Synopses & Reviews
"I thank the dark Virgin, morena like me..."
There are many who will tell you that the dark-skinned girls, las morenitas, have got no chance. But when I was a girl, I noted the Virgen de Guadalupe, her with the important job of taking care of all the pueblitos, and standing in every home with candles and all the respect, and her own day of Guadalupe with people crawling across the zó calo, and up the cathedral steps on raw knees and singing themselves ronca all night long in the square. She did okay.
In my life, I have added two names and subtracted two from my own and now I am back to my original: Guadalupe Magdalena Molina Vá squez. Vows of love and chimney smoke, the wind soon blows away.
When Tí a Chuchadied, I chipped the mortar that secured this wooden chair to her roof and brought it to my fine house in Las Gaviotas in the golden zone, three blocks east of the sea and just west of Las Gaviotas Tennis Club that contains the shrine to the porcelain miracle, Niñ ito Jesú s. People ask where I reside, and I enjoy saying, "Just west of the miracle baby Jesus." Those from Teatlá n know the shrine of the porcelain miracle, and those who are not, smile blankness. I mortared Tí a's chair far from the dirty barrio to my own roof in the Las Gaviotas neighborhood, where rooftops of the rich are angled and tiled in rounded terra-cotta instead of leveled cement, where only the smallest section of roof -- enough room for a water tank, a clothesline -- is flat. Here in the golden zone, there are gardens and sea breeze and little need for rooftops. Only servants climb the spiral iron stairs to lift the heavy circle lid from the tank and jiggle the black rubber bulb inside so that the pump will draw water up into storage. But I come here. I have mortared Chuchas chair to the roof to face west, just as she did, toward the Sea of Corté s. I come here out of habit, because it is in my blood to do so. A roof is where my mother died, where my tí a escaped, where my father made tejuino, corn drink, where I learned to dance. I come here to remember. To feel gratitude. To see.
The magic of the roof I discovered when I was no bigger than the tip of a little finger -- maybe five -- when my mother sent me to pull down the laundry from the line so that no one would steal it in the night.
"Make many trips," she said. "Fill the basket only a little, bring it down, and empty it onmy bed. Then return for more."
Labor was my family's wealth. We had enough bodies and power of muscle to use them extravagantly. We could afford five trips to retrieve laundry. We could afford twenty trips through the house and up the stairs and back to make a washtub of tejuino.
Now,from Chucha's chair mortared to the roof of my fine house, I try to see into the groomed gardens of my neighbors. No more do I have the clear vision. Even with my eyeglasses, my sight lacks the sharp focus of youth, but that is not important...
“Captivating…full of passion and courage…a work of insight and imagination, as well as narrative strength and seductive language.” Washington Post Book World
“Lively and pungent…[Gershten] makes Magdalena a rich and contradictory characterand, moreover, a canny storyteller in her own right.” Los Angeles Times
Guadalupe Magdalena Molina Vásquez -- wife, scoundrel, courtesan, mother -- is full of contradictions: she believes in love but is suspicious of men; she rejects religion but admires the Virgin Mary; she respects tradition while breaking all the rules. Here, in the Golden Zone of Teatán, Mexico, Magda tells her extraordinary life story -- from a poor Mexican barrio to American affluence, from wide-eyed childhood to worldly courtesan life, from full-blooded youth to oncoming blindness -- and bewitchingly imparts the hard-earned wisdom she has gained through the years.
About the Author
Donna M. Gershten was born in eastern North Carolina and later lived for some years in Sinaloa, Mexico, where she ran a fitness and community center. She returned to the United States, received a master of fine arts in creative writing from Warren Wilson College, and began to publish short stories in literary journals. Gershten now divides her time between the Huerfano Valley in southern Colorado and Denver. Kissing the Virgin's Mouth
is her first novel.
Gershten was the first recipient of the $25,000 Bellwether Prize for Fiction in recognition of her debut novel Kissing the Virgin's Mouth as "a literature of social change." The Bellwether Prize was established by award-winning author Barbara Kingsolver, to promote literature of "social responsibility" and "political boldness and complexity." Barbara Kingsolver announced Donna M. Gershten as the first recipient of the prize, by press release, in May 2000.