THE SAD PASSIONS
Semiotext(e) / Native Agents, 2013
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Told by six women in one family, Veronica Gonzalez Peña’s The Sad Passions captures the alertness, beauty, and terror of childhood lived in proximity to madness. Set against the backdrop of a colonial past, spanning three generations, and shuttling from Mexico City to Oaxaca to the North Fork of Long Island to Veracruz, The Sad Passions is the lyrical story of a middle-class Mexican family torn apart by the undiagnosed mental illness of Claudia, a lost child of the 1960s and the mother of four little girls.
It is 1960, and the wild and impulsive sixteen-year-old Claudia elopes from her comfortable family home in Mexico City with Miguel, a seductive drifter who will remain her wandering husband for the next twenty years. Hitchhiking across the United States with Miguel, sometimes spending the night in jails, Claudia stops sleeping and begins seeing visions. Abandoned at a small clinic in Texas, she receives electroshock treatment while seven months pregnant with her first daughter. Afterward, Miguel leaves her, dumb and drooling, at her mother’s doorstep.
"Painful and raw, The Sad Passions is a novel that explores the darkest complexities of family histories and our hopeless desire to make sense of insanity . . . because, of course, here are plenty of other things to hold onto, including forgiveness, whose elusive mysteries are worth not only the pursuit of a novel but also a life."
Leigh Newman, O Magazine
In Veronica Gonzalez Peña's The Sad Passions, four sisters, daughters of a mad mother, devoted to her and afraid of her, tell their versions of a tortured family romance. The sisters' and mother's raw, impassioned voices are intricately interwoven, and, Rashomon-like, the novel speaks of familial love's strange demands, harsh effects, and lasting ties. Veronica Gonzalez Peña's The Sad Passions is honest and riveting. Lynne Tillman, author of Haunted Houses
The Sad Passions, Veronica Gonzalez Peña's extraordinary novel of desire, loss, and matrilineal history, explodes the teenage pregnancy script through its unflinching plumbing of the bond between mother and daughter. The Sad Passions begins with a story we think we know, and then shows us how little any of us understand: about our ancestors, our parents, ourselves. Lisa Locascio, The Los Angeles Review of Books
Five women, including a mother and her now grown daughter, Julia, who was discarded when she was young, narrate this novel of fractured family, selves, and hearts, which gently mesmerizes with its rhythmic prose, and the emotionally rich and complex strategies each woman employs in telling her story. A beautiful and moving choral tale of isolation, love, damage, and intimate struggles. Its many landscapes, especially Mexico City, sing too. Francisco Goldman, author of Say Her Name: A Novel
TWIN TIME: OR, HOW DEATH BEFELL ME
Semiotext(e) / Native Agents, 2007
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Poetic, sensuous and witty, Veronica Gonzalez Peña's debut novel unfolds like a fairy tale spanning the dusty hills of Los Angeles and the glittering nightlife of Mexico City. Raised in northeast LA by her widowed immigrant father, a baker, Mona has grown up believing her mother died minutes after her birth, and her twin brother was simply given away. Stifled by unnameable doubts as a child, when her father dies, Mona sets off on a quest to discover her long-lost twin brother. The journey takes her into the labyrinth of her own fabulations about her parents’ lives, and a dreamy Mexico City that exists only as cultural imagination. In the process she encounters a band of Nordic men, her Chinese double, a lascivious giant, and a tribe of feral children. Gonzalez masterfully probes the oddness of Mona’s interior world until it becomes a twisted parable for all kinds of displacement.
"I loved the fabric of this book; the rhythm was palpable. The forces swirling in and around the young girl and the estranged and luscious descriptions of nature and mating and storytelling and dreams were told so silently. It was like being in an aquarium looking out somehow." Eileen Myles, The Believer
JUNCTURE: 25 Very Good Stories and 12 Excellent Drawings
Soft Skull Press, 2003
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Ironic, rebellious, and sexy, this collection of short stories and illustrations reflects not only the jagged rhythms of contemporary American writing but also of American life itself with all its hyphenations, its immigrants, and its migrants. Juncture is an anthology of the Barthelmes, Pynchons, Ellisons, Coovers, and Ackers of today. Some of the contributing writers are absurdist, some stream-of-consciousness, some science fiction, and some based in rhythm with the influence of poetry. Original art and drawings illustrate or respond to each story and reflect the kinds of cultural hybridization that has driven many of these writers. The works of such vibrant writers and artists as Jonathan Lethem, Heather McGowan, Colson Whitehead, Alex Shakar, Carl Hancock Rux, Ben Marcus, Said Shirazi, Jorge Pardo, Chris Ofili, Frances Stark, and Jon Plypchuck aka Rudy Bust are included.