Author: Emma Reyes
Translated by: Daniel Alarcon
Release Date: August 8, 2017
Publisher: Penguin Books
A literary discovery: an extraordinary account, in the tradition of The House on Mango Street and Angela's Ashes, of a Colombian woman's harrowing childhood
This astonishing memoir of a childhood lived in extreme poverty in Latin America was hailed as an instant classic when first published in Colombia in 2012, nine years after the death of its author, who was encouraged in her writing by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Comprised of letters written over the course of thirty years, and translated and introduced by acclaimed Peruvian-American writer Daniel Alarcon, it describes in vivid, painterly detail the remarkable courage and limitless imagination of a young girl growing up with nothing.
Emma was an illegitimate child, raised in a windowless room in Bogota with no water or toilet and only ingenuity to keep her and her sister alive. Abandoned by their mother, she and her sister moved to a convent housing 150 orphan girls, where they washed pots, ironed and mended laundry, scrubbed floors, cleaned bathrooms, and sewed garments and decorative cloths for church. Illiterate and knowing nothing of the outside world, Emma escaped at age nineteen, eventually coming to have a career as an artist and to befriend the likes of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera as well as European artists and intellectuals.
Far from self-pitying, the portrait that emerges from this clear-eyed account inspires awe at the stunning early life of a gifted writer whose talent remained hidden for far too long.
“This gem of a book . . . is a triumph of hope and resilience.” —Julia Alvarez, bestselling author of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents
“A diamond in the rough... You’ll wonder how it is that some children survive their childhood, and you’ll surely be thankful for your own.” —Ana Castillo, author of So Far from God
“What an astonishing book—I read it in a single gulp. Emma Reyes had a childhood of staggering deprivation, but her humor and resilience shine through, and suddenly we have a modern classic.” —Deborah Moggach, New York Times bestselling author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
“A truly heroic account... There’s not a drop of sentimentality in it—just the kind of courage born of the most desperate adversity.” —Edith Grossman, translator of Don Quixote and author of Why Translation Matters
EMMA REYES (1919-2003) was a Colombian painter and intellectual. Born in Bogotá, she also lived in Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Jerusalem, Washington, and Rome before settling in Paris. She dedicated most of her life to painting and drawing, slowly breaking through as an artist and forging friendships with some of the most distinguished European and Latin American artists, writers, and intellectuals of the twentieth century. The year she passed away, the French government named her a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters.
About the Translator and Introducer:DANIEL ALARCÓN (translator/introducer) is one of The New Yorker’s “20 under 40” best fiction writers. His books include the novel At Night We Walk in Circles, which was a finalist for the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award; the story collections War by Candlelight and The King Is Always Above the People; the novel Lost City Radio; and the graphic novel City of Clowns. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Granta, n+1, and Harper’s Magazine. Alarcón teaches at the Columbia University Journalism School and is the executive producer of Radio Ambulante, an award-winning Spanish-language podcast distributed by NPR.
(1) Finished copy of The Book of Emma Reyes - Open to US only!