Excerpt from Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Say Her Name

A Novel

by Francisco Goldman

Say Her Name
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2011, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2012, 368 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Judy Krueger

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


It was just the kind of thing Aura and I made fun of: a folkloric Mexican altar in a grad student's apartment as a manifestation of corny identity politics. But it felt like the right thing to do now, and throughout that first year of Aura's death and after, the wedding dress remained. I regularly bought flowers to put in the vase on the floor, and lit candles, and bought new candles to replace the burned-out ones.

The wedding dress was made for Aura by a Mexican fashion designer who owned a boutique on Smith Street. We'd become friendly with the owner, Zoila, who was originally from Mexicali. In her store we'd talk about the authentic taco stand we were going to open someday to make money off the drunk, hungry, young people pouring out of the Smith Street bars at night, all three of us pretending that we were really serious about joining in this promising business venture. Then Aura discovered that Zoila's custom-tailored bridal dresses were recommended on the web site Daily Candy as a thrifty alternative to the likes of Vera Wang. Aura went to Zoila's studio, in a loft in downtown Brooklyn, for three or four fittings, and she came home from each feeling more anxious than before. She was, at first, after she went to pick up the finished dress, disappointed in it, finding it more simple than she'd imagined it was going to be, and not much different from some of the ordinary dresses Zoila sold in her store for a quarter of the price. It was an almost minimalist version of a Mexican country girl's dress, made of fine white cotton, with simple embellishments of silk and lace embroidery, and it widened into ruffles at the bottom.

But in the end, Aura decided that she liked the dress. Maybe it just needed to be in its rightful habitat, the near-desert setting of the Catholic shrine village of Atotonilco, amid an old mission church and cactus and scrub and the green oasis grounds of the restored hacienda that we'd rented for the wedding, beneath the vivid blue and then yellow-gray immensity of the Mexican sky and the turbulent cloud herds coming and going across it. Maybe that was the genius of Zoila's design for Aura's dress. A sort of freezedried dress, seemingly plain as tissue paper, that shimmered to life in the charged thin air of the high plains of central Mexico. A perfect dress for a Mexican country wedding in August, a girlhood dream of a wedding dress after all. Now the dress was slightly yellowed, the shoulder straps darkened by salty perspiration, and one of the bands of lace running around the dress lower down, above where it widened out, was partly ripped from the fabric, a tear like a bullet hole, and the hem was discolored and torn from having been dragged through mud and danced on and stepped on during the long night into dawn of our wedding party, when Aura had taken off her wedding shoes and slipped into the dancing shoes we'd bought at a bridal shop in Mexico City, which were like a cross between white nurse shoes and seventies disco platform sneakers. A delicate relic, that wedding dress. At night, backed by the mirror's illusion of depth and the refl ected glow of candles and lamps, the baroque frame like a golden corona around it, the dress looks like it's floating.

* * *

Despite the altar, or maybe partly because of it, our cleaning lady quit. Flor, from Oaxaca, now raising three children in Spanish Harlem, who came to clean once every two weeks, said it made her too sad to be in our apartment. The one time Flor did come, I watched her kneel to pray at the altar, watched her pick up photographs of Aura and press them to her lips, smudging them with her emphatic kisses and tears. She imitated Aura's reliable words of praise for her work, the happy pitch of her voice: Oh Flor, it's as if you work miracles! Ay, señor, said Flor. She was always so happy, so full of life, so young, so good, she always asked after my children. How could she do her job now, in that way that had always so pleased Aura, Flor pleadingly asked me, if she couldn't stop crying? Then she'd taken her sadness and tears home with her, home to her children, she explained later when she phoned, and that wasn't right, no señor, she couldn't do it anymore, she was sorry but she had to quit. I didn't bother to look for a new cleaning lady. I suppose I thought she would feel sorry for me and come back. I tried phoning, finally, to beg her to come back, and got a recorded message that the number was no longer in service. Then, months after she'd quit, incredibly, she repented and did phone and leave her new telephone number - apparently, she'd moved - on the answering machine. But when I phoned back, it was the wrong number. Probably I'd written it down wrong, I'm a touch dyslexic anyway.

Excerpted from Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman. Copyright © 2011 by Francisco Goldman. Excerpted by permission of Grove Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Aura Estrada Prize

One-Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Here I Am
    Here I Am
    by Jonathan Safran Foer
    With almost all the accoutrements of upper middle-class suburban life, Julia and Jacob Bloch fit the...
  • Book Jacket: Harmony
    Harmony
    by Carolyn Parkhurst
    In previous novels such as The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found, Carolyn Parkhurst has shown herself...
  • Book Jacket: Commonwealth
    Commonwealth
    by Ann Patchett
    Opening Ann Patchett's novel Commonwealth about two semi-functional mid-late 20th Century ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Darling Days
    by iO Tillett Wright

    A devastatingly powerful memoir of one young woman's extraordinary coming of age.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Tea Planter's Wife
    by Dinah Jefferies

    An utterly engrossing, compulsive page-turner set in 1920s Ceylon.

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Sweet Caress
by William Boyd

William Boyd's Sweet Caress captures an entire lifetime unforgettably within its pages. It captivates.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D C Y C Before T A H

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.