BY MONIQUE QUINTANA
1. Bruja (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016) by Wendy C. Ortiz
Radical in its’ aesthetic, this “dreammoir” is imprinted with lush and cerebral imagery and the cover art by another artist named Wendy Ortiz is gorgeous and unnerving. The pairing is indeed magic. The book delves into death, life, motherhood, love, sex, and unflinching beauty. Always grounded in the power of its central voice, you’ll find this dark notebook drips with the dark glamour of Los Angeles living.
2. How Some Abuelitas Keep Their Chicana Granddaughters Still While Painting Their Portraits in Winter: Stories (Manic D. Press, 2015) by Myriam Gurba
In this collection of neo-gothic cross-border tales, the female characters are women, children, ghosts, and monsters that radiate in both rural and urban landscapes. Look out for the “The Moth,” a dark valentine of a story about a Mexican Goth girl who works unhappily at a shopping mall bookstore.
3. Give It To Me (The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2014) by Ana Castillo
Ana Castillo’s novel follows Palma, a protagonist who asserts her sexuality, clothed in the designer garb afforded by her high-status job. She flies feverishly through Santa Fé, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Her playgrounds are nightclubs, posh hotels, and grotesque family houses. She has enough lovers to rival a García Márquez character, but it’s most interesting to watch her lose her cool when she begins a doomed affair with her younger cholo first cousin, whom she describes as “the last Aztec warrior with Ray Bans."
4. The Five Acts of Diego León: A Novel (Random House, 2013) by Alex Espinoza
Espinoza recalls the decadence of the 1920s with a main character that flees México and becomes both immersed and enmeshed in Hollywood’s silent film industry. The titular character is reminiscent of such stars as Ramón Novarro and Rudolph Valentino and his experience is complicated by love, ambition, and the brutal desire for assimilation. An interesting section of the book reveals the real-life after-hours filming of a Spanish-Language vampire film.
5. Zoot Suit and Other Plays (Arte Publico Press, 1992) by Luis Valdez
This collection is a talisman of Chicanx theater and an homage to the early days of Chicanx fashion. “Zoot Suit “chronicles the Sleepy Lagoon Murder Trial and celebrates the Los Angles youth who were villified for challenging the status quo of wartime fashion. In all of the books’ plays, there is the undeniable magic of resistance through fashion.
Monique Quintana is the Editor-in-Chief of the literary blogazine, Razorhouse and the Beauty Editor at Luna Luna Magazine. She holds an MFA from CSU Fresno and her work has been published or is forthcoming in Huizache, Bordersenses, and The Acentos Review, among others. She is a Pocha/Chicana identified mother, daughter, sister, lover, and english teacher from California's Central Valley.