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Catalog Archive / Spring 2022

Abuela in Shadow, Abuela in Light

Living Out: Gay and Lesbian Autobiography
David Bergman, Joan Larkin, and Raphael Kadushin, Founding Editors

Abuela in Shadow, Abuela in Light is medicine for readers who, like Rigoberto González, have come out of backgrounds froth with intergenerational poverty, domestic violence, and unspoken sexual abuse. Now ‘middle-aged,’ González shows in his latest memoir that recovery is possible when one is willing to confront the past, present, and even what may come with honesty, compassion, and without assigning blame, especially to oneself.”
—Ana Castillo, author of Black Dove

Standing over two graves, Rigoberto González studies the names “Ramon” and “María” under the family name “González.” “She was María Carrillo, not María González,” he thinks. His grandmother is missing. So begins González’s memoir, a journey to recover a more complete picture of his grandmother, who raised him following his mother’s death.

González travels to his abuela’s birthplace, Michoacán, Mexico, and along the way recovers his memories of a past he had tried to leave behind. A complex woman who was forced to take on maternal roles and suffered years of abuse, his grandmother simultaneously resisted traditional gender roles; she was kind yet unaffectionate, and she kept many secrets in a crowded household with little personal space. Sifting through family histories and anecdotes, González pieces together the puzzling life story of a woman who was present in her grandson’s life yet absent during his emotional journey as a young man discovering his sexuality and planning his escape from a toxic and abusive environment.

From fragments of memory and story, González ultimately creates a portrait of an unconventional yet memorable grandmother, a hard-working Indigenous Mexican woman who remained an enigma while she was alive. A grandmother, he shows, is more than what her descendants remember; she is also all that has been forgotten or never known. Through this candid exploration of his own family, González explores how we learn to remember and honor those we’ve lost.


Rigoberto González. Rigoberto González, distinguished professor of English and director of the MFA program in creative writing at Rutgers University-Newark, is the author of eighteen books of poetry and prose. Recipient of the PEN/Voelcker Award, the Bill Whitehead Lifetime Achievement Award, and Lannan, Guggenheim, USA Rolón, and NEA fellowships, he was the finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for a previous memoir, What Drowns the Flowers in Your Mouth.




“A poignant homage to the author’s Indigenous grandmother as well as an exploration of deep-seated family abuse. . . . The narrative moves in thematic segments, gradually revealing a tender kinship between the hard-shelled abuela and the empathetic author—a precious connection amid a family scarred by domestic violence and intergenerational poverty. An alternately touching and shocking narrative.”
Kirkus Reviews

“A moving and lyrical tribute. . . . No real reconciliation is given in González’s elegiac narrative, but there’s much wisdom to be found in his story of intergenerational silence and the ‘unresolved’ pasts one inherits. Pain begets beauty in this poignant family reckoning.”
Publishers Weekly



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Table of Contents


Abuela’s Photographs
First Interlude: The Wonder Woman T-Shirt v Ancestry
Patron Saint of the Cupcake
Second Interlude: Adolescence with a Wall in It
Sounds at Night
Roadside Chat
Third Interlude: Class of ’88
A Box of Ash




Also by the Author

What Drowns the Flowers in Your Mouth: cover art of an illustration of a nude man with a pink flower in his mouth. He lies at the bottom of the image, surrounded by flowering vines. Above him is a pink block taking up the top two-thirds of the image, containing the title text as well as a large illustration of a hummingbird.

What Drowns the Flowers in Your Mouth
A Memoir of Brotherhood
Rigoberto González

Autobiography of My Hungers: cover art of an illustration of a shirtless man holding a flower against his face, a cut over his right eyebrow, bleeding down the side of his face.

Autobiography of My Hungers
Rigoberto González

Abuela in Shadow, Abuela in Light: cover depicting red and pink geraniums in the upper left corner, atop a seafoam green background. The title text is written in black and white at the bottom of the sea foam green section, below it a grayscale photoraph of two elderly hands.

Larger images

April 2022
LC: 2021038697 PS
192 pp. 5.5 x 8.5

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Paper $22.95
ISBN 9780299337605
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