By Seija Rankin
July 24, 2020 at 11:00 AM EDT
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MacMillan

Gabriela Garcia is a debut author who comes highly recommended: First and foremost, she's a former Purdue University student of the inimitable Roxane Gay. Her new novel Of Women and Salt follows a multigenerational family from current-day Miami to their native Cuba and back. The daughter of Cuban and Mexican immigrants herself, Garcia wrote her own experiences into the book. As the official synopsis says, "In present-day Miami, Jeanette is battling addiction. Daughter of Carmen, a Cuban immigrant, she is determined to learn more about her family history from her reticent mother and makes the snap decision to take in the daughter of a neighbor detained by ICE. Carmen, still wrestling with the trauma of displacement, must process her difficult relationship with her own mother while trying to raise a wayward Jeanette. Steadfast in her quest for understanding, Jeanette travels to Cuba to see her grandmother and reckon with secrets from the past destined to erupt."

The novel isn't out until April 6, but EW is exclusively revealing the cover, designed by the late Adalis Martinez (above), and first excerpt (below).

Carmen

Miami, 2018

Jeanette, tell me that you want to live.

Yesterday I looked at photos of you as a child. Salt soaked, sand breaded, gap toothed and smiling at the edge of the ocean, my only daughter. A book in your hand because that's what you wanted to do at the beach. Not play, not swim, not smash-run into waves. You wanted to sit in the shade and read.

Teenage you, spread like a starfish on the trampoline. Do you notice our crooked smile, how we share a mouth? Teenage you, Florida you, Grad Nite at Epcot, two feet in two different places. This is possible at Epcot, that Disney tiny-world, to stand with a border between your legs.

Sun child, hair permanently whisked by wind, you were happy once. I see it, looking over these photos. Such smiles. How was I to know you held such a secret? All I knew was that you smiled for a time, and then you didn't.

Listen, I have secrets too. And if you'd stop killing yourself, if you'd get sober, maybe we could sit down. Maybe I could tell you. Maybe you'd understand why I made certain decisions, like fighting to keep our family together. Maybe there are forces neither of us examined. Maybe if I had a way of seeing all the past, all the paths, maybe I'd have some answer as to why: Why did our lives turn out this way?

You used to say, You refuse to talk about anything. You refuse to show emotion.

I blame myself because I know your whole life, you wanted more out of me. There is so much I kept from you, and there are so many ways I made myself hard on purpose. I thought I needed to be hard enough for both of us. You were always crumbling. You were always eroding. I thought, I need to be force.

I never said, All my life, I've been afraid. I stopped talking to my own mother. And I never told you the reason I came to this country, which is not the reason you think I came to this country. And I never said I thought if I didn't name an emotion or a truth, I could will it to disappear. Will.

Tell me you want to live, and I'll be anything you want me to be. But I can't will enough life for both of us.

Tell me you want to live.

I was afraid to look back because then I would have seen what was coming. The before and the after like salt whipping into water until I can't tell the difference, but I can taste it on your skin when I hold your fevered body every time you try to detox. Every story that knocked into ours. I was afraid to look back because then I would have seen what was coming.

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