Women Who Live in Coffee Shops and Other Stories
by Stella Pope Duarte
Category: Fiction Drama
Published: 31 Mar 2010
Bind: Trade Paperback
This award-winning story collection offers a glimpse into the lives of characters living on the meanest streets in Phoenix.Look Inside
Everybody says that the owner of Sal’s Diner is a former Mafioso, but nine-year-old Joanna, whose mom has worked for him as long as she can remember, has a hard time believing he’s a Mafia retiree. But one day, when two fat, toothless men who look like the Godfather’s brothers show up at the diner, she wonders if maybe the rumor is true. And when Sal is arrested a few days later, Joanna’s mother not only runs the diner while he’s in jail, she also leads the charge to save him. Can the women who frequent his diner—the League of Women Who Live in Coffee Shops—save Sal from doing hard time in prison?
Set against an urban backdrop of seedy motels and dilapidated houses next to industrial buildings and railroad tracks, Stella Pope Duarte’s award-winning stories follow characters who make up the city’s underbelly. Some strut through the lethal streets, flamboyant and hard to miss—flashy divas, transvestites, and prostitutes, like Valentine, “one of the girls who decorated Van Buren Street like ornaments dangling precariously on a Christmas tree.” Others remain hidden, invisible to those who don’t seek them out—bag ladies, illegals, and addicts.
Many of the stories feature young people who know too much, too soon. An eight-year-old girl, with the help of a hooker, finally meets the addict father she has never known. A boy falls to his death and though his older brother is blamed, young Sarita isn’t sure her fourth-grade classmate was responsible. And two children, unbeknownst to their parents, befriend a suspected child molester.
Winner of the University of California’s Chicano / Latino Literary Prize, this collection of short stories set in Phoenix, Arizona, reveals the hard-scrabble lives of big-hearted people living on the razor-edge of city life.
“Duarte skillfully provides immediate access to the perspectives of each narrator and to their personal version of the Van Buren Street neighborhood…Transcends the limitations of individual perspectives to present a portrait of a community…In these stories the small mercies of serendipity arise from apparent chaos.”
—Western American Literature
“Taps into the most pressing issues of contemporary urban living, a war zone with many wounds. And Duarte refuses to simply romanticize or indict the working class. Instead, she challenges the negative stereotypes.”
—El Paso Times
“Duarte’s writing is laced with anguish and desperation and brings to life the grime and sleaze of Juárez.”
—Publishers Weekly on If I Die in Juárez
“Duarte’s first novel is an inspirational road book full of energetic Latinos exorcising their cultural, political, and personal demons.”
—School Library Journal on Let Their Spirits Dance
STELLA POPE DUARTE is the author of three novels: If I Die in Juárez (University of Arizona Press, 2008), winner of the American Book Award; Let Their Spirits Dance (HarperCollins, 2002); and Fragile Night (Bilingual Review Press, 1997). Que bailen sus espiritus, the Spanish translation of Let Their Spirits Dance, was published by HarperCollins in 2003. Her latest work is the award-winning collection Women Who Live in Coffee Shops and Other Stories (Arte Público Press, 2010). She has twice been awarded a creative writing fellowship from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and is the recipient of the 2003 Arizona Highways Fiction Award. Stella Pope Duarte lives in Phoenix, where she writes and works as an educational consultant and human rights advocate.
Learn more at stellapopeduarte.com