Irene I. Blea. Suzanna. Yasmeen Namazie, editor. ISBN 978-1481021524. $23.95.
At the time when young girls quickly grew up to become old women, young Suzanna was raised by her grandparents. They received a letter from Don Felipe Montoya asking for the child’s hand in marriage. Don Felipe, who was old enough to be her father agrees to the abuelito’s condition that he delays the wedding until she becomes a woman, or until her thirteenth birthday, which ever comes first. When the time came, the wedding took place in the northern New Mexico village church on a weekday with only the abuelitos in attendance. Thus, Suzanna became isolated on Don Felipe’s deteriorating prairie-ranch with her home-made rag doll, Cleotilda as her only friend. In two years Suzanna gives birth to two sons. The remoteness of the ranch is made worse by drought, failing live stock, Don Felipe’s silence, sternness, and sexual appetite. Economic hardship forces Felipe to seek work elsewhere. During his two-year absence, Suzanna successfully tends the farm, bonds with the two boys and wishes her husband never returns. He arrives to announce they are moving. Suzanna does not want to move, ensuing a conflict permeated by gender and cultural clashes, inequality, violence and asymmetry. Suzanna toughens her emotional self, and uses her wits to resolve an untenable situation.
Dr. Irene I. Blea, the former Chairperson of the Department of Mexican American Studies at California State University-Los Angeles, is a native New Mexican born on top and the backside of a mountain. She has written of over thirty articles and seven text-books with an emphasis on Chicanos, Latinos and women. Her latest book is The Feminization of Racism: Promoting Peace in America. Her work has been referenced by researchers and used as required university classroom reading. She is an award winning scholar, a poet and a public speaker on racism and gender relations.
“Suzanna was born in northeastern New Mexico before the territory became a state. The last child of a large Hispanic family she was raised by her grandparents because her parents feared they could not afford to rear her. She was much loved in her young life, and much used and abused. As she matured, she faced prospects she could not bear. Irene Blea, a native of Northern New Mexico, and a Ph. D. in Sociology, has the writing talent to tell Suzanna’s story in a most engaging way, and she leaves the reader wanting more. Suzanne is a truly outstanding first novel.” —Don Bullis, Award-winning author-Historian
“Southwest literature has a powerful voice in Irene I. Blea. Her characters and story capture the soul of New Mexico. Blea’s riveting story goes to the heart of Hispanic family life in territorial New Mexico, where children are passed on to richer relatives, marriages are arranged at puberty, and the spirit world mixes with daily life.” —Rob Spiegel is the author of five non-fiction books and former President of the Southwest Writers.
“A well written coming of age story of a young Spanish girl tossed into marital domesticity by her grandparents. It is filled with vividly captivating details that just entices you to read on.” —Sandra C. López, Author of Esperanza: A Latina Story .
Dr. Blea is a native New Mexican with a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Colorado-Boulder in 1980, who has written her first novel, Suzanna; and has another in progress. Suzanna is the first of a trilogy. She retired as a Tenured, Full Professor and Chairperson of the Mexican American Studies Department at California State University-Los Angeles and now lectures for the New Mexico Humanities Council. The author and scholar is an expert on Southwest race relations, and has traveled internationally: Mexico, Costa Rica, Israel, China, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sicily, and Germany to deliver academic lectures, to read her own poetry, to teach, and research. Over the course of her extensive career she has written and published seven university text books, four poetry chapbooks, thirty academic articles, has developed & taught the first of many classes on U.S. Hispanics/Latinos with an emphasis on women. Two of her textbooks: Toward A Chicano Social Science plus La Chicana and the Intersection of Race, Class and Gender are considered "Classics" in her field. Dr. Blea has received many awards for her human rights work, scholarship, poetry and community service. In May, 2009 she was recognized by LULAC of New Mexico for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement.