June 13, 2003

Novel brings a new voice to Chicana literature

By Pablo De Sainz

What Night Brings (Curbstone Press, 2003), by Chicana writer Carla Trujillo, won the 2003 Miguel Marmol Prize for a First Book of Fiction by a Latina/o Writer.

And it makes sense why the book was awarded that prize.

It narrates the life of Mari Cruz, a young girl who’s discovering her sexuality while living in a house with an abusive father. What Night Brings is also a book about looking for an identity in a world filled with confusion.

“I grew up surrounded by injustice on every level: in my own home, at school, my neighborhood, my country,” Trujillo told Jordan Messier in an interview. “I noticed this, and it intrigued me. Being a very curious child, I began wondering how this worked. Perhaps on some level, in my adult life and in my art, I’m trying to figure out and undo some of the injustice I witnessed as a child.”

One of the major themes in the book is being a lesbian and the “consequences” this might bring to a young Chicana. Trujillo used her own experience writing this novel.

“Since I can only speak for myself, coming out to my family was difficult due to the pervasive homophobia they possessed at the time, and to the greater fear of losing them if I did tell them,” Trujillo said. “This, coupled with the church’s views of us makes it even more scary. I have a large extended family, and the Catholic Church is as much a part of my culture, as is being Chicana.”

Even though Marci lives surrounded by problems, Trujillo kept her positive.

“Marci possesses hope because maybe she doesn’t think she has anything else,” Trujillo said. “Yet she is truly a fighter, and astute, and funny. I created Marci to illustrate that kids find different ways to deal with difficult situations. This just happens to be her way.”

This is what people are saying about Carla Trujillo’s What Night Brings:

Sandra Cisneros: “A story that is at once heartbreaking and hilarious, beautifully told by a wise and wise-cracking young girl.”

Margaret Randall: “Carla Trujillo’s What Night Brings puts one more wonderful Chicana novelist on the must-read list right up there beside Sandra Cisneros, Julia Alvarez, and Cristina Garcia.”

Jack Agüeros: “Carla Trujillo writes with such a light touch, that you will be surprised at the thoroughness and solid construction of her characters.”

Fernando Ortiz, Jr.: “Endurance, bravery, compassion, and intelligence are the best traits of any protagonist, and Trujillo’s Marci Cruz is a perfect combination of those and many more. This novel is an admirable introduction to Carla Trujillo, a writer to watch.”

Ellen Loughran: “What Night Brings is a robust addition to the growing body of Latino/a writing.”

Xena Ryan: “Readers will cheer, laugh, and perhaps cry, all at the same time once the last page of the novel is turned. Definitely a good read for anyone who is struggling or has struggled to find their place in the world.”

Dorothy Allison: “I’ve been waiting for a long time for Carla Trujillo’s first novel… and it was worth the wait.”

Carla Trujillo was born in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and grew up in Northern California. She is the editor of Chicana Lesbians: The Girls Our Mothers Warned Us About (Third Woman Press, 1991) which won the LAMBDA Book Award for Best Lesbian Anthology and the Out/Write Vanguard Award for Best Pioneering Contribution to the field of Gay/Lesbian Lifestyle Literature. She also edited Living Chicana Theory (Third Woman Press, 1998). She lives in Berkeley, California.

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