The Queens of Sarmiento Park by Camilo Sosa Villada

The Queens of Sarmiento Park by Camilo Sosa Vilada

Argentine fiction

Original title – Las Malas

Translator – Kit Maude

Source – personal copy

I often think I don’t read enough LGBT lit, but when I come across some great books in translation, I always get them, and this is one that caught my eye in the last few months. I love the cover but I loved the story of the writer’s own life. This is mirrored somewhat in the novel, a story of a boy that becomes a woman who starts to dress in her. Mother’s clothes in her teens. Then as her father had said, she ended up on the streets but has written and been a voice of the transgender community in Argentina; this is the story of those she saw alongside her in the streets of Cordoba Camila Sosa Vilada writes for the stage and also been an actress in several films. She is a leading voice in the trans community in Argentina.

THE TRAVESTIS walked from the Park to the area by the bus station at a remarkable pace. They were a caravan of cats, hurried by circumstance, their heads down to make themselves invisible. They were going to Auntie Encarna’s house.

The queerest boardinghouse in the world, during desperate times it had offered shelter, protection, succor, and comfort to an endless stream of travestis. They were going there because they knew it was the safest possible place for them to be, carrying the baby in a purse. One of them, the youngest, worked up the courage to say what they were all thinking.

“It’s a cold night to spend in jail.”

“What?” Auntie Encarna demanded.

Her house is a refugee to them all

The book is one of those great books that walks the line between fiction and memoir, an inspiring and touching piece of autofiction that chronicles the lives of the Felloow Travesti. The women that hang around Sarmiento park at night, our narrator, a fictional version of the writer herself takes us into this world of short skirts and those woman selling themselves at night in the park a family of their own these are their tales from finding a baby. How they end up there from a. the male nurse that becomes Nadine at night, the group revolves around Aunty Encarna. This character reminds me of when, many years ago, I read Anna Madrigal as a character the sort of central hub around these characters’ lives. The sort of heart of the group Aunty Encrna takes them down and out like the deaf girl Marie or the baby boy that sets off a chain of events. This shows the highs and lows of this world with mental health issues suicide at the heart of it and the hopelessness of some of their lives. Camila’s own story is at the heart of the book, her journey and the way she ends up as one of the found family of Sarmiento park.

BEFORE I met the travestis of the Park, my life could be summed up by my childhood experiences and the instinctive transvestism I began when I was still just a girl. Until I met them I was completely lost, I didn’t know any other travestis, 1 didn’t know anyone like me. I felt as though I was the only one in the world. And in my daytime world, in the university, the halls of the Faculty of Social Communication, and later the Theater Department at the Art School, that was certainly true. My

whole universe was the men and women I met at college and the tricks I turned at night.

Camila’s own young years when she first saw the world of the park at a distance

I hope this makes the Man booker longlist. It is a powerful book that looks at a group of people with very little written about trans working girls of Latin America. She brings their lives and their world to life as I say, some of the characters, significantly Aunty Encrna jump off the page as Camila’s own story this is a piece of autofiction in the classic sense. It has the beauty and violence of this world, the comradeship and found a family that is formed in situations like this from worlds like Maupin’s Tales of the city that captures a community like this and at its heart has two characters in Aunty  Encrna alongside Anna Madrigal are cut from the same block of wood. I was also reminded of the tv series set around Bradford’s red light district and the same sense of a found family of women interacting together. It was great to see this being made into a tv series as it feels it would work as there are so many little stories in this book Have you read this book?

Winston’s score – A – a recollection of a world of violence and sex and those we take on as a family.  when we have to be ourselves in a hostile world!

Solo Booker international but I’d welcome some company

I am due to move House at the end of March. I have opted to go solo on this year’s Man Booker International, thus not being pressured to read for the shadow jury. So if I haven’t time to get them to read before the prize is won, I can do my own winner. I will be doing a guessing post, but these days, I feel Iam not at the crest of the wave with books in translation like I was maybe ten years ago. But life in recent years has crept in, and also maybe I am less after the new than I once was. I have spoken to another blogger about doing something on a superficial level around the booker longlist or shortlist. in fact, if any old shadows like to do something like split the longlist or shortlist get in contact or anyone that is interested in something. So after a slow trip and reading a few of the books, let me know if we can do something. I may also vlog some of this years content I have a set-up that I brought last year to start vlogging, and I may do a post around this prize. I’m after a nice read of the longlist and chat around the books nothing more this year if it appeals let me know. I shall do my guessing post in a few weeks and a reaction post to the longlist.

February 2023


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