Often, I have written about how we fall short of understanding violence in Mexico by solely focusing on the annual publication of homicide rates. This desire to have better explanations, and therefore better policies addressing the dynamics of violence, has led me to very fruitful collaborations and even launching the Mexico Violence Resource Project with my wonderful co-author and friend Mike Lettieri.
But, as one of my college professors once said to me, the truth of life is found in literature. And thus, as an academic recognizing the limits of conveying messages through scholarly writings, today I want to share works of fiction I believe help us grasp the complexities of violence in Mexico from very gifted storytelling. If I could teach my dream course on literature and violence, these would certainly be on the reading requirements. To be sure, these are not the only works that have covered this topic. This list only reflects a personal preference and I am very keen on getting other recommendations. Contrary to what one would think, these are not focused on blood and gore but rather tell stories from more subtle angles. In this spirit, I have also added works that deal with migration and the U.S.-Mexico border because it is not an experience devoid of violence and arguably a very Mexican ordeal.
I have divided the list between books I have read and the ones I hope to read in the coming months and have come highly recommended by friends who work in government and colleagues from the Women in Violence research group. Most of the books have English translations (or were originally written in English) but if you can read them in Spanish, I suggest you go with the original language. And if any of these titles inspires you and makes it onto your reading list, may I kindly suggest supporting your local bookstores rather than purchasing them from a big corporation owned by one of the wealthiest men in the world?
Thank you for reading and Happy Holidays!
On my bookshelf:
By Yuri Herrera:
Signs Preceding the End of the World
Transmigration of Bodies
By Valeria Luiselli:
Lost Children Archive
By Erica L. Sánchez:
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
By Juan Pablo Villalobos:
I Don’t Expect Anyone to Believe Me
Down the Rabbit Hole
By César López Cuadras:
Cuatro muertos por capítulo
By Fernanda Melchor:
I should mention, the book by Melchor was recommended across the board by all the colleagues I consulted with in putting this list together.
By Valeria Luiselli:
Tell Me How it Ends
By Sara Uribe:
By Luis Alberto Urrea:
Into the Beautiful North
* Cecilia Farfán Méndez is head of Security Research Programs at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). Twitter: @farfan_cc