Guadalupe Magdalena Molina Vásquez -- wife, scoundrel, courtesan, mother -- is full of contradictions: she believes in love but is suspicious of men; she rejects religion but admires the Virgin Mary; she respects tradition while breaking all the rules. Here, in the Golden Zone of Teatán, Mexico, Magda tells her extraordinary life story -- from a poor Mexican barrio to American affluence, from wide-eyed childhood to worldly courtesan life, from full-blooded youth to oncoming blindness -- and bewitchingly imparts the hard-earned wisdom she has gained through the years.
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Donna M. Gershten was born in eastern North Carolina and later lived for some years in Sinaloa, Mexico, where she ran a fitness and community center. She returned to the United States, received a master of fine arts in creative writing from Warren Wilson College, and began to publish short stories in literary journals. Gershten now divides her time between the Huerfano Valley in southern Colorado and Denver. Kissing the Virgin's Mouth is her first novel.
Gershten was the first recipient of the $25,000 Bellwether Prize for Fiction in recognition of her debut novel Kissing the Virgin's Mouth as "a literature of social change." The Bellwether Prize was established by award-winning author Barbara Kingsolver, to promote literature of "social responsibility" and "political boldness and complexity." Barbara Kingsolver announced Donna M. Gershten as the first recipient of the prize, by press release, in May 2000.From Publishers Weekly:
Choosing to tell her debut novel from the point of view of a Mexican woman, North Carolina native Gershten produces a moving, convincing tale. Born in Teatl n (for which read Mazatl n) at mid-century long before it became a resort, narrator Guadalupe Magdalena Molina V squez embodies most of the contradictions of Mexico itself: she believes in love but is suspicious of men; she rejects religion but yearns for faith; and she respects tradition while breaking all the rules. The adult Magda describes her coming of age in the barrio, selling the corn-based drink tejuino in short shorts at age 14 and making more money than her father. Driven out of town three years later by the League of Decency--a cover for jealous wives--Magda becomes a go-go dancer in Tijuana, a rich rancher's wife in Monterrey, then marries a professor and lives in Idaho for a dozen years. Always, however, she is drawn back to Teatl n, even at the cost of being separated from her half-gringa daughter, Martina, for months at a time. Magda endures every form of abuse, and it is no surprise that the novel is dedicated to "all the whores in history." Magda may not be a winner in the tradition of unsinkable heroes, but she is not a loser, either. She is unafraid to use, learn and move on, and she is independent, determined not to succumb to the demands of her native country or her adopted one. Agent, Jean Naggar. (Mar.)Forecast: Gershten's appropriation of Mexican themes and language--Spanish colloquialisms pepper the text--may strike some readers as condescending, but this spirited novel, the first recipient of Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize for a work of socially or politically engaged fiction, will ultimately win over most skeptics. Author appearances in the Southwest, Denver and North Carolina and a 15-city NPR campaign should get sales off to a good start.
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