Sonia Gutiérrez’s Dreaming with Mariposas, written in a Tomás Rivera and Sandra Cisneros bildungsroman vignette style, recounts the story of the Martínez family as told through the eyes of transfronteriza/transboundary Sofía Martínez, “Chofi,” Francisco and Helena’s daughter, as well as multiple narrators, emulating oral tradition. The novel embraces food as a communal practice with the ability to heal a family through storytelling. Dreaming with Mariposas presents glimpses of poetic diction in times of anti-rhetoric, inspiring readers to reclaim their sacred spaces and voices and to pursue dreams even when the future looks dismal. Chofi witnesses institutional racism, sexual harassment, and colorism and learns to navigate her parents’ dreams and her dreams as she discovers her superpower, the strength of her Mexican Indigenous heritage, and the spirit world.
This is Chicana literature at its best. Sonia Gutiérrez captures and reworks the ethos, the languages, and the memory of an entire tradition of letters, oral tales, and experiences that have shaped and continue to shape the collective imaginary. As in her Tomás Rivera epigraph, Gutiérrez grows great big artistic arms to embrace humans, ghosts, and butterflies, and to present them to her audience in a beautiful ofrenda of must-read stories.
Overflowing with tenderness, humor, hurt, and determination, Dreaming with Mariposas is the compelling story of the journey from childhood to young womanhood, to writing, and to self-actualization. Disarmingly vulnerable and poetic, Gutiérrez pulls no punches when it comes to the issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, education, immigration, addiction, and violence. Most strikingly, this is the voice of a young brown girl coming into her own—not powerless, not a victim—a young brown girl with clear vision, a willingness to fight back, and a powerful drive to speak.
Sonia Gutiérrez reminds one of our elders offering us blessings in our youth. These vignettes are like the energy that connects the synapses in our body and the emotions infused in them bring warmth to the soul; and as fleeting as a soft cool breeze, they offer a fragrance that is remembered, etched and made tangible. The memories and narratives told are unrelenting and nourishing, they provide a vulnerability in their confessions.
Sonia Gutiérrez captures dreams and memories with Dreaming with Mariposas, her latest literary collection. The poignancy of Dreaming wraps the reader in memories and wishes, and dreams, deferred and fulfilled. A Family of Butterflies forever traveling through dreams and reality.
Dreaming with Mariposas is a powerful telling of family cuentos. American stories that need to be read and felt down to the core of them. From the very first vignette we are compelled to continue listening to the dreams and struggles of the parents and children featured in these pages who are from our America—our Turtle Island. How being formed from humble but powerful beginnings, like the corn, beans, squash, and nopales, which they eat—and being of simple down to earth sustenance is powerful; because they, like these plants, are seeds that can flourish because of life visions which are seemingly impossible aspirations. The main characters grow their dreams from the earth, hard work, and above all hope. Dreaming with Mariposas is full of stories we all can relate to because it shows that despite all odds a person can and do reach their goals. In these poignant stories no one is left behind because as long as their dream-stories are told and retold all are remembered and we learn through their lives and struggles.
Sonia Gutiérrez carries the torch of her literary forbearers Tomás Rivera and Sandra Cisneros, powerfully and poetically capturing what it’s like to grow up as a brown girl in America. Dreaming with Mariposas takes us from Idaho to Southern California, detailing the struggles and joys of a working-class immigrant family, and shows us with fresh eyes the lessons learned navigating childhood’s difficult terrain. Gutiérrez pays homage to the classics of Chicanx literature, but this book is also a necessary update, a coming-of-age story for our time.