Christine Eber spent the last 35 years opening her mind to the suffering of people of Chiapas, Mexico, first as a volunteer, then as a graduate student and finally as an anthropology professor at New Mexico State University.
Now a retired professor emerita, she continues the work today.
After spending decades writing scholarly works about the Tsotsil-Maya people of Chiapas, Eber, wrote her first novel about their struggles and their faith titled ‘When A Woman Rises.’
“I believe that my novel is more likely to lead people to want to visit Chiapas than my academic books or articles ever did,” Eber said. “And I really do want people to go to Chiapas, to make friends there, perhaps to get involved in some kind of project or at least go back home inspired to do something to make the world a more egalitarian and just place.”
The novel, published by Cinco Puntos Press in El Paso, will have a book launch from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, September 28 at Casa Camino Real Book Store in Las Cruces.
In the forward to Eber’s book, author Diane Rus describes Eber as practicing love in the Mayan sense of the word as described by a character in the book – listening deeply, not giving up on each other, helping each other, respecting each other and feeling each other’s pain.
“It was clear to me that there were things I couldn’t say in my ethnographic writings and the novel was an effort to help push myself to understand their lives better and help others understand the Maya people better,” Eber said. “The novel really liberated me to say a lot of things I wanted to say in my writing in an engaging way.”
In the novel, Magdalena from Chenalhó, Chiapas tells the story of her daughter’s best friend Lucia who has been missing for ten years. Magdalena recounts the girls’ dreams of becoming teachers.
They both join the Zapatista movement, supporting democracy, land reform and the rights of indigenous people. The women’s stories
reveal how culture, poverty and rigid gender roles impact their lives.
“My novel shows how Maya people live in different conditions from those of most readers but aren’t necessarily any less intelligent or capable of taking leadership roles or anything else,” Eber said. “They just haven’t had the opportunities.”
Eber is a founder of the nonprofit ‘Weaving for Justice,’ a volunteer group in Las Cruces helping three Maya women’s cooperatives. “We’re involved in trying to find fair trade markets in the U.S. and to help raise funds for scholarships for Maya youth to go on to high school, college and post graduate studies.”
Mama Bravo’s Book Club and Social Hour will be hosting PEN/Faulkner Award winner Benjamin Alire Sáenz for a reading from his latest collection of poetry, ‘The Last Cigarette on Earth.’
Sáenz will be at Eloise (255 Shadow Mountain Drive) on December 10, 2017, at 10am.
This is his first public reading in El Paso since his collection of short stories—Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club—won the prestigious PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
Sáenz is a prolific writer who writes fiction and poetry for adults, fiction for young adults and picture books for children. In addition to his numerous awards and citations, his YA novel Dante and Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe was a finalist for the Printz Award from the American Library Association.
Mama Bravo is a reading series sponsored by Cinco Puntos Press. The reading series hopes to present an eclectic array of writers—some published by Cinco Puntos, some by other presses—to readers in the El Paso/Juarez region.
The reading by Sáenz is the second event in the series.
When: Sunday, December 10, 4 pm
Where: Eloise, 255 Shadow Mountain Drive
For more info: 915-838-1625 Admission: Free, books available for purchase
Praise for Benjamin Alire Sáenz:
“Benjamin Alire Saenz’s poems are ballads…I love the honesty of this work and the sharp sweet reminder that we pick up art, our own and other people’s (including their tattoos) same way birds hold onto something inside and out to fly forward.”—Eileen Myles
“The Last Cigarette on Earth has a stark verite style as Benjamin Alire Sáenz looks back on his own haunting past and reflects on his interior world now, sometimes revealing emotional pain and solitude, resolved that he may never find it.”—The New York Review of Books
“The Last Cigarette on Earth invites the reader to occupy spaces of contradiction, falling between love and hate, tenderness and violence, pain and pleasure…Sáenz argues that simple human contact can be a shield against the atrocities of the world, that ‘it would be so beautiful / to touch someone like the morning light is running / its fingers through his room.’”—Harvard Review