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Mother Tongue

3.7  ·  Rating details ·  355 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
"It is a great beauty of a book, and I am so proud of you for standing with and for the disappeared. A sister, a lover, a witness."
--Alice Walker

Mary is nineteen and living alone in Albuquerque. Adrift in the wake of her mother's death, she longs for something meaningful to take her over. Then José Luis enters her life. A refugee from El Salvador and its bloody civil war,
ebook, 208 pages
Published May 5th 2010 by One World/Ballantine (first published January 1st 1990)
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(showing 1-30)
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score! 50c op shop find today.

Lyrical & poetic, it's like silk and barb wire caressing your heart. Brings to life the heartache of refugees from El Salvador and the war there in the 80's. Based partly on the authors experiences helping the underground railroad of refugees out of El Salvador, it's an easy and quick read. Contains poetry from various Latin Americans and is written via the voices of several characters and three generations and at it's heart is love and justice. Most of the deta
The Awdude
Mostly this book is about the El Salvadorian civil war, for the prolonged duration and extreme violence of which the U.S., of course, was primarily responsible. There's some nice prose here; by "some" I mean a little bit; and Martinez does bring genuine heart to such a heartbreaking subject, there's no doubt about that, but she also frames it in one of the sloppiest narratives that I've read in a long time. It's the story of a romantic idealist, Mary/Maria, who falls head over heels in love with ...more
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful, poetical book honoring the disappeared. We need to remember our humanity and realize that any one of us at any time could be the victim of violence. With humility, we need to know the ones we have never known and who will never be known to anyone ever again. So many immigrants are fleeing horrible things. More has to be done, even if it is only to acknowledge that they exist and that they once existed (lives filled with love and fear and dreams and hope...). And this little book spe ...more
Tia Telles
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My Favorite read from college.
Apr 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To anyone interested in El Salvador and the Sanctuary movement, I enthusiastically recommend this novella. A New Mexican poet and journalist who was once jailed for her alleged participation in smuggling Central American refugees, Martinez has written an often lyrical, poetic story of a young woman (Maria) falling in love with a Salvadoran refugee (Jose Luis, a divinity student of liberation-theology bent) and dealing with the emotions and consequences engendered by that relationship (as well as ...more
Michael Blackmore
Mar 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Despite a bit of a rough start I really enjoyed this book. I initially read it because it dealt with the turbulent times in the 1980s with the US supporting horrific acts by oppressive governments in parts of Central America (and supporting equally horrific terrorist groups in other parts) and the community of activists in the US working on solidarity issues.

The beginning was difficult because it was told through the eyes of a clearly troubled woman and the self involved nature of it caused it
Πάνος Τουρλής
Ένα από τα ωραιότερα τρυφερά μυθιστορήματα που έχω διαβάσει. Έρωτας μεταξύ Μεξικάνας και πρόσφυγα του Ελ Σαλβαδόρ στις ΗΠΑ. Χωρίς πλοκή ιδιαίτερη, χωρίς ευθύγραμμη ροή, με αφηγήσεις της Μαίρης-Μαρίας, του πρόσφυγα, της φίλης τους και του γιου τους. Πώς γνωρίστηκαν, τι αισθάνθηκαν, πώς δόθηκαν ο ένας στις αγκαλιές του άλλου. Πώς αγαπήθηκαν, τι σημαίνει έρωτας και συναίσθημα για τον καθένα, τι αγώνα είχε η Μαρία να φέρει τον πρόσφυγα στην πραγματικότητα, να σταματήσει να φοβάται και να αγχώνεται κ ...more
Nov 01, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I tried to find some redeeming features in this book, and I just couldn't. None. The narrator is absolutely insufferable. It's like reading 200 pages of a particularly delusional, self-obsessed teenage girl's diary- which is essentially what this novel is, except that Martinez is trying to use it as a vehicle for commenting on the El Salvadorian civil war and the treatment of refugees in the USA. Unfortunately, she doesn't actually gives the reader any information about those things except throu ...more
Oct 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. The beautiful lyrical prose is so haunting as she retells her love for a man that was both torn and made by war. The way the book is narrated through a series of journal entries, letters and recipes make it even more real.

The story touches on El Salvador's bloody civil war and the rise of Liberation theology in the Catholic church.

I also love that Jose Luis deals with his pain in realistic ways and I love when we get to read his letters. It gives us an insight into understan
Apr 19, 2015 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: definitely the romantics, and those who appreciate stories of love.
Shelves: favorites
although maria's perspective keeps jumping one moment from the past and then back to the present, i appreciate her sentiments. i bet most of us who have fallen in love at some point would relate to all those roller coaster of emotions she had for jose luis. i also liked that the reader was given a glimpse of jose luis' perspective thanks to few journal entries that he wrote.

i'll forgive the inconsistencies in terms of who maria is addressing to, as well as the somewhat confusing timeline (or ma
May 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set against the backdrop of the 1980s sanctuary movement in New Mexico, Demetria Martinez tells a tender, funny and politically packed love story between 19-year-old Maria and the mysterious Jose Luis, who arrives from El Salvador needing a new home, new identity and safety. As he gains a foothold in his new life, eventually speaking out publicly about the brutal war in his homeland and U.S. complicity in it (this was the Reagan era...) she romanticizes him, and what she imagines of his past --- ...more
May 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fictional story of of characters strongly influenced by war-ravaged Central American country
Reviewer: John Phillips "johnphillips61" (Plano, TX USA)

You can tell the author is a poet. This story was beautifully written, insightful and certainly rang true. When I finished reading it I felt I had gained a new perspective about how it must be for people who have their homeland torn apart by war. They love their homes, so the answer isn't just fleeing to freedom and safety. For some, there just is no answer. This book turned on new lights for me and moved as well as frustrated me. We can't
May 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recently-read
Demetria Martinez is going to be my workshop instructor at the Wm. Joiner Center, so I was happy to be able to read a couple of her books in anticipation. This novel became more compelling to me the longer I read, as the young Chicana protagonist matures in spite of herself in the process of loving & losing a Salvadoran refugee being sheltered by the Sanctuary movement in the early 1980s. The story gains surprising depth & resonance--as I finished I felt exalted.

Martinez is a wonderful p
Irma Fox
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May 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful story, beautifully written, and bursting with love and compassion. The novel revolves around the civil war in El Salvador during the 1980's in which mass atrocities were committed by U.S. backed Salvadorian death squads. It is not all political as the book delves into the human wreckage in different ways. The longing for love, meaning, and personal fulfillness are also important elements that are explored.

An unforgettable book.
Jun 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
sweet sweet fast read ... she writes with her heart in her hand.

her stuff is very familiar, the fiction story is about a southwest chicana enamorada de un salvadoreno /perdida en el amor/ se encuentra after having a son and is on her own.

This book did spark interest in her poetry collection ..
Estela Anders
A book about uprooted people trying to cope with the weight of their wounds ( the obvious and the hidden, inflicted by war or by loss), using each other to keep afloat. The language is beautiful as is the vivid descriptions of the pain of culture clash, exile, duty and secrets that can't be dealt with until named.
Kathryn Shumate
Nov 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it
This book was amazing. True, there are parts I can't relate to, but there are so many I can. I read this book because it was assigned in my literature class. I'm so very grateful that it was. I would go so far to say that this is the best book I've read all year.
Mar 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
3.5 ending was engrossing but many parts were written in a way that I found difficult to understand what the writer was trying to say.
Jan 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book really helped me imagine life in the Southwest of the U.S. and how unofficial Central American refugees might feel when living in the U.S. undocumented. It was pretty romantic too!
Nov 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this if you seek a pulpy, feminine maturation tale. Mother Tongue explores love with spiritual and political grit.
Rus Funk
May 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
What a nice surprise! A fabulous and delicate story in and of itself but which also examines a the election Salvador civil war and the real cost in human terms. Read this one!
Julie Aguilar
Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully written novel that is much more than a love story. It explores the complexity of refugee identity while commenting on the social, political fabric of institutions.
Apr 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good story and good intro to the civil war in el Salvador and the sanctuary movement.
Vanessa Largie
Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stunning. Just stunning. Have read it twice. The story lives on in my heart.
Jan 02, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Marisol
Ah.. New Mexico, refugees from El Salvador, and the US Government all mixed in with a little Spanish flavor.
Irene Gonzales
Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book, brought back memories of stories I'd heard about what was happening in El Salvador, this book just made it more real.
Jun 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sherry, Janice, and anyone interested in history
Recommended to Jenyne by: Stephanie
This is an incredible story about a refugee from El Salvador. It is in English and is beautifully written and desperately tragic.
Eileen Sam
Jan 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Super beautifully written and I like that it's kinda of like a political love story...excellent sensory detail of culture as well.
Chelsea Marissa Baeza
Phenomenal Read

One of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. I know I will be re-reading this book for years to come.
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“You see, I am good at filling in blanks, at seeing meaning where there may have been none at all. In this way I get very close to the truth. Or closer still to illusion.” 0 likes
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