Barbara Mujica is author of the bestselling novel Frida, which has appeared in eighteen languages and was a Book-of-the-Month Club alternate. Her other book-length fiction includes the novels Sister Teresa, which was adapted for the stage by the Actors Studio in Hollywood and published in Spanish in 2017, and I Am Venus, a winner of the Maryland Writers’ Association fiction competition and a quarter-finalist in the ScreenCraft 2020 Cinematic Novel Competition. She is also author of three short story collections: Sanchez across the Street, Far from My Mother’s Home, and Imagining Iraq. Two of her short stories were adapted for the stage by the Jewish Women’s Theater in Los Angeles. Several have won prizes, including the E. L. Doctorow International Fiction Competition, the Pangolin Prize, and the Theodore Christian Hoepfner Award for short fiction. Her story “Jason’s Cap” won first prize in the 2015 Maryland Writers’ Association national fiction competition. “Imagining Iraq” and “Ox” won prizes in previous years. “Ahmed the Tailor” is a quarter-finalist in the 2021 ScreenCraft Short Story competition. Mujica’s essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Commonweal, and hundreds of other publications. Her latest book is Collateral Damage: Women Write about War, a collection of writings about war by women from all over the world. Mujica is currently working on a new novel that highlights the Latino influence in Hollywood during the 1920s and 1930s.
“Authentic and affecting. A bracing literary investigation of war and its emotional ramifications.”
– Kirkus Reviews
A collection of short stories explores the experiences of American soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mothers fearing for their safety, and veterans struggling at home.
Mujica’s son, Mauro, served in Iraq in the military, an adventure that she experienced as an emotional ordeal. Even after he safely returned, she continued to obsessively imagine what it was like to serve in combat conditions abroad. She was desirous for war stories since her son persistently avoided discussing his own. She eventually got deeply involved in providing help for veterans facing challenges, a labor of love that became a fount of inspiration for these 18 tales. At the thematic heart of this assemblage is the fearful concern of a mother confronted by the inscrutability of her son’s service. In one tale, a mother greedily consumes the anecdotes of a soldier, an antidote to her own son’s reticence: “I didn’t want him to stop talking. My own son had never told me anything at all about the war, and I was ravenous for information.” Mujica also adopts the perspectives of the soldiers as well as delivering a female viewpoint. In one story, former Army medic Sandra Winifred O’Reilly is humiliated by a dogmatically pacifist professor in medical school. The stories evince a gritty verisimilitude, which is unsurprising since the author explains that they are “all based on actual events, but they are also products of my own obsessive imaginings.” But Mujica is sometimes too conspicuous in her efforts to achieve emotional poignancy. She can create a didactically artificial timbre, as if she’s presenting readers a moral lesson of some kind. In addition, some of the moments seem melodramatic. For example, consider this military interrogator’s first impression of an Iraqi woman he questions: “It was because Calla was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Even more beautiful than his wife. He didn’t want her to be married. He didn’t want her to belong to someone else.” Still, these stories are generally authentic and affecting.
A bracing literary investigation of war and its emotional ramifications.
Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021
Page count: 346pp
Publisher: Living Springs Publishers
Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020
Bethesda, Maryland / Delray Beach, Florida
Miguel de Cervantes
IMAGINING IRAQ: STORIES: Maryland Writers Association Fiction Competition. first place, for "Jason's Cap", 2015
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