Synopses & Reviews
One of Literary Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2019
From the celebrated editor of This Bridge Called My Back, Cherríe Moraga charts her own coming-of-age alongside her mother's decline, and also tells the larger story of the Mexican American diaspora.
Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir is, at its core, a mother-daughter story. The mother, Elvira, was hired out as a child, along with her siblings, by their own father to pick cotton in California's Imperial Valley. The daughter, Cherríe Moraga, is a brilliant, pioneering, queer Latina feminist. The story of these two women, and of their people, is woven together in an intimate memoir of critical reflection and deep personal revelation.
As a young woman, Elvira left California to work as a cigarette girl in glamorous late-1920s Tijuana, where an ambiguous relationship with a wealthy white man taught her life lessons about power, sex, and opportunity. As Moraga charts her mother's journey — from impressionable young girl to battle-tested matriarch to, later on, an old woman suffering under the yoke of Alzheimer's — she traces her own self-discovery of her gender-queer body and Lesbian identity, as well as her passion for activism and the history of her pueblo. As her mother's memory fails, Moraga is driven to unearth forgotten remnants of a U.S. Mexican diaspora, its indigenous origins, and an American story of cultural loss.
Poetically wrought and filled with insight into intergenerational trauma, Native Country of the Heart is a reckoning with white American history and a piercing love letter from a fearless daughter to the mother she will never lose.
"Cherríe Moraga, a foundational contributor to modern Feminism, grapples with her fierce but withholding Mexican mother who — despite their struggles — remains her strongest touchstone of identification. A raw and vulnerable story of acceptance hard won." Sarah Schulman, author of The Cosmopolitans and Conflict is Not Abuse
"Part elegy, part history and part testimonio rife with storytelling, Native Country of the Heart, like all of Moraga's work, charts the unmapped and unspoken territories of body, mind, heart and soul and refuses to be confined by any border or genre. Her memoir is a defiant, deep and soulful book about all our mothers, mother cultures, motherlands and languages." Julia Alvarez, author of In the Time of the Butterflies
"Perceptive and striking . . . For anyone who is hovering between two cultures, two countries, two parents, two ideals, two sexualities, two kinds of love, and a mother who is painfully present and disappearing." Women's Review of Books
"[Written] with a poet's verve . . . As a character, fortunately, Elvira is resonant enough to withstand any effort to render her emblematic, a symbol of a culture and of the past. This memoir's beauty is in its fierce intimacy." The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Cherríe L. Moraga is a writer and an activist. A cofounder of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, Moraga coedited the highly influential volume This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color in 1981. A former Artist-in-Residence at Stanford, Moraga was recently appointed a professor in the Department of English at UC-Santa Barbara, where, with her artistic partner Celia Herrera Rodriguez, she will institute Las Maestras Center for Chicana and Indigenous Thought and Art Practice. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Theatre Playwriting Fellowship Award and a Rockefeller Fellowship for Literature.