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.
Praise for Native Country of the Heart:
“[Native Country of the Heart] chronicles both a Mexican American coming-of-age story, as well as a coming-of-old-age story that, with warmth and a knack for intimate detail, inscribes two generations of women into the Mexican American literary canon . . . Moraga waxes poetically, philosophically and politically about the importance of memory, treating its preservation like a Holy Grail. With this book, Moraga is keeping her mother on her earth, capturing her, tethering her to the living.”
—Myriam Gurba, Ms. Magazine
“[A] moving portrait . . . A sympathetic portrait of Mexican-American feminism (both in mother and daughter) delivered in a poignant, beautifully written way.”
—Kirkus (starred review)
Cherríe Moraga is a writer and cultural activist whose work serves to disrupt the dominant narratives of gender, race, sexuality, feminism, indigeneity, and literature in the United States. A co-founder of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, Moraga co-edited the highly influential volume This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color in 1981. After twenty years as an Artist-in-Residence in Theater at Stanford University, Moraga was appointed a professor in the Department of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2018, where, with her artistic partner Celia Herrera Rodríguez, she instituted Las Maestras Center for Xicana Indigenous Thought and Art Practice. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Theatre Playwriting Fellowship Award and a United States Artist Rockefeller Fellowship for Literature.