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Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir

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From the celebrated editor of This Bridge Called My Back, Cherríe Moraga charts her own coming-of-age alongside her mother's decline, and also tells the larger story of the Mexican American diaspora. Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir is, at its core, a mother-daughter story. The mother, Elvira, was hired out as a child, along with her siblings, by their own father to pi From the celebrated editor of This Bridge Called My Back, Cherríe Moraga charts her own coming-of-age alongside her mother's decline, and also tells the larger story of the Mexican American diaspora. Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir is, at its core, a mother-daughter story. The mother, Elvira, was hired out as a child, along with her siblings, by their own father to pick cotton in California's Imperial Valley. The daughter, Cherríe Moraga, is a brilliant, pioneering, queer Latina feminist. The story of these two women, and of their people, is woven together in an intimate memoir of critical reflection and deep personal revelation. As a young woman, Elvira left California to work as a cigarette girl in glamorous late-1920s Tijuana, where an ambiguous relationship with a wealthy white man taught her life lessons about power, sex, and opportunity. As Moraga charts her mother's journey--from impressionable young girl to battle-tested matriarch to, later on, an old woman suffering under the yoke of Alzheimer's--she traces her own self-discovery of her gender-queer body and Lesbian identity, as well as her passion for activism and the history of her pueblo. As her mother's memory fails, Moraga is driven to unearth forgotten remnants of a U.S. Mexican diaspora, its indigenous origins, and an American story of cultural loss. Poetically wrought and filled with insight into intergenerational trauma, Native Country of the Heart is a reckoning with white American history and a piercing love letter from a fearless daughter to the mother she will never lose.


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From the celebrated editor of This Bridge Called My Back, Cherríe Moraga charts her own coming-of-age alongside her mother's decline, and also tells the larger story of the Mexican American diaspora. Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir is, at its core, a mother-daughter story. The mother, Elvira, was hired out as a child, along with her siblings, by their own father to pi From the celebrated editor of This Bridge Called My Back, Cherríe Moraga charts her own coming-of-age alongside her mother's decline, and also tells the larger story of the Mexican American diaspora. Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir is, at its core, a mother-daughter story. The mother, Elvira, was hired out as a child, along with her siblings, by their own father to pick cotton in California's Imperial Valley. The daughter, Cherríe Moraga, is a brilliant, pioneering, queer Latina feminist. The story of these two women, and of their people, is woven together in an intimate memoir of critical reflection and deep personal revelation. As a young woman, Elvira left California to work as a cigarette girl in glamorous late-1920s Tijuana, where an ambiguous relationship with a wealthy white man taught her life lessons about power, sex, and opportunity. As Moraga charts her mother's journey--from impressionable young girl to battle-tested matriarch to, later on, an old woman suffering under the yoke of Alzheimer's--she traces her own self-discovery of her gender-queer body and Lesbian identity, as well as her passion for activism and the history of her pueblo. As her mother's memory fails, Moraga is driven to unearth forgotten remnants of a U.S. Mexican diaspora, its indigenous origins, and an American story of cultural loss. Poetically wrought and filled with insight into intergenerational trauma, Native Country of the Heart is a reckoning with white American history and a piercing love letter from a fearless daughter to the mother she will never lose.

30 review for Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Valerity (Val)

    This was an interesting memoir about growing up in a Mexican/American family in the US with a strong mother Elvira, also called Vera. Elvira tells of being hired out with her siblings by their father as a child to pick cotton in California in Imperial Valley. A mother-daughter story where the mother has quite a history as the backbone of the family for decades in both Mexico and America. It also tells of the author, Cherrie Moraga's, journey as a lesbian in that culture as she found her voice an This was an interesting memoir about growing up in a Mexican/American family in the US with a strong mother Elvira, also called Vera. Elvira tells of being hired out with her siblings by their father as a child to pick cotton in California in Imperial Valley. A mother-daughter story where the mother has quite a history as the backbone of the family for decades in both Mexico and America. It also tells of the author, Cherrie Moraga's, journey as a lesbian in that culture as she found her voice and began speaking out and getting involved in different issues. Then there are some problems many have as their parents' age but perhaps handled in her mother’s unusual fashion at first. I found it to be an involving enough read and learned enough on a number of topics to make it worthwhile, figuring that others would like it also. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Cherrie Moraga, and the publisher for my fair review. RATING: 3.5 of 5.0 Stars Also seen on my BookZone blog: https://wordpress.com/post/bookblog20...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dee

    Gorgeous and so very sad.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    Very touching, tears, smiles, thoughts and remembered feelings of my own Mother, stirs up many emotions, mostly Love. New insight into Alzheimer’s and what families suffer. I thank my son for the gift of this book, it truly was a gift.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cristina

    4.5 stars! I listened to Moraga read this memoir (after T told me most of the big picture of the book on a drive from SF to LA, so I knew what to expect, but still wanted to hear it myself). Cherrie Moraga was a big name in the feminist and women of color literary scene I fell into in college in 1987-91 at UCSC, with This Bridge Called My Back. I hadn't heard of her since and was intrigued and pleased to learn she's made a living as a writer. Her mom's story of 1920s Tijuana and her own story of 4.5 stars! I listened to Moraga read this memoir (after T told me most of the big picture of the book on a drive from SF to LA, so I knew what to expect, but still wanted to hear it myself). Cherrie Moraga was a big name in the feminist and women of color literary scene I fell into in college in 1987-91 at UCSC, with This Bridge Called My Back. I hadn't heard of her since and was intrigued and pleased to learn she's made a living as a writer. Her mom's story of 1920s Tijuana and her own story of being a radical feminist were worth listening to, as well as how she dealt with losing her mom, relevant to me as my own mom ages. She's not a dynamic reader, but it's her voice and her accent with all the Spanish that fit perfectly. I lost the thread a few times because of out of order timelines, but it didn't matter much; the story was all there. I'm a fan of self discovery and introspection in light of our ancestry and history of our people in the world, and this book was fulfilling. I appreciated the queerness and frankness of her telling personal stories, too. Oh and she's a poet, so the language was at times mystical and lyrical and always lovely.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Eko

    3.5*

  6. 5 out of 5

    Heidi Burkhart

    A beautifully written book. I listened to the audiobook version which was read by Moraga. Outstanding all of the way around.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This moving memoir tells the story of Elvira Moraga from the point of view of her daughter, Cherríe Moraga, the famous queer Chicana writer and activist probably best known for her role as co-editor of the seminal anthology "This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color," first published in 1983. Here, she leads the reader on a narrative through her mother's life that reads much like life itself is: quick and energetic at first; long and slow at the end. The story is told in Che This moving memoir tells the story of Elvira Moraga from the point of view of her daughter, Cherríe Moraga, the famous queer Chicana writer and activist probably best known for her role as co-editor of the seminal anthology "This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color," first published in 1983. Here, she leads the reader on a narrative through her mother's life that reads much like life itself is: quick and energetic at first; long and slow at the end. The story is told in Cherríe's voice; she doesn't assume her mother's. In this way, we get a kind of biography that's adjacent to an autobiography. Cherríe's own life is secondary to, yet inextricably entwined with, that of Elvira-- the mother to whom she had, like all mothers and daughters, a fraught but crucial relationship. As Elvira slides into the slow disappearing of Alzheimer's, the reader is taken along a painful and extremely moving journey through personal and cultural histories of indigenous, mestiza, MexicanAmerican women. I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be picking up more of Moraga's work, as well as reading up on Native Californians and the Spanish colonization of the Southwest, which is a chapter of North American history I know too little about. Note: I received and ARC from FSG in exchange for an honest review; opinions are my own.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Octavio Solis

    This beautiful memoir of Cherríe Moraga tracks her relationship with her mother Elvira, not only through the changes that she undergoes in her heart but through the history of our collective Native soul. Unflinchingly personal in its examination of the raw wounds that we measure family by, Cherríe recounts the long troubled life of Elvira as she struggles to find her independence in a world of conflicting loyalties and allegiances. She's a stern parent, sometimes a violent parent, a warrior copi This beautiful memoir of Cherríe Moraga tracks her relationship with her mother Elvira, not only through the changes that she undergoes in her heart but through the history of our collective Native soul. Unflinchingly personal in its examination of the raw wounds that we measure family by, Cherríe recounts the long troubled life of Elvira as she struggles to find her independence in a world of conflicting loyalties and allegiances. She's a stern parent, sometimes a violent parent, a warrior coping with the collective "amnesia" of our indigenous past. And still there's love. This book drips with so much love. Even when she depicts the agonizing and debilitating effects of Alzheimer's Disease as it wreaks its havoc on her beloved mother (and the collateral damage brought on all her family), Cherríe expresses the devout and conflicted love she has for her. This memoir was an education for me, teaching me how to view the choices of our Mexican Mother, our Matriarch, through the unblinkered eyes of our "Indio herencia", preparing me for the sad palliative days that loom ahead for us all.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    Native Country of the Heart by Cherríe L. Moraga is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early April. Despite its seemingly wishy-washy title (this is from someone who just read a book called A Song for the Stars, mind), opening this book and poring over it was like visiting and being around my maternal grandparents, as well as reading the book Borderlands by Gloria E. Anzaldúa in college. However, this is a memoir shared between the author and her mother Elvira, both in the border area between Native Country of the Heart by Cherríe L. Moraga is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early April. Despite its seemingly wishy-washy title (this is from someone who just read a book called A Song for the Stars, mind), opening this book and poring over it was like visiting and being around my maternal grandparents, as well as reading the book Borderlands by Gloria E. Anzaldúa in college. However, this is a memoir shared between the author and her mother Elvira, both in the border area between California & Mexico and in South Pasadena & L.A. And, oi, it really rang true to me when Moraga described a kind of DNA denial of being distantly related to Mexican slavery and poring over the shade of your skin to cue you into being Mayan or Aztec royalty, rather than subservience, figuring out gossip & held grudges by mentally translating the mix of Spanish and English that her mother speaks (I’m totally with ya there, sister), and believing she is committing flagrant sin against the Catholic Church by having impure thought of being anything but heteronormative.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    I didn't know what to expect with this book and what I got was truly a gift. Moraga's memoir of life with her mother is so heartfelt and touching that I cried more often than probably intended. There is true love within the pages of the books, along with struggles with reconciling what was and what is. As someone who has followed Moraga's career, I can't help but feel honored that she continues to write and share from her perspective as an elder, able to put into context some of the aspects of he I didn't know what to expect with this book and what I got was truly a gift. Moraga's memoir of life with her mother is so heartfelt and touching that I cried more often than probably intended. There is true love within the pages of the books, along with struggles with reconciling what was and what is. As someone who has followed Moraga's career, I can't help but feel honored that she continues to write and share from her perspective as an elder, able to put into context some of the aspects of her earlier work. While this book was focused on her relationship with her mother, with some peeks into other aspects of her life, this gives me hope that she has more stories to tell. I highly recommend this, especially if you are someone who has lost an elder to Alzheimer's disease.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    You ever read a book and think "this was not meant for me"? That is how I felt about this one. It's not that I didn't get what she was saying, but her delivery and focus seemed as if her words just weren't intended for me. Like I definitely was not part of the club, not privy to the same experiences or emotions. I did feel at times that it was too repetitive, and maybe even a bit drawn out. Having also gone through a parent struggling with Alzheimer's, I recognized many of those experiences. Sad You ever read a book and think "this was not meant for me"? That is how I felt about this one. It's not that I didn't get what she was saying, but her delivery and focus seemed as if her words just weren't intended for me. Like I definitely was not part of the club, not privy to the same experiences or emotions. I did feel at times that it was too repetitive, and maybe even a bit drawn out. Having also gone through a parent struggling with Alzheimer's, I recognized many of those experiences. Sadly though, this is not an author that I felt I would want to meet. Still, I think it is a good addition to the growing literature on the Chicana experience, and may also help readers understand her other writing (much of which is also nonfiction).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    Cherrie Moraga is a poet and Chicana lesbian activist. Here she traces the life story of her mother, Elvira, from a 1920s girlhood spent working to support her family in the gambling mecca of Tijuana, and the floating casinos of Caliente; through her marriage to a white American, and Cherrie's own childhood in the Pasadena of the 1950s and 60s, and her political and sexual awakening in the 70s; and finally, Elvira's long journey into dementia and death. While also touching upon Cherrie's later l Cherrie Moraga is a poet and Chicana lesbian activist. Here she traces the life story of her mother, Elvira, from a 1920s girlhood spent working to support her family in the gambling mecca of Tijuana, and the floating casinos of Caliente; through her marriage to a white American, and Cherrie's own childhood in the Pasadena of the 1950s and 60s, and her political and sexual awakening in the 70s; and finally, Elvira's long journey into dementia and death. While also touching upon Cherrie's later life, the fierce, unbending Elvira is the heart of this book, and it is through her mother's story that Cherrie attempts to reconnect with her Mexican and Indian roots. 'Native Country of the Heart' is beautifully written, and a reminder of the devastation wrought by colonisation and patriarchy.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Who are the "real" Californians, or Americans for that matter? This memoir shows us that the indigenous peoples and Mexicans were here long before the "Anglos". At the same time it is a moving story about the relationships between between mothers and their daughters which is universal. I enjoyed the work because it exemplifies the Mexican family dynamic. The push pull of religion Catholic and otherwise as well as social mores and the Americanization of offspring that are born here. I enjoyed tha Who are the "real" Californians, or Americans for that matter? This memoir shows us that the indigenous peoples and Mexicans were here long before the "Anglos". At the same time it is a moving story about the relationships between between mothers and their daughters which is universal. I enjoyed the work because it exemplifies the Mexican family dynamic. The push pull of religion Catholic and otherwise as well as social mores and the Americanization of offspring that are born here. I enjoyed that this book did not make a syrupy, cliched picture of Vera (the matriarch) but a flesh and blood woman.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    A memoir mostly pertaining to her mother, but Moraga interspersed some of her life in it as well. It was very interesting to read the span of her mother's life and snippets from her father's family. Most of the book is devoted to her mother's eventual decline and struggles with Alzheimer's and how it impacted the entire family. It's a touching telling of a woman whose life spanned many decades and who grapples with just the daily task of living. I love the cover picture. Thanks to NetGalley for A memoir mostly pertaining to her mother, but Moraga interspersed some of her life in it as well. It was very interesting to read the span of her mother's life and snippets from her father's family. Most of the book is devoted to her mother's eventual decline and struggles with Alzheimer's and how it impacted the entire family. It's a touching telling of a woman whose life spanned many decades and who grapples with just the daily task of living. I love the cover picture. Thanks to NetGalley for the advance read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Plumb

    I always think it’s important to read books about people who are different than me. This one had a lot of important themes: being Mexican American, identifying as LGBTQ, and watching a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Even though it gave me a good insight into a life different than my own, it just didn’t capture my attention like I thought it would.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    This book was good, but something about it felt lacking. Maybe I was expecting to hear more about cherrie’s childhood and less about her mothers decline. Nonetheless, it was wonderful to read about such an influential woman like cherrie.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    I often use the quote “this bridge called my back” so I felt compelled to read Moraga’s latest. Her writing style is not one I usually care for, but there was something beautiful here.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Fancher

    Moraga tells the truest story of what it means to be family.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Georgia

    a memoir about those who come before us and why we can't forget. i felt right there with cherrie moraga as she detailed her and her sisters' tumultuous relationship with their mother.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    A beautiful, lyrical and honest memoir of the author's mother.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Iris

    Beautiful.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    I loved it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kari Barclay

    Bendita sea Maestra Moraga! A beautiful story of familia, colonialism, and journeys home.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Corinna

    I have always admired Cherrie Moraga. This memoir was a very personal look at her life and her relationship with her mother especially as she develops Alzheimer’s.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Julia Stafford

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bárbara Nita

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cristy

  28. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Law

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Rossberg

  30. 4 out of 5

    Libby Mandarino

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