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Translated Woman:
Crossing the Border with Esperanza

by Ruth Behar

ISBN 080707053X / 9780807070536 / 0-8070-7053-X
Publisher Beacon Press
Language English
Edition Softcover
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Book summary

When Cuban American anthropologist Ruth Behar tried to piece together the lives led by women in one Mexican village, she didn't reckon on the stubborn magnetism of Esperanza, who "seemed determined to push her story into my hands and stuff it into my ears, so I could take it back across the border." Translated Woman is a giddy rush of dramatic words from Esperanza herself talking late into the night about the hardships and triumphs of her life. Having barely fled the wrath of her drunken father, she takes up with a philandering wife-beater who keeps her in the Mexican version of purdah, complete with a scolding mother-in-law. Looming starvation and the loss of child after child, which she ascribes to the coraje (rage) her worthless husband riles up in her breast, impels her to leave him. Gradually she carves out enough work as a street peddler to support herself and her children. Great turns of phrase from Behar and Esperanza enliven this unusual account. Skirting volatile feuds between neighbors, Behar worries lest her research get mired in "a nest of old hatreds." Says Esperanza of being penniless, "I almost had to use one hand to cover my front and another hand to cover my back." [via]