Monday, May 8, 2017
Published Marcy 2017 by Rain Mountain Press
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review
In nine thematically linked stories set largely in Guatemala, Concepción and the Baby Brokers brings to life characters struggling with universal emotions and dilemmas in a place unfamiliar to most Americans. From the close-knit community of Todos Santos to the teeming danger of Guatemala City, to a meat-packing plant in Michigan and the gardens of Washington DC, Deborah Clearman shows us the human cost of international adoption, drug trafficking, and immigration.
A Cup of Tears, the opening novella, reveals a third-world baby farm, seen through the eyes of a desperate wet nurse, a baby broker, and an American adoptive mother. In “The Race” a young man returns to his native village to ride in a disastrous horse race. “English Lessons” tells of a Guatemalan immigrant in Washington DC who learns more than English from a public library volunteer. A teenage girl tries to trap her professor into marriage in “Saints and Sinners.”
With searing humanity, Clearman exposes the consequences of American exceptionalism, and the daily magic and peril that inform and shape ordinary lives.
When you're struggling through a reading slump, it's tempting, very tempting, to stick to books that seem like they can't miss. Oh heck, it's often tempting to do that. But TLC is always offering me books that are, as I called them the other day, "take a chance" books. And I'm hard pressed to turn those books away because I know that this blog owes some of what it is to the authors and publishers that were willing to give me books early on. From them I learned that small publishers are just as likely to have wonderful authors and unique and marvelous books as the big guys. In Concepcion And The Baby Brokers and Deborah Clearman, Rain Mountain Press has a wonderful author and a unique and marvelous book.
Guatemala can feel, like all of the countries of Central America except Mexico, a bit like a lost country. I've never read any book set there. Or for that matter, any book about anyone from there, that I can recall. Clearman opens readers eyes to life throughout Guatemala, especially village life - especially the poverty that drives so many to seek a better life in the north.
All of the stories are strong but my favorites were the three that made up the opening novella. In a story where we expect to find "bad" guys, Clearman reminds readers that people have lives we know nothing about and we shouldn't be so quick to judge. And that, sometimes, people do the right thing, even when it's incredibly painful. Clearman's writing it not showy but she does does paint vivid pictures of the land, the clothing, and the food of the countryside. Most importantly, she helps readers understand the people of the region and it's always good to try to understand other cultures.
check out the full tour.
Deborah Clearman is the author of a novel Todos Santos, from Black Lawrence Press. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals. She is the former Program Director for NY Writers Coalition, and she teaches creative writing in such nontraditional venues as senior centers, public housing projects, and the jail for women on Rikers Island. She lives in New York City and Guatemala.