Radikal Readings: Mother Tongue

One of the highest testaments I can give a book is the uncontrollable need to embrace the book after I’m finished reading – as if by doing so, I can hug it into my soul. That is the exact feeling Demetria Martinez’s Mother Tongue left me with. It’s poetic, lyrical, and sinks into you the way only a good book can.

Mother Tongue is the story of  Mary who is 19 and living alone in Albequrque after her mother’s death. She becomes involved with Jose Luis – a refugee from El Salvador who is smuggled into the U.S. by members of the Sanctuary movement, advocates for the tens of thousands of Salvadorans who have been harassed, tortured, and “disappeared” by a U.S.-supported military government. It’s a fictional story with fictional characters, but there is so much truth behind it.

Having known little of the horrors committed in the Salvadoran civil war this book was a small glimpse into it. Really it’s a gut-wrenching look into what life must be for people who have been tortured and torn from their homeland because of war.

This book is such a quick read but I found myself not wanting it to end. It’s moving and frustrating. Martinez is a beautiful writer and her depictions of New Mexico made me want to hop on a plane and explore. Good books stay with you and I foresee this will be with me for quite some time.


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