We are excited to welcome Deborah Taffa and Jamie Figueroa to celebrate their new books, Whiskey Tender: A Memoir by Deborah Taffa and Mother Island: A Daughter Claims Puerto Rico by Jamie Figueroa.
Praise for Whiskey Tender
"We have more Native stories now, but we have not heard one like this. Whiskey Tender is unexpected and propulsive, indeed tender, but also bold, and beautifully told, like a drink you didn't know you were thirsty for. This book, never anything less than mesmerizing, is full of family stories and vital Native history. It pulses and it aches, and it lifts, consistently. It threads together so much truth by the time we are done, what has been woven together equals a kind of completeness from brokenness, and a hope from knowing love and loss and love again by naming it so." —Tommy Orange, National Bestselling Author of There There
"I was completely taken by Whiskey Tender: its gorgeous sentences, its searing observations about identity andloss and inheritance, and its exploration of generational and terrestrial traumas. This is a strong and special book"—Carmen Maria Machado, bestselling author of In the Dream House
Whiskey Tender traces how a mixed tribe native girl--born on the California Yuma reservation and raised in Navajo territory in New Mexico--comes to her own interpretation of identity, despite her parent's desires for her to transcend the class and "Indian" status of her birth through education, and despite the Quechan tribe's particular traditions and beliefs regarding oral and recorded histories. Taffa's childhood memories unspool into meditations on tribal identity, the rampant criminalization of Native men, governmental assimilation policies, the Red Power movement, and the negotiation between belonging and resisting systemic oppression. Pan-Indian, as well as specific tribal histories and myths, blend with stories of a 1970s and 1980s childhood spent on and off the reservation.
Taffa offers a sharp and thought-provoking historical analysis laced with humor and heart. As she reflects on her past and present--the promise of assimilation and the many betrayals her family has suffered, both personal and historical; trauma passed down through generations--she reminds us of how the cultural narratives of her ancestors have been excluded from the central mythologies and structures of the "melting pot" of America, revealing all that is sacrificed for the promise of acceptance.
Praise for Mother Island
"A lushly written, deeply felt investigation into the meanings of home, lineage and selfhood--Figueroa thoughtfully examines the contours of what is given to us, & what can be chosen."
—Melissa Febos, bestselling author of Body Work and Girlhood
"Mother Island rings with deep vulnerability and compassion. A beautiful poetic book."
—Tiphanie Yanique, Center for Fiction First Novel Prizewinning author of Love and Drowning
A searing and deeply personal memoir that explores the institutions--family, society, country--that defined a Puerto Rican woman and what she unlearned to rediscover herself
Growing up in the Midwest, raised by a Puerto Rican mother who was abandoned by her family, Jamie Figueroa and her sisters were estranged from their culture, consumed by the whiteness that surrounded them. In Mother Island, Figueroa traces her search for identity as shaped by and against a mother who settled into the safety of assimilation. In lyrical, blistering prose, Figueroa recalls a childhood in Ohio in which she was relegated to the background of her mother's string of failed marriages; her own marriage in her early twenties to a man twice her age; how her work as a licensed massage therapist helped her heal her body trauma; and how becoming a mother has reshaped her relationship to her family and herself. Only as an adult in New Mexico was Figueroa able to forge her own path, using writing to recast her origin story. In a journey that takes her to Puerto Rico and back, Figueroa looks to her ancestors to reimagine her relationship to the past and to her mother's native island, reaching beyond her own mother into a greater experience of mothering and claiming herself.
In stunning prose that draws from Puerto Rican folklore and mythology, a literary lineage of women writers of color, and narratives of identity, Figueroa presents a cultural coming-of-age story. Candid and raw, Mother Island gets to the heart of the question: Who do we become when we are no longer trying to be someone else?
Deborah Taffa’s debut book, Whiskey Tender, has received advanced praise from the following outlets: Zibby Mag "Most Anticipated Book,” San Francisco Chronicle "New Book to Cozy Up With,” Publishers Weekly "Memoirs & Biographies: Top 10," The Millions "Most Anticipated,” and Electric Lit “Books by Women of Color to Read." With fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in Prose (2024), PEN America, MacDowell, Rona Jaffe, and the NY State Summer Writer’s Institute, Deborah received her MFA from the NWP at the University of Iowa. A member of the Yuma Nation and Laguna Pueblo, she is the director of the MFA CW program at the Institute of American Indian Arts and splits her time between Saint Louis, MO, and Santa Fe, NM.
Jamie Figueroa is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer (Catapult 2021), which was short-listed for the Reading the West Book Award and long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, was an Indie Next pick, a Good Morning America must-read book of the month, and was named a most anticipated debut of the year by Bustle, Electric Literature, The Millions, and Rumpus. A member of the faculty in the MFA Creative Writing program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Figueroa has published writing in American Short Fiction, Emergence Magazine, Elle, McSweeney's, Agni, The New York Times, and the Boston Review, among other publications. A Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA) alum, she received a Truman Capote Award and was a Bread Loaf Rona Jaffe Scholar. Boricua (Afro-Taíno) by way of Ohio, Figueroa is a longtime resident of northern New Mexico.