Our October book review, written by Kathryn Ordiway, takes a look at Jillian in the Borderlands by Beth Alvarado, out today, October 20th, from Black Lawrence Press. Of the collection, Ordiway writes it is “a rich text that straddles culture not only in setting and character, but in speech.”
Beth Alvarado’s Jillian in the Borderlands is not a novel, though it often feels like one. It is “a cycle of rather dark tales,” to use the titular language, tales of varying length and constant strangeness.
Immediately, in the first tale, the reader is plunged into Jillian’s world, a hallucinatory one of ghosts and eternal knowledge, but also a familiar one, filled with deportations and racial injustice and men girls are told to stay away from. These tales are peppered with fantastical and average characters alike. There is Jillian (child at the beginning of the collection and woman by the end) who, at birth, was gifted (or burdened) with a vast amount of knowledge about the past, present, and future, along with a smattering of vocabulary in many languages. She is mute, she can see the dead, and she contains multitudes of pain, her own and others’. There is Angie—Jillian’s mother and a daughter and a lover and eventually a grandmother, but not a mystic or a seer. There is Juana of God and her spirit-summoning Chihuahua Junie; Marisol, who cleans house for Jillian’s grandmother and is at one point deported; and later Primero and Segundo, otherworldly twins.