress who comes of age during the U.S. occupation. Too poor to travel beyond her imagination, she is frustrated by the monotony of her life, which erodes her love affairs and her relationship with Mercedes, her daughter. Mercedes, abandoned by Graciela at thirteen, turns to religion for solace and, after managing to keep a shop alive during the Trujillo dictatorship, emigrates to New York with her husband and granddaughter, Leila. Leila inherits her great-grandmother Graciela’s passion-driven recklessness. But, caught as she is between cultures, her freedom arrives with its own set of obligations and dangers.
About the Author
Nelly Rosario was born in 1972 in the Dominican Republic and moved to New York three months later. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from MIT and an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University. She has received numerous awards including a 1999 Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Fellowship, the Bronx Writers’ Center Van Lier Literary Fellowship for 1999-2000, two National Arts Club Writing Fellowships, the 1997 Huston/Wright Award in Fiction, and most recently she has been chosen as a “Writer on the Verge” by the Village Voice Literary Supplement for 2001. Rosario is published in the anthology Becoming American (Hyperion, 2000). She now lives in Brooklyn, NY with her daughter Olivia.
From the Hardcover edition.
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