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Count on Me, by Las Comadres Para Las Americas.

August 4, 2012

Count on Me: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships, by Las Comadres Para Las Americas. Edited by Adriana V. Lopez.  Atria Books with Simon& Schuster, 2012.  272 pages.  Paperback and ebook.

An anthology of short stories about friendship and interdependence among Latinas.

This collection of stories about Latinas was compiled by Las Comadres Para Las Americas, an international organization of Latinas, founded and lead by Nora de Hoyos Comstock.  The group was created to help Latinas listen to each other and reach out and support each other.  Although the organization is international in scope, many of those involved are Spanish-speaking women living in primarily Anglo environments. Coming together in small local groups, much like the feminist consciousness raising groups of the 1970s, women share their joys and their problems.  Larger regional gathering are also held.  In conjunction with their other activities, reading groups gather to discuss books by Latino authors.  In conjunction with the Reading Groups, the organization decided to publish this book of stories.

As Nora de Hoyos Comstock explains in the introduction, comadres can refer to different relationships such as “best friends, confidants, co-workers, advisors, neighbors, and godparents to one’s children.”  More fundamentally comadres are “the women they can count on, lean on, and ask for advice or for help when needed.”

The stories in Count on Me are all good; some are very good.  The anthology as a whole, however, seems to lack unity of focus, at least for this Anglo reader.  In a commendable effort to be inclusive, the variety of stories included left me confused about the term comadres and the organization with that name.  Most of the stories were written by established Latina writers, telling stories from their own lives, but there was little culturally distinctive about the friendships described.  Several described close friendships with non-Latinas.  I had assumed the stories would all be by Latina authors, but one of the twelve is by Luis Alberto Urrea.  The place of men in any women’s group is always problematic, especially when the Spanish language forces the choice between Latina and Latino.  Why does this book identify itself as Latino when 11 of the 12 authors are women?  If women of any ethnicity are to learn to speak freely and to listen to other women, they occasionally need time and space without the presence of men.  I wonder if the local groups of the sponsoring organization include men in their meetings. I see the need for closeness and trust with men and non-Latina women, but an organization or a book loses its distinctiveness if it refuses to define itself.

In addition, the some of the stories seemed to be a tribute to a particular woman and not stories of friendship, sisterhood, and interdependence.  Two stories honored women that lived in poverty and danger and provided the authors with insight into their lives and activism.  Several were about women who mentored the authors and led them into literary careers.

My favorite among the stories were those in which the women had more equal relationships with each other.  I particularly liked the story of the two young women working together on a project and continuing to share their experiences throughout their lives.  The first story in the collection was another of my favorites. In it, the author described the group of women who raised her and their other children together in a barrio in Puerto Rico in the 1950s.  The concept of “other mothers” is familiar to me from other ethnic groups, but I particularly liked how the author gave us a child’s view of the practice.

The editors call this anthology non-fictio;, the true stories of their authors.  Publisher claims the book is fictional and has no basis in real people.

Read ebook review copy from Edelweiss.

I would recommend this book to readers, especially to Latina women eager to listen to others like themselves.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 6, 2012 6:32 pm

    This sound like a really interesting book, it brings to mind the movie “Australia”, but I don’t know if that’s the right area or aboriginal group. I can see where there could be issues with her history too. I’m a history grad 🙂 But sometimes books like this are valuable because they help us to rethink the history we take for granted. That’s always a good thing, IMO. Thanks for the thorough review!

    • August 7, 2012 10:14 am

      Thanks. I totally agree as you see.
      I think you meant this comment for the book above, My Bundjalung People.

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