“I can offer more than rags.”
The Extravagant Stranger
Excerpt from Not Your Abuelita's Folktales
By Maria J. Estrada
She smiled coquettishly at the baker’s son. Rosa Maria couldn’t remember his name, but she lingered on his gaze. He blushed, and she swung her hips one last time as she
entered the local mill. The smell of corn filled her lungs; she wasn’t partial to that odor. Still, her smile widened, when she spied Mr. Sanchez working alone. He was sweating profusely, his simple shirt clinging to his thick muscles.
He was young, maybe five years older than Rosa Maria, and he had inherited his father’s maize mill at the young age of 23. He averted her gaze.
“How many kilos?” he mumbled.
She paused, forcing him to look up. “Five, please.” She handed the large bowl over, which he filled expertly with a mixture ground maize, lime, and water.
She cocked her head and asked sweetly, “Don’t you need to use the scale?”
He grew irritated his upper lip curling upward. “You doubt me, señorita?”
He grabbed the bowl and dumped the meal into the scale. It read five kilos exactly. He put the mixture back into her bowl and handed it to her, pushing her away in the process.
“Thank you so very much.” She said, “I pray for you and your family every day, for the repose of your dear father.”
He turned his back and added more water to the corn as he began to grind another large batch. She turned walking provocatively, until her neighbor Elena marched in with a large bucket.
“Hello, Rosa Maria.” She smiled. Rosa Maria tried not to grimace. The old woman’s two front teeth were missing. Rosa wondered why in God’s name the woman just didn’t go to a dentist in Durango. After all, in 1960, there were plenty of medical advances, or so she thought. Still, she prayed with all of her might not to look that awful when she grew old. In fact, she would give anything to never grow old.
Just then, the shop windows opened letting in a rush of air. The old woman crossed herself and advised, “Get home. The wind is picking up, and you don’t want to catch a cold.”
On a search for sweets, Rosa Maria walked to the local shop. Ricardo was working there, and he always gave her a few hard candies for a kiss on the cheek. She continued home, hoping to catch another young man’s attention. Instead she spied a beggar on the street, an abandoned old man most people ignored. She handed him a couple of candies and one last peso she hid in her cleavage.
He smiled at her and gave her a heartfelt blessing, “May the hand of God rest on you.”
Rosa Maria squeezed his shoulders and wished she owned the means to find him shelter.
On the way down the cobbled street, the hairs on the back of her neck stood. Someone was admiring her rear end. She looked back towards the mill, which was just a couple of blocks away. But it was not Mr. Sanchez.
His loss, she thought.
FROM THE ROOFTOP, he looked down at her. She was an exquisite specimen, his Rosa Maria. Her impertinence and arrogance were especially alluring. He loved how she swayed her hips and turned her neck, just so, to catch the weak men’s adoration in her small town of Las Nueces, Durango. Las Nueces was a sleepy little town where most people worked hard, but there was always a gem to be acquired, just like her.
Today, she wore a red bow in her hair and a pretty white lace dress, too fancy for common chores. From a distance, he thought he could smell her scent. He smiled as she flirted with a man carrying Coke bottles. He stumbled when she said hello, the poor man dropping half of his wares.
The stranger chuckled and slicked his own hair back. For good measure, he shined his shoes one more time. Tonight, he would introduce himself at the town dance, and he had no doubt that she would dance with him. And only him.
BY THE TIME SHE GOT HOME, her mother was nagging her.
“What took you so long? Your uncle will be here soon!”
Her mother wore a black skirt and dark buttoned blouse. She glanced at her daughter who dropped the bowl on the table. She scowled. “What are you wearing?”
Rosa Maria smirked. “It is so hot, and this is the only thin dress I own.”
“Take that off and put some decent clothes on!” said her mother as she chopped a carrot, almost nicking her index finger.
She did as commanded, only because she wanted to wear the dress later that night. She changed into a thin cotton housedress that clung to her body. Rosa Maria admired her long hair in the mirror and loved the flush of her cheeks. Her curves were the envy of most women, and she cherished her small waist.
She would never have children and ruin her figure. That was for certain.
The banging in the kitchen mirrored her mother’s stress, which pulled her out of her reverie. Rosa Maria regretted not having any lipstick because her mother said only whores wore lipstick. She longed for nail polish and mascara. She was about to curl her hair, when her mother bellowed her name. Last time her mother had gotten so angry at her, she had burned Rosa Maria’s best dress because some nosy neighbor lady said she thought she had seen Rosa Maria at the dance, unchaperoned. She went back to the kitchen.
“Start mixing,” her mother commanded.
Rosa Maria scoffed, but her mother was in no mood. The girl took what she thought was a decent amount of salt, a large handful, and mixed. She worried about her nails and winced at the next part. She grabbed a handful of the disgusting mess and was about to add lard, when her mother slapped her hand.
Rosa Maria did. “It’s too salty.”
Her mother rolled her eyes and pulled out some cornmeal from the cupboard. It was just enough to make the tortillas acceptable. “We have to impress your uncle.” Her mother frowned at the amount of lard.
Her mother said, “You don’t need that. You’re making tortillas, not tamales.”
Rosa Maria scowled as she put half of the lard back in the container. Her greasy fingers repulsed her. “Come on,” her mother said.
“What’s the point?” Rosa Maria asked and swayed her body.
“I will marry a rich man and have maids. I’ll never have to cook a day in my life.”
Her mother laughed and watched as Rosa Maria struggled with a basic task. “If I ever die, you’re going to starve.”
Her mother added warm water and nodded, approving of the job. “Go wash your hands and get me some mint from the garden.”
“I need to curl my hair!”
Ross Maria left in a huff.
Out in the small garden, she looked at the plants and had to smell them before she found the mint. She plucked what she thought was an acceptable amount, and then she spotted him.
He wore a dark suit made of shiny material and beneath his fine jacket he wore a trendy white silk shirt. Rosa Maria had never seen such a refined gentleman. What could he be doing here? she wondered.
He rode a black horse and tipped his hat at her, giving her a warm smile. Rosa Maria licked her own lips as she stared at his perfect white teeth. His skin was sublime, even better than hers.
She tried to pretend not to be interested, but she couldn’t help but search his eyes.
This is the man I’m going to marry, she thought. In that instant, that was all it took to fall in love. He grew near her and was just a few feet away. He looked beyond to the horizon, and Rosa Maria was perplexed that he would not speak to her.
On impulse she said, “How are you this fine morning?”
He rode away without saying a word to her. Men didn’t usually ignore her. She stared at his back longer than she should have. Rosa Maria crushed the mint plants in her hand and went back to her mother.
Her mother took the leaves and put some in the stew.
She said, “Go sweep the floors.”
Rosa Maria raised her hands and spat back, “I am not doing more work. The floor looks fine, and I have to go curl my hair!”
Quickly, Rosa Maria left to her room. She had a brand-new curling iron that plugged into the wall. It had been a present from one of her admirers who owned the local furniture store and had been to the States in Mississippi. He had bought it for his wife and then on a whim, gave it to her. The gift caused divisions in his marriage, but Rosa Maria hadn’t promised him anything in return.
She was sure it cost a fortune. It was better than the iron rods people used which often singed her girlfriends’ hair.
Rosa Maria curled each ringlet perfectly. When she was done, she pinned the upper left and right corners like she had seen in the American movie. She put on a decent blue dress and went to the living room. She had spent a good forty minutes curling her hair, but her uncle was still not there.
Without thinking, she grabbed the broom and quickly swept the small house. She sneezed at the cloud of dust, and then yelped as a small scorpion ran from under a chair. She killed is swiftly and did a better job of sweeping under all the sofas. She swept the dirt out of the front door and put the broom away.
Her mother finished setting the table and kept staring out the window.
Riding the old mare her father had given him, Uncle Thomas arrived soon after. He was a brusque man and offered a gruff greeting. She went to him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. He reeked of cows and noticed that he still wore his work clothes.
Rosa Maria smiled and had him sit at the head of the table.
Her mother served him, while they exchanged pleasantries.
Her uncle was a man of few words; but he mostly answered her mother’s questions. After he was finished eating, her mother waited expectantly. Rosa Maria was certain she was asking for another loan. Since her father died a year ago, she struggled to make ends meet as a seamstress. And though Rosa Maria finished high school, she was not the brightest student. There was no work she could do and wanted to be taken care of as she deserved.
He looked at Rosa Maria and at her mother. “Well, it’s settled.”
Her mother clasped her hands. “Praise the Lord!”
“What is settled?” asked Rosa Maria.
Uncle Thomas gave her a side glance and explained, “Don Sebastian’s oldest son saw you at the plaza a few Sundays ago. He wants to marry you.”
Rosa Maria sat dumbfounded. Yes, she was eighteen years old and needed a steady suitor, but she had heard rumors of this eldest son. He was well to do, the son of a rancher a few towns over, but he had been burned in a fire recently. She also recalled he was an avid gambler and drinker. She had no idea what he looked like, and she would be damned if she married an ugly man with bad habits. She was about to object, but her mother gave her a stern look.
“He will come to meet you this Sunday, after church,” he concluded and said his goodbyes. He was about to leave and added, “Look, I hear the rumors. Be on your best behavior when he visits, Rosa Maria.”
“Oh, Uncle,” she said unabashedly, “I haven’t even kissed a boy yet.” Of course, that was not true. She had kissed plenty of men, but she hadn’t been stupid enough to do more than that. Even when the mill’s dead owner tried to put his hands up her skirt in exchange for a few kilos of maize.
He went to leave as her mother gave him a sack full of gifts for his wife and three daughters. All of whom were goody two shoes.
No doubt she’s giving them each an ugly dress fit for a nun, Rosa Maria thought.
When her uncle left, she ranted about not wanting to marry the Sebastian boy. “I can have any boy I want! Why am I going to marry some rancher’s son?”
Her mother slapped her and said, “I barely make enough for us to live on. You’re a fool if you think anyone decent in the village is going to want to marry you! You think I don’t hear the stories? What were you doing with that idiot who runs the local shop last week?”
Rosa Maria smiled and was about to get another one, when her mother admonished, “And don’t even think about going to the dance tonight!”
It was Friday night, and her village held a dance every month. Rosa Maria often snuck out and managed to make it back before midnight but always made sure a couple of her trusted friends walked her home. After all, it was one thing to kiss boys and quite another to have rumors of her being a slut—which she wasn’t. Not really.
IT WAS 9:00 P.M. AND LIKE CLOCKWORK, her mother fell asleep at the chair doing some extra sewing. Rosa Maria quickly touched up her hair a bit and put on her lace dress. She wore simple flats her father bought in Texas. One last gift for his princess. Of course, she wanted high heels.
She had no red lipstick but managed to put on some white powder. She looked virginal, her upturned nose delicate. Her face was Hollywood perfect—light-skinned and the envy of most girls. She admired her full lips, but wished her eyes were blue.
They were honey brown.
Rosa Maria took a black shawl and snuck out of the house. She walked speedily to the town hall, and outside was her best friend, Tila.
“Just look at you!” Tila was nineteen years old. Tonight, she wore an orange dress that covered most of her curves and showed no cleavage. She also had a crush on Mr. Sanchez, the mill owner. But he married her cousin a couple of months ago. No one could tell if he was happy or not.
When they entered the dance, it was already full of people dancing a fast-paced dance. She went with Tila to grab a drink.
Heads turned towards them. A young man just turned seventeen was going to ask her to dance, but she averted him, putting Tila between them. They grabbed their drinks and sat at the table. Rosa Maria gave her a glum look.
“What is it?” asked Tila loudly.
The song changed to a slow waltz, so they lowered their voices. Three people asked her out to dance, but she declined politely saying her stomach hurt. Rosa Maria explained her predicament, and her friend squealed with delight!
“A son of Don Sebastian!”
Rosa Maria shushed her as a few girls turned to look at them. “Be quiet!” She leaned in close.
“I heard his face is badly burned,” Rosa Maria continued.
Tila shook her head. “Nonsense—”
The music stopped as he walked into the hall. He was wearing the same clothes as before, but Rosa Maria’s heart stopped along with every girl of marriageable age and even some married ones. Tila also held her breath then exhaled. “Who is that?”
The stranger held her gaze and walked towards her table, as people parted the way. He extended a hand without even asking.
It was a magical moment. She breathed in his scent as another melancholy waltz began. It was Pedro Infante‘s “The Nights of October”, a song Rosa Maria wanted played as her wedding song.
She looked deeply into his eyes as he spun her around effortlessly. Rosa Maria thought they were made for each other. He had light skin and dark curls. What struck her the most were his blue eyes. Every time he smiled at her, she wanted to swoon, but she was too strong for that.
“What’s your name?” she finally asked.
“Nicholas,” he answered and added no other details. Other men glared at the stranger, but none dared to cut in. They danced for over an hour, but Rosa Maria was so enveloped in him she did not notice the passing of time. Round and round they went without taking a break. She was delighted at his grace. He never missed a step and knew how to dance the twist on down to a ranchera without sweating all over her. He was a man of few words, but she didn’t care as long as she was his universe.
Near midnight he asked, “Do you want to go for a ride?”
The question of course was complex. Leaving with him would cause the town to buzz with rumors of a love affair, and she wasn’t sure if he would steal her away to some remote location and deflower her. Rosa Maria thought about her uncle and her mother.
Then, she scrutinized his left hand. He had no wedding band, but on his pinky was a gorgeous gold ring with a large emerald.
“Are you married?” she asked point blank.
Without skipping a beat, he answered, “No.”
Rosa Maria calculated. He could be lying of course, but he did not seem to be conniving. Nicholas was suave and graceful, but he wasn’t a liar. She could usually tell when someone was lying to her, as she was an avid conniver, when she needed to be.
She looked towards Tila who gave her a worried look as she walked to get her shawl.
“Don’t,” Tila said grabbing Rosa Maria’s arm, but she shook it off and went with him anyway.
Nicholas was an absolute gentleman. He sat her on the back of the horse behind him, as a lady should ride. She had ridden like that many times before with her father, and she was not afraid of horses. They rode past the mill towards the river.
“Where are we going?” she asked but got no answer.
The horse began to pick up speed. The wind was blowing through her hair, and she found it exhilarating. He curved past the river and sped away down a rocky path. She had to grip his back, and almost fell off. He took a sharp turn, and she lost her shawl.
The horse rode faster than any beast should. She turned back. The town was too far away for the minutes they had been together.
Nicholas then raced up to a strange place filled with thorns and brambles.
The horse was just as nimble when raced.
She cried, “Can you please stop?”
The horse raced up a steep mountain Rosa Maria had never been to before. The horse sped up an impossible vertical incline. She clung for dear life, and then, they entered a large cave. It was pitch dark.
Rosa Maria was relieved when the horse finally stopped.
Through the darkness, the horse continued down a series of tunnels descending downwards. They stopped finally at a level place. Nicholas dismounted and grabbed her and threw her down on the ground. The fall knocked the wind out of her, but she fought striking at emptiness.
He gripped her wrists and tied them painfully. He lifted her up brusquely. Her feet trailed, dancing above the ground. She was suspended high, unable to wrest free.
SHE STRUGGLED until she fell asleep from exhaustion. He traced his fingers down the curve of her neck. In her sleep, she gave a small cry. Nicholas turned her back towards him and began.
First, his nails extended themselves into flawless instruments, exactly one inch each. He stroked her back, all the way down to her perfect waist. He raked his nails down her back enjoying every second.
THE BURNING PAIN in her back awoke her. She screamed as he raked his fingers down her back again, from the nape of her neck to her buttocks. He spun her around and kissed her. Rosa Maria felt like coal entered her mouth. The pain was excruciating—radiating through her whole mouth—outside and inside.
Even as she was tortured, she was worried that her mouth would be permanently scarred and that the blood would stain her shoes. She wondered if her mother could sew the dress back or cut the back out, somehow.
As if he was reading her mind he said, “I can offer more than rags.”
She whispered, “I don’t want anything from you, you piece of filth.”
He smirked and was about to kiss her face, but he stopped.
“I’m not touching your pretty face. I’m not supposed to leave any area unscathed, but your face is so lovely.”
Bile rose from her throat, and the pain grew worse. He took a dirty finger and ran it around her lips soothing them. Then, he stuck his thumb in her mouth. No man had ever done that to her. It was sensuous, but repulsive. She wanted to gag, and at the same time moan in contentment. The pain lessened.
Five surrounding torches lit simultaneously. She spat at him and when it landed on his face, it sizzled.
“Who are you?” she cried, but deep down, she knew who he was.
WHO WAS HE? The truth is he didn’t know anymore. Centuries ago, he had been a devoted father, but small pox killed his wife and five children. He had been tempted, as he was tempting Rosa Maria now, but he chose poorly.
She was strong. Perhaps stronger than he had been, even though she was so young. He smiled at her. She cringed. He kissed her again, this time doing so gently without heat.
She bit his tongue, drawing blood, and his laughter echoed through the cave. He brought a tin of water, and she drank against her better judgement. She wanted to spit it in his face but was too parched. He caressed her cheek and was pleased to see she did not flinch.
“I do care about you,” he said softly and meant it.
He unhooked her and lay her down on the dirt. She fell asleep in due time, and he went to get some dry jerky. He turned his back and reached for his satchel. Suddenly a sharp pain on the back of his head made him yelp as Rosa Maria kicked him and ran down a dark passage.
“Clever girl,” he said rubbing the injury. He marveled that she outwitted him, if for a short spell. He walked listening. He couldn’t let her get too far, or she might be killed. He found her a few minutes later, crawling on her hands and knees.
Nicholas picked her up and threw her over his shoulder. She fought and scratched and pulled his hair. He tied her hands and feet and placed her in the exact spot.
She screamed, and he jammed the jerky in her mouth. She wanted to curse, but instead chewed methodically. Rosa Maria was plotting, he was certain. He bent over and kissed her forehead which raised a tirade of insults.
She fell asleep after a time, as he watched over her, making sure nothing disturbed her peace.
WHEN SHE WOKE, she was hanging on the hook again. This time, he scratched her arms and legs, always being careful not to touch her face. He looked pained every time he clawed her. The pain was unbearable, but her rage was stronger.
Suddenly, he stopped, and like magic, he soothed every wound. He worried she would scar.
Why did he care so much? he asked himself.
Thirteen hours had passed, and she was still awake. She glared at him and tried to spit, but her mouth was dry.
He flinched, when she sneered at him. At first, he couldn’t understand what she said. He grew closer.
“So, you weren’t man enough to get a woman, so you have to steal stupid girls away.”
She kicked and impacted his penis. He bent over as she laughed for the first time in a long time since her father died.
“Wretched girl!” he howled, and she fainted in terror. The transformation had been a reflex. First, his eyes went back from a glowing amber to a sky blue. His fangs receded, but his pointed ears were stubborn.
It took thirty minutes for him to go back to normal. He caressed the curve of her neck. She was truly beautiful. She woke with a start and began to fight.
He sat there watching her until she calmed down. Normally, he would wait another day, but her stubbornness was unlike any he had seen in centuries.
Out of nowhere, two tables appeared. One of them was laden with jewelry and a rich red dress, like the one she always wanted. At the center was a set of high heels. They were a fantasy come true.
To the right were ordinary rags. A metal basin with a washboard and a coarse apron.
“You can have a life of luxury,” he said pointing to the table with elegant articles. “You can stay young forever. Have any man you want.”
He saw the light in her eyes as she stared at the shoes. He knew she would love them but realized the adoration in her eyes ran deep.
“Or.” He paused gesturing towards the other table. “You can have a life of drudgery. You will marry a simple man, but never be rich. Ever.”
THE SHOES SHIMMERED in the fire light. They were exquisitely curved and the heels the perfect height. The dress was the material of dreams. She stared at the alluring table, then the drab table.
“Well,” he asked again and added, “As soon as you make your choice. This ends.”
She would not choose. Most people would have been screaming one way or the other, but she was weighing her options. He smiled. “If you choose this life,” he continued pointing at the life of boredom, “You will always have to be obedient, always do good.”
“Or what?” she asked.
“Or this will seem like child’s play.” He ran his fingers against a wall making a grating noise.
“If you choose the other life,” he said, “you will never want or suffer. You will never grow old.”
There was no way she could be obedient forever, and she dreaded the thought of growing old like her neighbor. She looked down. By now, her dress was rags, and she hung, naked, but he never touched her. Not there.
Rosa Maria thought long about what she wanted. She screamed as a burning pain ran up her left thigh. It was his hands that were burning her. He was no magician. In fact, she had figured out who he was. He ran his hand down her right thigh. That same look of pain on his face made her shout.
“You don’t want to do this! Stop.”
He hesitated but spun her around and proceeded to burn her back, then traced his fingers all around her.
This went on for what seemed like an eternity, but then, she thought about her father and how much he loved her. She thought about how much her mother struggled. Surely, no one would want her now, but the promise of youth. That made her pause.
“Stop!” she said finally, “Stop, devil.”
She looked at him, as a small smile curved his lips. He grabbed her by the hips, this time without burning her. He grew close to her face, so he could hear and breathed in her scent of sweat and pain, as she whispered into his ear.
HE LEFT HER in the middle of the desert. It was Sunday morning, and he knew they were near. Then, he spied them, a group of five men. Her choice had surprised him, no doubt, but he was secretly glad of it.
He saw as a young man on a chestnut horse pick her up gently. They rode away, and Nicholas gave her one last longing look. He would never see Rosa Maria again.
THE NEXT DAY, she walked in the plaza arm in arm with Sebastian.
Two months had gone by, and she was still wearing long-sleeved clothes and a long skirt to cover her scratches and burns. She looked at his straight brown hair. He would steal a glance every now and then and smile. Nicholas had lied to her; he was not a plain man. There were burn marks on his neck that his collar could not hide, but that didn’t matter to her anymore.
He sat on the bench with her and asked her if she wanted something from the vendor. She shook her head. The last few weeks she had slimmed down. The doctor said she was dehydrated and had suffered a shock. The day she was returned, her mother brought the priest, but all she said to him was that she had been punished.
Now, as she sat by her suitor, she admired his strong hands.
“They weren’t always like that,” he said.
“I used to be a gambler and alcoholic,” he said. “I don’t remember everything that happened, like you can’t remember everything. I still have nightmares. I guess you don’t really forget.
For me, it was a gorgeous woman named Isabella. She offered me a career in the states away from all of this boredom, but then. . . .” He pointed at his back.
Her mouth dropped.
“I made the right choice, as you did,” he said, “You know what saved me?”
She shook her head.
“The image of my mother crying over my absence. I couldn’t break her heart.”
Rosa Maria breathed in and confessed, “For me it was my father. He loved me so much. I also thought about my mother who works so hard. I think he, Nicholas, promised me youth and riches, but I don’t recall exactly. Just that the temptation was awesome.”
He laughed. “Ah yes. Well, I can’t give you youth.” He kissed her hand, and she blushed.
He added. “You will never want for anything.”
She laughed, which perplexed him. “He lied to me.” Rosa Maria looked down, appreciated how shined and clean his boots were.
“I’m a terrible cook,” she admitted.
“Your mother told me,” he said and smiled. “I have my flaws. I can’t stand disorder, and I struggle with anger.” She flinched.
“I won’t ever hurt you,” he stammered. “It’s just my cross to bear.”
She turned to him and asked, “Why me?”
“You are very pretty, to be sure,” he said, “but that is not why I noticed you.”
Sebastian explained that when he saw her in the plaza, she had given the local beggar her last change. It wasn’t the first time he had seen her. That was the third time.
Another time, he spied her giving nuts to a little girl and another seen her give a mangy dog some tortillas. Sebastian saw what few people rarely saw in her, kindness and compassion.
“Besides,” he said, “I have no room to judge. It took me a while to figure out how to plant corn. Horses, no problem, but when it came to actual hard work, I was a joke. You will figure it out, and my mother and sisters will help you. I will as well.”
A life of drudgery, she thought.
“Besides, I was thinking our village needed a new dress shop. Your mother could help you,” he said. “I’ve seen her handiwork.” He pointed to his elaborate shirt.
Nicholas had been lying as had all the town gossips.
Sebastian was offering her a dream she had never thought of and her mother a means to live.
In the end, she accepted not for the riches he offered. She accepted because he shared her pain and was more than she could imagine in a husband. He saw the best in her and didn’t judge her.
Since she had returned, most of the men in the village said she had been raped and that she deserved it. A lot of women agreed. For the rest of her life, she would always wonder what life would have been like had she chosen youth and riches, but deep down, she knew she made the right choice.
MARIA J. ESTRADA is an English college professor of Composition, Literature, and her favorite, Creative Writing. She also runs her union chapter with amor and pride. She grew up in the desert outside of Yuma, Arizona in the real Barrio de Los Locos, a barrio comprised of new Mexican immigrants and first-generation Chicanos. Drawing from this setting and experiences, she writes like a loca every minute she can—all while magically balancing her work and union and family obligations. She lives in Chicago’s south side with her wonderfully supportive husband, two remarkable children, and two mischievous cats—one of whom has killed at least one laptop. You can learn more about her writing happenings and favorite books on her YouTube channel Radical Books and Politics.
She is Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Barrio Blues Press.