Writer and activist Lucha Corpi was four years old when she started first grade with her older brother, who refused to go to school without her. The director of the small school in Jáltipan de Morelos in the Mexican state of Veracruz knew the family, and he gave permission for the young girl to accompany her brother “just for a while.” She was given a desk in the back of the classroom, where she sat quietly in her little corner. Just as quietly, she learned to add and subtract, to read and write.
In this moving memoir, Corpi writes about the pivotal role reading and writing played in her life. As a young mother living in a foreign country, mourning the loss of her marriage and fearful of her ability to care financially for her son, she turned to writing to give voice to her pain. It “gave me the strength to go on one day at a time,” though it would be several years before she dared to call herself a poet.
Corpi’s insightful and entertaining personal essays span growing up in a small Mexican village to living a bilingual, bicultural life in the United States. Family stories about relatives long gone and remembrances of childhood escapades combine to paint a picture of a girl with an avid curiosity, an active imagination and a growing awareness of the injustice that surrounded her. As an adult living in California’s Bay Area, she became involved in the fight for bilingual education, women’s and civil rights.
In addition to examining a variety of topics relevant to today’s world—including race, discrimination and feminism—Corpi relates riveting family tales of mountain men and cannibals, preachers and soothsayers, old-style machos and women who more than hold their own. These confessions offer an intriguing vision of the rich and complex world of an acclaimed poet and novelist.