February 2015 Book of the Month
A Falling Star
Daysy Maria del Pozo and Stella Maris Morales-Quinn both came to the United States as part of the 1980 Mariel Boatlift—Daysy settling in South Florida with her family and Stella starting a new life with her mother and step-father in Pittsburgh. Over time, they each find themselves haunted by their families’ complicated and painful Cuban pasts. As Stella deals with her mother’s suicide and it slowly dawns on Daysy that there are family secrets she must uncover, the reader hears the del Pozo family history, piece by piece, from Daysy’s mother. Soon it becomes clear that Daysy and Stella may share more than their Cuban-American heritage.
A Falling Star is a novel in tapestry form, interwoven from the various threads of an exiled Cuban family, which is tied to the mystery of one daughter’s disappearance during the ocean crossing. The surviving daughter, Daysy, is the inquisitive Penelope figure who weaves and unweaves the story of her family through old photos, newspaper articles and constant questioning. Chantel Acevedo writes with insight and tenderness about the complex reality of unanchored lives both in Cuba and in the U.S., while at the same time involving us in a captivating tale of loss and redemption.
—Judith Ortiz Cofer, author of The Latin Deli and The Meaning of Consuelo
A Falling Star is filled with the ghosts of lost children and siblings, lost cultures and minds. It’s as if the characters are standing on a Florida shore looking toward Cuba, waiting for the remnants of their former lives to wash up along with the refugees who appear again and again. Chantel Acevedo has created a world so steeped in longing and Santería lore that it’s entirely possible missing children can fall star-like from the sky, or emerge fish-like from the ocean. This haunting novel delivers not only secrets and lies, pounding guilt and grief, but glorious redemption.
—Marie Manilla, author of Shrapnel and The Patron Saint of Ugly
The enduring love for a lost sister is the focus of this beautifully written novel set against the chaotic backdrop of the Mariel Boatlift. Daysy del Pozo is having a hard enough time dealing with adolescence when her beloved grandfather reveals an explosive family secret in the confusion of dementia. What really happened to the del Pozo family after a rescue at sea creates a gripping mystery, and the suspense builds to a dramatic climax and bittersweet dénouement. The homesickness, fragmentation, and disorientation of the Miami exile community are vividly portrayed and deeply moving. This is a beautiful story about instincts that keeps families together in even the most horrifying of circumstances.
—Sandra Rodriguez Barron, author of The Heiress of Water and Stay with Me
February 2015 Additional Conversation
Mexicans in the Making of America
According to census projections, by 2050 nearly one in three U.S. residents will be Latino, and the overwhelming majority of these will be of Mexican descent. This dramatic demographic shift is reshaping politics, culture, and fundamental ideas about American identity. Neil Foley, a leading Mexican American historian, offers a sweeping view of the evolution of Mexican America, from a colonial outpost on Mexico’s northern frontier to a twenty-first-century people integral to the nation they have helped build.
Mexicans have lived in and migrated to the American West and Southwest for centuries. When the United States annexed those territories following the Mexican–American War in 1848, the unequal destinies of the two nations were sealed. Despite their well-established presence in farm fields, workshops, and military service, Mexicans in America have long been regarded as aliens and outsiders. Xenophobic fantasies of a tidal wave of Mexicans overrunning the borders and transforming “real America” beyond recognition have inspired measures ranging from Operation Wetback in the 1950s to Arizona’s draconian SB 1070 anti-immigration law and the 700-mile security fence under construction along the U.S.–Mexican border today. Yet the cultural, linguistic, and economic ties that bind Mexico to the United States continue to grow.
Mexicans in the Making of America demonstrates that America has always been a composite of racially blended peoples, never a purely white Anglo-Protestant nation. The struggle of Latinos to gain full citizenship bears witness to the continual remaking of American culture into something more democratic, egalitarian, and truer to its multiracial and multiethnic origins.