Related but unknown to each other, these women are exiles, immigrants, artists, outsiders, all in search of a sense of self and belonging. The owner of a professional mourning service investigates the disappearance of her employees. On the eve of the Cuban revolution, a young woman breaks into the mansion where she was once a servant to help the rebels and free herself. A musician in a traveling troupe recounts the last day she saw her father.
Linked by theme and complex familial bonds, these stories shift across genres and forms to excavate the violence wreaked on women’s bodies and document the attempt to create something meaningful in the face of loss. They ask: who do we belong to? What, if anything, belongs to us?
The pegs of my father’s fiddle were deeply concaved, paper-thin in the middle and a pale yellow like old teeth, with hair-strand-wide dark cracks running over them. The bridge was the same color as the pegs, almost translucent in its delicacy. Since I could remember, I’d wanted to hold his fiddle: to trace the flor de mariposa and banana flowers carved across the back, to touch the wood stained almost black around the f-holes and deep red on the edges where it was constantly touched.
No matter what role he took in our show, my father always played his fiddle. He’d play a fast song at the beginning to rile up the crowd and a sad song at the end because everyone wants a lonesome ending. It brings the audience back again, hopeful they didn’t remember right, that we’ll give them the right ending the next time around. Though my father could play any instrument you could name, the fiddle was his favorite. But when he handed it to me in our muggy wagon—the horses chewing oats out of their feed box, Mam curled around him in their bunk, braiding the fringes on his jacket sleeve—I didn’t question that I should get it. I had wanted it, had wanted the sound it made, the Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes 190 catch and pluck, its power to mold a crowd, to decide how well we would eat, how long we would stay by this mill or that farmstead. I had wanted the fiddle for what felt like an imaginably long time. Back then, in our tent, steam rising off the horses and mixing with Mam’s wordless hum, I would have used the word forever.
I didn’t know how young I was. Didn’t doubt what was owed me. Now, I wonder if my father gave me his fiddle because he knew something I didn’t. If he had an idea of what would happen when we reached the oyster town we were headed towards. If he could scent some particular danger in the combination of mud, sea, and sawed cedar, and he gave me what mattered most to him. Offered me his fiddle for safe-keeping, heedless of my clumsy, too-small hands.
"Are We Ever Our Own is a cabinet of wonders filled with uncanny intersections between the mythic and the daily, the spectral and the earthed…. Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes writes with marvelous insight into how the untold stories of the past can continue to haunt the present, and crafts structures that delight and devastate in equal measure—that feel as immense as time itself.”
—Laura van den Berg, author of I Hold a Wolf by the Ears and The Third Hotel
"In the Odyssey, Circe promises her famed traveler to “set him a course,” and throughout the short-story collection Are We Ever Our Own Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes offers this same gift to her readers. Fuentes proves an adept cartographer as these stories unfold with ghosts, spells, the relic foot of an elephant, and a professional mourning service. Her pen contains some sorcery in its ink."
—Amy Sayre Baptista, for The Georgia Review
"Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes writes with the poetic fierceness of Lorca, exploring multiple subjectivities in this lyrical story collection on love and art, loss and violence. Fuentes is a poignant and powerful voice in Latinx literature—and beyond.”
—Patricia Park, author of Re Jane
“Are We Ever Our Own reads like an arpeggio: the individual stories strike clear, distinctive notes that, when abutted, come together into a rich, resonant chord. From contemporary Marfa, Texas to revolutionary Cuba, from literal ghosts to implicit ones, the characters are entirely singular and individually rewarding, yet somehow—as the title suggests—somehow feel quietly present in each subsequent narrative. Though spirits and spells indeed appear in these pages, Fuentes doesn't simply write about magic in this collection; she's created it.”
—Xhenet Aliu, author of Brass and Domesticated Wild Things, and Other Stories
"The stories in Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes’ Are We Ever Our Own will haunt readers long after they’ve finished. And perhaps that’s the point. Inventive, hallucinatory, chilling, and globe-spanning, this collection commands attention."
—Chantel Acevedo, author of The Distant Marvels
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