When You Get to the Other Side
By Mariana Osorio Gumá, Cecilia Weddell
The morning they left Amatlán in the bed of a pickup truck, in the hours between darkness and daybreak, the world became immense and noisy. Emilia Ventura shut her eyes and inhaled deeply, bringing in the fresh air of her homeland. She wanted to hold onto it. Let it go down into the depths of her soul, wrapped securely in the mist of daybreak.
Twelve-year-old Emilia and fifteen-year-old Gregorio spend their childhood following their tenacious grandmother, Mamá Lochi, through the oak- and jocote-filled mountains of Amatlán, México--gathering herbs for the folk remedies Mamá Lochi makes, listening to her awe-inspiring stories about becoming a curandera, and learning how to connect with the supernatural world themselves. But, when she passes away they're left alone, with their father hundreds of miles north in the U.S. So they scrape together all their money, and pay coyotes to smuggle them to the other side.
The siblings are exhausted and famished before they even make it to the border, and they fall into only more danger after crossing. After the predatory coyotes separate Emilia from Gregorio--having their own plans for the young girl--the siblings struggle through the parching desert, and a human trafficking operation hidden within it, to make their way back to each other. They draw strength from their profound bond as well as the supernatural abilities their grandmother helped them hone, such as catching glimpses of the future and hiding to the point of invisibility. Their efforts are interwoven with flashbacks to Mamá Lochi herself, whose tales of the mystical journey she took to become a curandera teaches the siblings how insubstantial and blurred the imagined borders between past and future, self and other, and life and death truly are--preparing them, as much as anything could, to experience all these spaces on their own journey.
This masterful novel, first published in Mexico, brings the exciting talents of author Mariana Osorio Gumá to English readers. Cecilia Weddell's translation skillfully captures Osorio Gumá's engrossing mix of lyrical prose and unpretentious, natural voices. A beautiful, powerful book, which portrays a migrant experience that pierces beyond stereotypes and superficial discussions.
Listen to an excerpt from When You Get to the Other Side, read in Spanish by author Mariana Osorio Gumá and English by translator Cecilia Weddell!
About the Creators
Mariana Osorio Gumá is a psychoanalyst and writer. She has published seven books of fiction in Spanish, three of which have been selected by the International Board on Books for Young People for their high quality. In 2014, she was awarded the Premio Literario Lipp La brasserie for her novel Tal vez vuelvan los pájaros. Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1967, she has lived in Mexico since 1973.
Cecilia Weddell is a writer, editor, and translator. She has a Ph.D. in Editorial Studies from Boston University, where she translated the newspaper essays of Rosario Castellanos and earned a graduate certificate in Latin American Studies. Her translations from Spanish have been published in journals including World Literature Today, Latin American Literature Today, and Literary Imagination. An associate editor at Harvard Review, she is from El Paso, TX.