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Review: Mother Tongue by Demetria Martinez

Title: Mother Tongue
Author: Demetria Martinez
Year Published: 1994

Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 251
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2016 Google Reading map)USA (NM)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book): Mary is nineteen and living alone in Albuquerque. Adrift in the wake of her mother's death, she longs for something meaningful to take her over. Then José Luis enters her life. A refugee from El Salvador and its bloody civil war, José has been smuggled to the United States as part of the sanctuary movement.

Mary cannot help but fall in love with the movement and the man. And little by little, she begins to reveal to José Luis the part of herself she has never known....

Review: I first heard about this book when I was visiting my daughter's school on parent's weekend and her Global Gender Studies teacher said they were going to read this book. I thought it looked interesting so got myself a copy.

Since I knew my a gender studies class was going to read this book I think I read it through that lens. For at least the first half of the book I wasn't sure why the teacher chose this book; it seems like there are so many other books to choose that would fit the theme better. But, in the second half, when Jose Luis narrates a section and then Maria begins to address her thoughts to her son, I can see the role of women and men becoming more central.

If I look at this novel from outside the gender studies view, it makes more sense just as a novel. I do remember the El Salvador "disappearances" and how awful they seemed at the time, but I also feel like they weren't huge news in the US. Not a surprise, really. I am now interested in learning more about it. Really, this is a love story. Of one woman's love for a refugee and then, later, her son. I do feel like I want more from this book. I want to know more about Jose Luis' background and what brought him to the US, I want to know more about Maria (though we seem to know the most about her), and I want to know more about what sent Jose Luis back to El Salvador.

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