A family murder kept secret, the mysterious disappearance of her father, the systematic erasing of family photographs, a turbulent relationship with her mother, layers of trauma and abuse. In Mother Archive, Erika Morillo reconciles these demons of her past by searching for and seeking out the roots of her family. Intertwining memories with archival family photographs, news clippings, film stills, and artistic images, Morillo revisits her childhood growing up in the Dominican Republic, a place and time riddled with a history of violence and a tradition of erasure.

Spanning three generations across three different countries, this memoir works as a map in which the author traces incidents in her family history to help her understand herself and her own experience as a mother.

Mother Archive is the most moving and perceptive memoir I’ve read in years. Erika Morillo’s captivating image-text memoir is an inescapable open door into Morillo’s courageous investigation of a life scarred by the betrayal of those meant to protect us, our mothers. A fascinating psychological collage of prose and images, Morillo’s unflinchingly honest exploration of her life, from a tragic childhood in the Dominican Republic to NYC to Chile and back again, is also a woman’s quest for love and security—in her adopted mother figures, in her art, and in motherhood as she tries, with heart-rending compassion, to become the mother she never had.”—Julia Fierro, author, The Gypsy Moth Summer

“A one-of-a-kind book, beautiful, startling, and heartbreaking . . . Morillo has a novelist’s profound heart and the piercing truth-seeking of a documentarian.”—Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize–winning author, This Is How You Lose Her

"Early in Mother Archive, Erika Morillo holds her ear to the warm breath of her dying abuelo and takes in the devastating recognition of all she’ll never know. The scene reverberates with this extraordinary memoir’s sensuousness and subtle fury, its layering of political history and family life, and its unrelenting awareness of a past that cannot be recovered, of all that’s been washed away. Morillo has created a dizzyingly complex visual and verbal world, where the brutality of history courses in the blood and curls the hair at the nape of the neck. At once a lyric confession, a body of photographic evidence, and an elegy for the irrecoverable past, Mother Archive begins with fire but is traversed by water—source of life and scene of death, symbol of distance and the substance in which images are developed. And at its center is an aching portrait of the mother, in all her uncanny similitude and impossible otherness. Morillo tells a crushing story about the hungers of migration and memory, about the scars of history, and about the undyingness of maternal desire. Readers will want to sit with her memoir's affecting lessons for a long, long time."—Christopher Rovee, author, New Critical Nostalgia

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Publication Details

Publication Date
224 pages
Trim size
7 x 9 inches
60 b&w photos