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Ms. Jufresa: Where the f*#! did you learn to tell a story so well?” Álvaro Enrigue, award-winning author of Sudden Death
As heard on NPR's Weekend Edition with Scott Simon
It started with a drowning.
Deep in the heart of Mexico City, where five houses cluster around a sun-drenched courtyard, lives Ana, a precocious twelve-year-old who spends her days buried in Agatha Christie novels to forget the mysterious death of her little sister years earlier. Over the summer she decides to plant a milpa in her backyard, and as she digs the ground and plants her seeds, her neighbors in turn delve into their past. The ripple effects of grief, childlessness, illness and displacement saturate their stories, secrets seep out and questions emerge Who was my wife? Why did my Mom leave? Can I turn back the clock? And how could a girl who knew how to swim drown?
In prose that is dazzlingly inventive, funny and tender, Laia Jufresa immerses us in the troubled lives of her narrators, deftly unpicking their stories to offer a darkly comic portrait of contemporary Mexico, as whimsical as it is heart-wrenching.
Laia Jufresa’s work has appeared in McSweeney’s, Pen Atlas and Words Without Borders. In 2015 she was invited by the British Council to be the first ever International Writer in Residence at Hay Festival in Wales, and in the same year she was named as one of the most outstanding young writers in Mexico as part of the project México20. Umami is her first novel. She lives in Cologne, Germany.
Sophie Hughes is a literary translator and editor living in Mexico City. Her translations have appeared in Asymptote, PEN Atlas, and the White Review and her reviews in the Times Literary Supplement and Literary Review.