Review: My Mother’s Funeral by Adriana Páramo

About the book, My Mother’s Funeral

My Mother's Funeral

Every woman has stories to tell about her mother. The mother that she remembers, the mother she wishes she’d had, the mother she doesn’t want to become, and then eventually, the mother she buries. Every immigrant woman has stories to tell about her homeland. My Mother’s Funeral is a combination of both: Mother and Homeland. The book circles around the death of Páramo’s mother but the landscape that emerges is not only one of personal loss and pain, but also of innocence, humor, violence and love.

Drawing heavily upon her childhood experiences and Colombian heritage, the author describes the volatile bond linking mothers and daughters in a culture largely unknown to Americans. The book moves between past (Colombia in the 1940’s) and present lives (USA in 2006), and maps landscapes both geographical (Bogotá, Medellín, Anchorage) as well as psychological, ultimately revealing the indomitable spirit of the women in her family, especially her mother from whom the reader learns what it means to be a woman in Colombia.

My Mother’s Funeral describes four Colombian generations of women who struggle, love, sing and die in a country of mysterious beauty as much as it charts the daunting and transforming process of the mother’s funeral and its unexpected byproduct: the re-acquaintance with a long lost brother, the women in the family, and with them, the whole culture.

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About the Author, Adriana Páramo

Adriana Paramo

Páramo is a cultural anthropologist, writer and women’s rights advocate. Her book Looking for Esperanza, winner of the 2011 Social Justice and Equity Award in Creative Nonfiction (Benu Press) was one of the top ten best books by Latino authors in 2012, the best Women’s Issues Book at the 2013 International Latino Book Awards, and the recipient of a silver medal at the 2012 BOYA, Book of the Year Awards. She is also the author of My Mother’s Funeral, a CNF work set in Colombia released in October 2013 by Cavankerry Press.

Her work has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize and her essays have been included in the Notable American Essays of 2011 and 2012.

Her work has been recently published or is forthcoming in The Sun, the CNF Southern Sin Anthology (True Stories of the Sultry South & Women Behaving Badly), Minerva Rising, Redivider, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Los Angeles Review, American Athenaeum, Consequence Magazine, Fourteen Hills, Carolina Quarterly Review, Magnolia Journal, So To Speak, 580 Split, South Loop Review, New Plains Review, and the rest.

Currently she lives in Qatar, where she divides her time between writing and everything else. Everything else includes teaching zumba/Latin dance and Spanish lessons to Qatari students, among whom, there is a prince.

My Thoughts

I have to confess: when the lovely women who run TLC Book Tours approached me about reviewing Adriana Páramo’s memoir, My Mother’s Funeral, I was a little bit resistant. After all, I watched my grandmother go through, if not actual Alzheimers, then the descent into senility and dementia (there is a clinical difference, though from outside, it looks the same), and seeing her lose so much of herself was incredibly difficult. My own mother is only twenty years older than I am, so I won’t likely have to face this with her for a long while, but once encountered, the spectre haunts you, however subtly.

I could not have been more pleased to be proven wrong, because, yes, this book is inherently sad in some respects: within the first few chapters, we face, with Adriana, the cold fact that she is flying home to bury her mother.

But it’s also beautiful.

First, it’s beautifully constructed. Páramo takes us in and out of time periods and places with smooth transitions, and without we readers ever getting lost. Modern Florida, Colombia in the 40s – each feels as real on the page as they are when actually encountered. In the former, you can smell the sun, sand, and Coppertone, in the latter, the sizzle of lard in a frying pan, the swish of a knife through a tomato or an onion – these are ever present. I’ve never actually tasted aguardiente, but after reading this book, I feel as if I have.

Second, and this is what really struck me, the use of language is simply entrancing. Maybe it’s the inherent flair that comes from speaking Spanish as your first language, or maybe it’s the author’s own musicality, but this book sang to me so much that I spent the week I read it (not normal for me, I typically devour books, but this one had to be savored) wandering around the house accosting my husband, our housemate, even the dogs, and reading passages aloud.

Lyrical, lovely, and oh, so poignant, My Mother’s Funeral is a power piece of memoir/creative non-fiction, and not only do I heartily recommend it to all women (after all, even those of us who have never become mothers are still daughters) but to men as well, because it offers a deep understanding of mother-daughter relationships that is impossible to glean without being in one.

Goes well with The whole time I was reading this, I kept thinking about my mother’s green chile soup, and homemade sangria.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. For the tour page, click here.

Review: Short Leash: A Memoir of Dog Walking and Deliverance, by Janice Gary

Short Leash by Janice Gary

About the book, Short Leash

It’s hard to believe that a walk in the park can change a life – let alone two – but for Janice Gary and her dog Barney, that’s exactly what happened.

Gary relied on dogs to help her feel safe when walking on her own ever since being attacked on the streets of Berkeley as a young woman. This solution worked well for years until her canine companion passed on. Grieving, and without the benefit of a guardian, she encounters a stray Lab-Rottweiler puppy in a Piggly Wiggly parking lot and falls for his goofy smile and sweet nature. With his biscuit-sized paws, Barney promises to grow into her biggest protector yet. But fate intervenes when Barney is viciously attacked by another dog just before his first birthday. From that time on, he becomes dog-aggressive. Walking anywhere with Barney is difficult. But for Gary, walking without him is impossible.

It’s only when she risks taking him to a local park that both of their lives change forever. There, Janice faces her deepest fears and discovers the grace of the natural world, the power of love and the potency of her own strengths. And Barney no longer feels the need to attack other dogs. Beautifully written, Short Leash is a moving tale of love and loss, the journey of two broken souls finding their way toward wholeness.

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About the author, Janice Gary

Janice Gary

Janice Gary is the author of Short Leash: A Memoir of Dog Walking and Deliverance, which was chosen as a “Groundbreaking memoir” by Independent Publisher and a New Pages “Editor’s Pick”. She is the recipient of the Christine White Award for Memoir and the Ames Award for Personal Essay. As a writing coach, she helps others writers find their unique voice and stories.

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My Thoughts

Not only do I have three dogs of my own (all rescue mutts), but I actually work in rescue as a shelter-pet evangelist and dog fosterer, so when I was offered the chance to read and review Janice Gary’s book, Short Leash: A Memoir of Dog Walking and Deliverance, I leapt at the opportunity, even though it meant reading a pdf copy.

I’m glad I did, because Janice’s story is one that almost every woman can relate to. While I’ve never been attacked, I know the feeling of vulnerability that comes with being in a dark parking lot, a questionable part of town, the last car on the subway, and I have an active enough imagination that extrapolating what Ms. Gary must have felt is an easy reach for me. I have, however, had one of my dogs attacked, and while I was fortunate in that my own pet was mostly unharmed, I know the fear that comes in that moment when an animal in your care is threatened or injured.

As well, I know the safety that comes from having a big dog. My husband travels a lot, and I feel much more secure knowing that I have 80 pounds of pointer/boxer and 75 pounds of Catahoula/Rottie/Brittany/Aussie at my back should anything happen – and I live in a relatively safe neighborhood. Every dog owner, though, can relate to the canine litmus test: if my dog doesn’t like you, I’m probably better off avoiding you entirely.

But I digress.

Janice Gary tells her story – of being attacked, of losing her canine companion, and of finding a new best friend, and almost losing him, with both candor and finesse. When you read her words, you feel like she’s sitting across the table, sharing a coffee with you, and you want to reach out and hold her hand, or pet Barney’s great, big head.

Her first walk with him had me both shaking with concern and rooting for both human and dog to do well, and my investment in her story only grew the further I read.

This is a memoir, so there isn’t a plot to discuss, and you don’t get to criticize someone’s choices. Instead, I encourage everyone to read this book, because Short Leash is beautiful, heartfelt, and truly inspiring, without ever being insipid. And when you’ve finished reading it, go cuddle your own pups. Don’t have one? Adopt one. Big Black Dogs are the best playmates and walking companions anyone can have, and they’re always the last to be adopted.

Goes well with A cold coke and two hot dogs, one of which you share with your canine companion.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual book tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. Click here for the tour page.