Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Book Review: "Of Women and Salt" reviewed again but differently - Because One Thing is also Several Things

Today is publication day for Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia! 

I invite you to read my review of this book on Disabled-World. I decided to write a separate review for SexualDiversity.org - a site highlighting news and stories related to LGBTQ love and sexuality as well as other underrepresented or commonly misunderstood relationships - because I want to highlight the theme of the book that struck me as most relevant for those of us creating romantic relationships while contending with the romantic relationships that came before us.


Of Women and Salt is an expertly weaved tale starring five generations of Cuban women. All of these women are connected either through family or happenstance, affecting each other's lives regardless of distance in time and place. And all of these women are both extraordinary and ordinary; like so many women we know.

The mothers in Of Women and Salt are all living in places and times where building a foundation of stability is darn near impossible. Revolutions rage around and inside them, husbands rage around and inside them, and the threat of ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) rages around and inside them. These mothers find ways within the chaos to bring safety and stability to the lives of their daughters and, in so doing, build their own unstable stories and frameworks. It is beautiful and human and real and raw.

The daughters in Of Women and Salt (of which some are also mothers) struggle to understand themselves and their pasts. Because their mothers are strong and unwilling to yield in areas they believe best for their daughters, they make strong barricades between them. Again, it is beautiful and human and real and raw.

As the daughter of a strong woman myself, one who never built barricades but was perhaps unnecessarily open and honest in order not to do so, I felt my own connection to these women grow deep. As they (mothers and daughters) made choices and took actions in love, choosing to hold onto or, in dark and dangerous ways, get rid of husbands, they were teaching each other what love is, what we do and don't allow in our relationships, who we become in order to make it all work. And each woman chooses to see what they are being shown in ways that are both unique to them and built by their relationships to each other.

I watched my mother struggle with relationships. When my step-dad molested me and she left him, becoming a single mom with six kids – four of whom were small adopted boys with various disabilities and challenges – my mom worked with passion and vulnerability to learn what the “cycle of abuse” is and to take any action to break it. Mom rarely dated (six kids doesn't leave a lot of room for romantic love) but when she did she was careful. Whether dating men or women she watched them closely for any signs of prejudice or cruelty. And because we all have some prejudice and cruelty, she always had to let them go. Not trusting herself to choose well.

My sister and I learned different things from watching this play out before us, but we both learned from it. Lucky for us we are all close and supportive and believe in consistent growth so the times we found ourselves needing to make changes we were not alone. We had help. We had each other.

My mom, though, did not. Like many of the women in the book my mom had to do it all alone. She made choices that were near impossible to build the support and strong foundation we – my siblings and I – were able to take for granted.

While reading Of Women and Salt I was moved by how well the author shows these relationships between women, the way we are influencing each other and how we are both unable to insist on the way our influence is received and how we are responsible for being careful with it.

There are moments in this book that break your heart; there are moments that reach out and acknowledge you; there are moments that give you power while simultaneously reminding you how little you have.

Ultimately, though, for me the novel was a moment of feeling connected to women around the world and finding comfort in that.

We are building society together, fathers, mothers, daughters, sons. We are connected, regardless of time and place. And though we can't be certain of how our influence will play out we can be careful. Be inclusive, open, and willing to make changes.

Like my mom, we can work with passion and vulnerability to learn the places we are perpetuating cycles of abuse (in our homes and communities) and take actions to break them.

Like the women in Of Women and Salt, we are all bound to environments that we can only partly create. And like the women in the book, who are expertly crafted and imagined, we are influenced by our environments.

These women will influence you.

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
Publish Date: March 30, 2021 (today!)

Pre-Order via Amazon: Of Women and Salt


Image: me reading "Of Women and Salt" with the novel cover fully in view.