Friday, November 7, 2014
BOOK REVIEW | Secrets in the Sand: The Young Women of Juárez by Marjorie Agosín
Remembers the women of Juárez
Heads and little ears.
Haunting. Melodic. Tragic. Hearthbreaking. Necessary. These are the words I would use to describe this book of poetry.
Secrets in the Sand: The Young Women of Juárez is a collection of poetry written by Marjorie Agosín about the missing women of Juárez. From 2008 to 2013 over 211 girls have gone missing, but the murders have been going on since the 90s. The most disturbing issue of all is that the government has done nothing about it. In the introduction to these poems, written by Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman, she writes that Mexico is a country with a "machista" culture that "often accuses women of provoking their abusers." With this kind of victim-blaming perpetuating the minds of those who are in charge, it's not surprising to see that there hasn't been much progress made towards stopping these murders.
She dreams about borders
A knife parts her in two
North and South
The body of a woman lies
In the middle of the night
In the middle of the day
In the middle of the light
On the border no one finds her
The desert petrifies her memory
The wind erases sounds
Everything is a darkness without sunlight.
She has crossed borders
And doesn't return home
Her mother wanders about crying
And looks for but does not find her
She crosses borders
Wakefulness and dream
Ashes and bonfires.
Agosín's goal was to give these women a voice. They have been permanently silences and are suffering a second death because of the negligence of the government. These murders have been going on for over 20 years with no change in the system or in the enforcement of the law. Agosín uses free verse, often conflating herself with the victims and reminding all women that in another time, in another place, or even tomorrow in your home, it could be you.
The news report of Ciudad Juárez
Announces another death
The child says that it looks like the same woman
All of those women are the same, the father replies
The mother prepares the food
She sees herself in those women
The news report continues
They announce the winners of the soccer tournament
The child asks his mother why
They always kill the same woman
The mother's voice is strange
Like that of a little girl
And a well of silence
Forms on her sad mouth.
By using free verse, Agosín is able to give a voice to the traumatic experiences of the women who were murdered and the women who have been left behind. Sometimes I had to read a certain poem over and over until I understood it, and other times I read it over and over because it was just that powerful. Combining the Introduction, Poems and Afterword, there are only 143 pages in this book. (Which you can also cut in half because half of it is in Spanish on one side and English on the other, so if you're not bilingual, it will go even faster.)
This book has easily become one of my personal favorites. I really appreciate the accessibility of Agosín's style. Had she tried to make her poems more complicated, she may have run the risk of taking away from the violence. Instead, she made sure her poems were succinct, easy to understand and straight to the point - given the women of Juárez and the women who are terrified for their lives a powerful and booming voice.