Gabriela Garcia’s debut novel, Of Women and Salt, took the world by storm. Not only did it become an instant New York Times bestseller, but it also became the Good Morning America Book Club selection. All for good reason, too. The book is masterful, evoking a history of a Cuban family and the brutal events that transpire in chapters that are beautifully linked yet feel like a short story collection at times.
Of Women and Salt
Since much of the work centers around relationships between women, the theme Garcia landed on was “five books that center relationships between women,” made sense. She told me, “I’ve always been interested in writing about women—mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, found family, lovers, even neighbors. Complex relationships between women, and how those relationships survive and even thrive in a patriarchal, hostile world are of deep interest to me.”
Communion: The Female Search for Love
“There is a chapter I think about often in the last of bell hooks’ trilogy on love about ‘romantic friendship,’” Garcia said. “bell hooks talks about nurturing and cultivating platonic friendship between women with as much care and passion as in romantic relationships, and centering and prioritizing those friendships. She points to Victorian correspondence between women, full of an intensity and longing one would assign to romantic crushes, as an example of deep love forged in friendship.”
“I love how this novel deconstructs and complicates notions of motherhood, family, and the performance of gender through the complex relationship between a cis-woman, a trans woman, and a character who identified as a woman but has detransitioned who decide to raise a baby together,” Garcia said. “The relationships shift, transform, challenge each character, people who are in many ways all reinventing themselves and charting unexpected paths with few signposts.”
The Copenhagen Trilogy
“Though a work of memoir, Tove Ditlevsen’s Copenhagen Trilogy reminds me in many ways of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, which more explicitly centers friendship between women as well as complicated mother-daughter dynamics,” Garcia said. “The Copenhagen Trilogy is more diffuse but presents in subtle, often tragically comic descriptions and dialogue the complex relationship between Tove and her mother, and between Tove and many friends, sometimes even the spurned ex-lovers of lovers, who offer reprieve from the suffocating tedium of patriarchal relationships.”
Ordinary Girls“is about the ferocity of relationships between women,” Garcia said. “How women can protect each other. How friends can literally fight, inflict violence for each other. How mothers and daughters can walk away, can come back, can fail to save each other, can try and try again. It’s about how the world can fail ‘ordinary girls’ and still they find each other.”
“There are few more iconic friendships between women more complex and manifold than Nel, who settles into the confines of heteronormative patriarchal expectations, and Sula, who makes her own way,” Garcia said. “But beyond that central friendship are a cast of mothers and grandmothers, all negotiating the demands and limits of their time and station in life, and influencing their daughters’ notions of the future in ways they can’t always perceive.”
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