The night that my father burned his house down, well, I was just beginning to gather newspaper clippings and notes for my novel. . . .
Petra Leyva has begun to write a novel about the
Sanctuary Movement when she hears that her widowed, womanizing father has set fire to his house in a drunken rage. Overwhelmed by family memories, Petra begins a journey of introspection that leads
her to explore what "sanctuary" really means to present-day Chicanas.
Such an empowering conclusion is definitely worth the challenging read
—El Paso Times
Petra Leyva's fluid prose narrative captures the flavor of the borderlands.
A captivating novella
that blends stream of consciousness with sharply carved narrative descriptions.
Petra learns there are various types of sanctuaries—not only those aiding Central America refugees but also less
obvious safe havens for the weak, the ill, the elderly, the poor. Universities are sanctuaries to which the young can flee in search of a better life. There are psychological sanctuaries where victims
of sexual abuse or other forms of injustice can find relief from their private anguish. And as Petra discovers, writing itself is a form of sanctuary.
By depicting the strength of Petra
and other Chicanas, Margarita Cota-Cárdenas addresses the complexities of life in an important period of time for the development of Chicana/o consciousness. As her characters grapple with issues of
family, abuse, and loss, they combine the traits of saints and devils, heroes and villains to show that the representation of life is as complex as life itself.
Sanctuaries of the
Heart is a rich mosaic in which narrative techniques mimic the act of remembrance, a confluence of streams of consciousness that challenges canons of language and form.