Excerpt from We Are Not from Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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We Are Not from Here

by Jenny Torres Sanchez

We Are Not from Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez X
We Are Not from Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez
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  • First Published:
    May 2020, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2021, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
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PROLOGUE

When you live in a place like this, you're always planning your escape. Even if you don't know when you'll go. Even if you stare out your kitchen window, looking for reasons to stay—you stare at the red Coca-Cola sign on the faded turquoise wall of Don Felicio's store that serves the coldest Coca-Colas you've ever tasted. The gauzy orange of the earth—both on the ground and swirling in the air—that has seeped into every one of your happiest memories. The green palms of the tree you climbed one time to pick and crack the ripest coconut that held the sweetest water you gave your mother. And the deep blue of the sky you tell yourself is only this blue here.

You can look at all this and still be planning your escape.

Because you've also seen how blood turns brown as it seeps into concrete. As it mixes with dirt and the excrements and innards of leaking dead bodies. You've stared at those dark places with your friends on the way to school, the places people have died. The places they disappeared from. The places they reappeared one morning months later, sometimes alive, sometimes dead, but mostly in fragments. You've watched dogs piss in those places. On those bodies that once cried with life.

You plan your escape because no matter how much color there is or how much color you make yourself see, you've watched every beautiful thing disappear from here. Made murky by night and darkness and shadow.

You plan your escape because you've seen your world turn black.

You plan your escape.

But you're never really ready to go.

PULGA

We should run.

The words fill my mind as the priest throws holy water on Don Felicio's coffin. Neighbors slide it into its vault. Doña Agostina holds her rosary and wails.

Yesterday at his wake, she'd told me to run. Yesterday, Pequeña had told us to run, too. Today, my eyes scan the cemetery, looking for Rey or Nestor, and all I can think about is running.

The crowd disperses.

Another day.

Another death.

Another body.

When we get home, Mamá sinks into the couch, exhausted. My mind sees the red velvet cushions. Blood-red. So much blood.

We should run.

"You and Chico go rest," she says, pulling up her legs and lying down without bothering to change out of her black dress. "I'm going to stay here for just a little while. Close and lock the door."

Chico gets up from where he was sitting in the doorway and I do as Mamá says. He heads to our room and I follow. There is a heaviness in the air, pressing down on us. The thud of my own feet sounds terrible. But as I walk past Mamá, she reaches for my arm and grabs it.

"Pulga," she says. The force of her touch and her voice startles me. I look at her tired face and she says, "Te quiero mucho, Pulgita."

"I know, Mamá. I love you, too." But there is something else she wants to say, and doesn't. I can see it on her face. She just nods, lets go of my arm, and closes her eyes.

I stand there for just a moment, wondering if Doña Agostina told her about the dream she had. Or maybe Pequeña said something. Maybe Mamá is starting to believe in brujas and superstitions. Maybe I should, too.

Maybe Mamá will even tell me I should run, because it's the only way. That I have her blessing. That she understands broken promises.

Instead she takes a deep breath, lets it out.

And I go to my room.

Chico has the fan on the highest setting and it whirs loudly.

I close the door, even though it keeps the room hotter.

"Well?" Chico asks as I enter. He is fidgety and restless. The brown stripes on his shirt match his skin perfectly. I stare out the window.

"I don't know," I tell him. I haven't told him what Doña Agostina told me, but the strange things Pequeña said put him on edge. He hasn't been able to sit still since, and even here, he seems to be looking over his shoulder.

Excerpted from We Are Not from Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez. Copyright © 2020 by Jenny Torres Sanchez. Copyright © 2020 by Jenny Torres Sanchez. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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