April 2012 Teleconference
The Madness of Mamá Carlota
by Graciela Limón
Arte Público Press
The Madness of Mamá Carlota
It's 1852 in Cholula, Mexico, and three sisters, indigenous girls of the Chontal people, seek work at the Hacienda La Perla. They rapidly make their way from dish washers to the cook's assistants before entering the house as servants to the wealthy Acuña family. But when the youngest sister is viciously raped by a family member, they flee the estate—after taking their revenge—only to be caught up in the historic Battle of Puebla, where native Mexicans defeat invading French troops.
Fearful that the Acuña family will not rest until the sisters are found and punished, they keep moving, ultimately finding work as servants at the National Palace in Mexico City, where the French have recently taken control. There, the sisters' fortunes become intertwined with that of the Empress Carlota. Both beautiful and extremely intelligent, she dedicates herself to the empire, chastising Napoleon when he reneges on his promise to send troops and antagonizing the Church by proposing that the empire secularize at least part of its holdings. But her love for Mexico's people is not reciprocated, and soon the sisters have to decide whether to stay behind without the Empress' protection or to accompany her to Europe.
Weaving the story of Mexico's indigenous peoples with that of the tragic Belgian princess who became the wife of the Austrian Archduke Maximillian von Hapsburg, acclaimed author Graciela Limón once again explores issues of race, class and women's rights. She skillfully crafts a gripping novel about a smart, wealthy woman who is not afraid to challenge powerful men, and re-imagines the story behind Empress Carlota's descent into madness and eventual imprisonment in a remote European castle.
Graciela Limón is a Latina/Chicana writer and a native of Los Angeles, California. She received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish Literature from Marymount College, Los Angeles, a Master of Arts Degree in the same field from the University of the Americas in Mexico City, followed by a Doctoral Degree in Latin American Literature from the University of California in Los Angeles.
Until recently, Limón had been a professor of U.S. Hispanic Literature as well as Chair of the Department of Chicana/o Studies at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California. She is now Professor Emerita of that university as well as a Visiting Professor at UCLA and UC Santa Barbara.
Limón has written and published reviews and critical work on Mexican, Latin American and Caribbean Literature. She has now concentrated her writing efforts on creative fiction, including In Search of Bernabé (1993), which won The Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award (1994). The novel has been released in Spanish under the title En busca de Bernabé (1997). Limón has also published The Memories of Ana Calderón (1994), Song of the Hummingbird (1996), which was published in Spanish under the title of La canción del colebri, in 2006. The Day of the Moon (1999), was also published in Spanish as El dia de la luna (2006). Erased Faces, which was awarded the 2002 Gustavus Myers Book Award, was published in 2001. Her previous novel Left Alive, was released in 2005. All of Limón's novels have been published by Arte Público Press, University of Houston, Texas.
Limón's fiction has been anthologized in In Other Words: Literature by Latina Writers of the United States, (Arte Público Press1994), Latinas: Borderland Voices (Simon & Schuster 1995), The Hispanic Literary Companion (Visible Ink Press 1997), American Mosaic: Multicultural Readings in Context (Houghton Mifflin 2001), Herencia (Oxford Press, 2002), Under the Fifth Sun: Latino Literature from California (Heyday Books, Berkeley 2003), Chicanos, Latinos & Cultural Diversity (Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., 2004).
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