content by

Leticia Urieta

The Haunted House on the Hill Gets a Twist in Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic

The timeless story of the gothic haunted house looms in the literary imagination across generations of storytellers, creating a physical and psychic space where the literal and metaphysical ghosts of a home, and a family roam. It is a story that I am drawn to time and time again. I recently found myself gathering my own canon of haunted house stories from book, films and TV shows for my own creative obsession, revisiting the Woman in Black by Susan Hill, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (and obsessing over the beautifully haunting adaptation from Mike Flanagan). The modern interpretations of the gothic haunted house are endless, from the story of the Winchester Mystery House (and the 2018 film starring Helen Mirren), American Horror Story: Roanoke, and many others. The haunted house is a space where secrets and trauma lie, where reality and time becomes blurred, and where who one can trust is constantly under question, including whether the people who inhabit the house can trust themselves and their own senses.

And of course, there is the gothic heroine trying to escape the haunted house or be consumed by it. This is where Mexican Gothic, the latest novel from Silvia Moreno-Garcia, shines.

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Fighting a Losing Battle, and Choosing to Fight Anyway: Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova

Beginning a novel about revolution in the middle of a losing battle is a choice that risks leaving a reader dispirited, but Incendiary, the first volume of the Hollow Crown Series by Zoraida Córdova, is anything but dejected. The novel takes place largely from the point of view of Renata Convida, a Robári—a memory thief—who was captured by the King of Puerto Leones as a child and made to betray her people, the Moria. The Moria are an ancient culture who are all born with one of the four strands of magic, including hers. As an adult, Renata has turned spy for the “Whispers,” a revolutionary group of Moria warriors who are trying to fight the increasing reach of the Fajardo kingdom. Though the Whispers rebellion has a strong band of fighters, their numbers are dwindling and hope is running out.

The energy and intrigue of the novel comes from Renata and her comrades who are characters willing to fight to the bitter end for their cause, even giving their lives if it means ending the genocide of their people.

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In Steven Universe Future, Healing From Abuse Is an Ongoing Process

It is rare for a cartoon TV show targeted towards children to address issues of colonization, power and abuse, but Steven Universe has been challenging power dynamics and allowing viewers ways in to conversations around healing from trauma and abuse since its first season.

Because Steven Universe has a diverse fandom among adults as well as teens and children, its storytelling has had an impact, portraying messy, compassionate characters who are queer, gender non-comforming and people of color who are healing from trauma in nonlinear ways. The show also depicts how accountability for both the heroes and the supposed villains, a line that is blurred often throughout the show, is an imperfect process.

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The Solidarity of the Weird: Los Espookys Explores Community Over Capitalism

In the long lineup of big budget dramas like Game of Thrones that has made HBO shows into must watch programming (if you can steal someone’s HBO Now password), it is surprising to see the humble success of Los Espookys, which surprised and delighted critics and new viewers in 2019. Written and created by Ana Fabrega, Julio Torres, and Fred Armisen, (who play Tati, Andrés, and Uncle Tico respectively), the show centers on four friends living in what we presume to be Mexico City who, despite the pressures of their everyday lives, create a group that delivers staged “espantos,” or scares, for a variety of clientele. Though the first season is quite short, the familial bond between the characters develops naturally and is both delightful and surprising to watch.

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Behind the Cameras of Grecian Myth: Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters by Emily Roberson

If you, like me, pored over Greek myths for fun, you are familiar with the tale of Theseus and his defeat of the Minotaur. It is a story that is told and retold across stories and artwork to uplift the heroism of Theseus and describe the cruelty of the Greek gods. Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters by Emily Roberson takes this familiar tale and shifts the focus to princess Ariadne and her role in Theseus’ heroic deed for a young adult audience.

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The Origin Story We’ve Been Waiting For: The Rise of Kyoshi

Avatar: The Last Airbender was a show that was progressive like few others since. Set in a fantastical realm based on a variety of ancient Asian dynastic kingdoms and cultures, the show centers on the roles that power, compassion and love play in being a leader. The characters often disrupt gender binaries, and represent the experiences of people with disabilities, characters living with trauma, and the costs of revolution on ordinary citizens. Now, almost 20 years after the show’s finale aired, writer F.C. Lee and original showrunner Michael Dante DiMartino have co-created a YA novel, The Rise of Kyoshi, to tell the tale of Aang’s predecessor, Avatar Kyoshi of the Earth Kingdom.

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When Stories Shape Our Histories: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Since the original conquests and subsequent waves of colonization, it has been a struggle for pre-Hispanic indigenous communities to keep their traditional stories alive; as elders pass on, oral stories can die with them. Most people outside of these communities will not hear of these stories outside of anthropology or world literature textbooks. Yet sharing these stories with others, while mixing in historical context and her own fantastical elements, is exactly what author Silvia Moreno-Garcia is doing in her latest novel, Gods of Jade and Shadow. 

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