A vivid archive of memories, Beth Alvarado’s Anthropologies layers scenes, portraits, dreams, and narratives in a dynamic cross-cultural mosaic. Bringing her lyrical tenor to bear on stories as diverse as harboring teen runaways, gunfights with federales, and improbable love, Alvarado unveils the ways in which seemingly separate moments coalesce to forge a communal truth. Woven from the threads of distinct family histories and ethnic identities, Anthropologies creates a heightened understanding of how individual experiences are part of a larger shared fabric of lives.
Like the opening of a series of doors, each turn of the page reveals some new reality and the memories that emerge from it. Open one door and you are transported to a modest Colorado town in 1966, appraising animal tracks edged into a crust of snow while listening to stories of Saipan. Open another and you are lounging in a lush Michoacán hacienda, or in another, the year is 1927 and you are standing on a porch in Tucson, watching La Llorona turn a corner.
With vivid imagery and a poetic sensibility, Anthropologies reenacts the process of remembering and so evokes a compelling narrative. Each snapshot provides a glimpse into the past, illuminating the ways in which memory and history are intertwined. Whether the experience is of her own drug use or that of a great-great-grandmother’s trek across the Great Plains with Brigham Young, Alvarado’s insight into the binding nature of memory illuminates a new way of understanding our place within families, generations, and cultures.
“Beautifully written, the perfect tone—intense and restrained simultaneously.”—Francine Prose
“Anthropologiesis an epic effort of personal anthropology rendered in bright washes of detail-rich, super-lush remembrance.”—Eula Biss, author, Notes from No Man’s Land and The Balloonists
“‘Memory is a silent room, a home movie from an old Brownie camera,’ Beth Alvarado writes. Her memoir, Anthropologies, suggests otherwise: there is little silence here. Instead everything is sound and light: story stacked up on story, memory on dream, aperture after aperture opening and staying open, recording past the final page. Anthropologies offers us the eternal present tense of memory: all our lives and our families’ lives existing at once, like the voice of her father, preserved on her mother’s answering machine and now here with many others in this lovely echo chamber of a book.”—Ander Monson, author, Vanishing Point
“Beth Alvarado’s Anthropologies will not let you sleep, get to work, distract. Even your dreams get stolen by her indelible images. And when you wake from reading, you find yourself wading in tenderness. Alvarado skillfully interlaces the stories of many generations, a life lived across the lines of race and class, and a meditation on memory as memoir. In the end, we are left with love, grief, loss, and the enduring resiliency of family.”—Valerie Martínez, author, Absence Luminescent, World to World and Each and Her