Published by Norton
Purchased by me. I blame Other Jill.
Evidently, I’ve got a thing for misreading titles lately, because every time I looked at this book I thought the title said Merde. Which is understandable because this book talks a lot about how the word madre is used in Mexico in all sorts of expletives, and merde is one of the few foreign curse words I know (it’s French for shit, in case you needed to know).
This book is all over bloggerville lately, and people seem to like it. What you may not know, and what makes this book even more appealing (and which illustrates my shallowness) is that it’s short. And when you’re reading a non-fiction book about a single topic (in this case, the use of the word madre in Mexican Spanish and the social implications of said usage), short can sometimes be A Very Good Thing. Which sounds like a backhanded compliment, which isn’t my intent…I just keep thinking of Pox, which I haven’t read, and don’t plan to, primarily because the thought of that many pages about disease makes me cringe.
Some Things I Liked:
- The dichotomy between the importance of mothers in Mexican society, and they way they are so horribly mistreated linguistically-wise, if that even makes sense. This is the heart of the book, and the author muses a lot about why. I especially liked the discussion about Malinche, and how her perceived treasonous behavior (she was Cortes’s translator and lover) has been projected onto all Mexican women. Kind of like Eve, who also makes a few appearances in the discussion.
- The chapter on alburear-ing (alburear-ing is so not the right word, but we seemed to have skipped conjugating this verb in 7th grade Spanish and I’m too lazy to go get the book off of the shelf and look up the real word). This is the art of double entendres, practiced by Mexican men. I am in awe, because you really gotta be able to think on your feet to pull this off. I am also offended, because it’s not socially acceptable for women to join in. Actually, maybe it’s a good thing, since I’d totally suck at it anyway. Although the fact that I just used the word suck might work. Moving on…
- The aforementioned shortness.
- The cover. It’s fun and I think it really reflects the tone of the book (not overly serious, thank god). This is important if you’re a cover whore.
Some Things I Didn’t Like:
- For a short book, I thought there was some redundancy. Not a lot, but a few times I was ready to move on.
- There were also times when the author veered off course and talked about her male friends too much. For example, there was mention of how she was sexually attracted to a guy, yet he respected her too much, blah, blah, blah. For a short book on linguistic history, there was quite a bit of the author’s personal life woven into the story. At times it was relevant. Other times, not so much. To be fair, though, it is billed as part memoir, so I’m nitpicking. And the author is an anthropologist, so it’s not surprising to see people’s behavior discussed (story isn’t the right word, because that seems to imply fiction, but I’ve already used discussion, and my mind, it is blank at the moment.)
So. To summarize. This is a book that will make you learn new and interesting things without making you feel like you’re back in college listening to professors turn potentially interesting things into boring things and reading texts that REALLY turn things into boring things. And while my thoughts make me and the book seem totally shallow, that’s really not the case (for the book…I’ll own up to being shallow). I think the author did a fabulous job making linguistics and history entertaining and informative.