Mil gracias to all of you who have taken the time to email me your comments about Desert Blood over the last few years. Although I don't have time to respond to each of you, I wanted to acknowledge your words and include them in my website (please let me know if you would prefer NOT to have your message or your name included). Some comments have been edited for length. Thank you for writing.
I just wanted to write you a note from Dublin, Ireland, where I am on holiday
for a week---to let you know that I finished Desert Blood. I enjoyed it very much
and look forward to reading more of your creative work.
Anyway, as I said in my earlier e-mail, the purpose of your and Orlando Menes'
literary presentation at Notre Dame is underscore that Latino literature is also
part of Latino studies and I want to make sure that your work as a creative writer
is given a space to shine. I am making an extra effort to get folks from the
English Department and the Creative Writing Program (where Orlando teaches)
to come to the reading. In this sense, it might be nice to give folks a sampling
of your creative work. Personally, I'd love to hear you read something from
Desert Blook, but utlimately how you want to present your literary work is
entirely up to you.
The entire session is about one hour so I'm thinking that you and Orlando
will each read for 20 minutes and then we'll have a Q and A.
I'm going to look into trying to have some books for sale, but I'm not
sure I'll be able to swing that. My main purpose to give you an audience
to share your work. Thanks again for agreeing to this additional presentation.
May I ask what the nature of your presentation at the academic symposium will be
the day before?
Dear Ms. Gaspar de Alba,
I don't know if you will read this. I apologize beforehand for stealing
your time. I just have to speak my mind.
I just finished reading Desert Blood. First, I want to thank
you for writing that book. You are probably preaching to a choir
because who else but people already familiar with it will read it. But
nonetheless you help to bring attention to something that no matter how
many people try to bring it to the light is silenced. Even a Jennifer
Lopez movie failed to bring attention to it. What makes the novel so
chilling, and so hard to read that I had to put it down several times
and skip chapters, is that in contrast to "crime novels" this is a
fictionalized account of the truth. This is what has happened to
countless women. This is what happens to a woman when I read the book.
It is not a crime novel that takes up things that happen. Sometimes.
Somewhere. It is happening right now and nobody pays attention to it.
It makes me guilty to sit in my safe home with my warm blanket and
eating while reading.
I read the excerpt from your second Ivon Villa novel and I just had to
wonder...Since Desert Blood contains autobiographical
sequences...if the way Ivon has to fight her university and environment
on the murders of Ciudad Juaréz is something you experienced firsthand?
I would have never thought that I write an email to you. This is a spur
of the moment situation caused by disgust. I'm German. Turning on my
computer today and taking a look at the news website of Germans most
influential political magazine I was surprised to see an article about
Ciudad Juraréz after just having finished the book yesterday.
Pleasantly surprised because I have had some disappointments in the
recent days. I've known about the femicides for years. I don't know
whether that was because I was active in Amnesty International once or
because I just keep my eyes open to what happens in the world. I'm 24.
I study American studies and I took a course by a beloved professor on
Chicana Literature. We read a short story of yours in it I think. I was
reading Ana Castillo's So Far From God (required course
reading) and there was a reference to Ciudad Juaréz, a very short one
but it gave me an idea to write my term paper on sth related to that.
However, when I went to my female professor and told her about my idea
she asked me "what?" when I said Ciudad Juárez. I had to repeat it and
honestly, I think she didn't know what I was referring to. So there you
have someone who is a brilliant professor, teaching a course on Chicana
Literature, yet doesn't seem to be familiar with Ciudad Juaréz. The
Hamburg University library, the second biggest German city and a
university of over 40,000 students did not have your book. Or anything
about Ciudad Juaréz. I only had read online about it, as well as about
Ana Castillo's The Guardians. Both books were unknown to my
professor. When I told her that you had written a book about it I made
the mistake to mention that it had, as I read it, won an award for the
"best lesbian mystery novel". I really thought that just like you write
on the last pages:
"Ivon was brainstorming on a legal pad about how to integrate
Anzaldúa's theory on border identity with Caputi's theory on femicide
and the fetishizing of serial killers in patriarchal culture."
this topic was perfect to use it in a paper dealing with Chicana
literature, and gender, race and class thematics. My mistake that I
mentioned the mystery award. Because that gave my professor, obviously
unfamiliar with the complex, a whole new idea. No, if I wanted to write
about this Ciudad Juraez, I only could do that in connection of
exploring the genre of mystery novels and genre questions in general.
But how there as a way to connect that novel with Chicana Literature,
she really could not see. You can imagine how confused and disappointed
I was. At the same day, voicing my disappointment over a situation of
failed communication, my cousin, a super macho, of course had never
heard of Ciudad Juaréz either. I didn't bother to tell him.
Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised seeing an article about in the news.
Another disappointment. An article of at least four pages, including
interviews with the mayor and a video. However, femicides were not a
topic in this article at all. It was about the drug war and its
violence. I don't want to deny the horrors and the violence of the drug
war but I was stunned how a long, fresh feature article about Ciudad
Juaréz would not mention the dead daughters of Juarez in one word. I
was wrong. They were mentioned. In a sub-clause!! What this sub-clause
said was a shame. It quoted a female reporter, Luz Sosa, saying that
she was working as a reporter for 14 years now and violence had always
existed in C.J. That once, way back, there was a series of mysterious
murders of women, but never has it been as serious and violent as now
in the history of C.V. with all the murders of policemen and narcoticos
etc. I was shocked beyond belief. I have to repeat that I don't want
to deny the complete destruction of law and state and the immense power
of the drug cartels. But I think there is an important connection to
the femicides. But they were just brushed aside as an umimportant thing
from the past. Wikipedia tells me never has the rate of the femicides
been higher than in 2008. Way back? Once? It sounded like there was a
mysterious serial killer who years ago had slain six prostitues,
nothing "more". That hundreds of women are kidnapped, (sexually)
tortured, dismembered and god knows what since more than a decade was
mentioned as sth that was nowhere near as violent and horrible as the
drug wars now....made me speechless and made me write this email. It is
like everyone always says. If those were men, and not women, people
would care! And they do. The daughters of Ciudad Juaréz? They are
second-best news.Yesterdays news now that MEN get murdered.
So thank you for writing that book although I wish there were people
reading it that don't fit the box, if you understand what I'm trying to
say. My cousin will never read it. I'm playing around with writing my
master thesis about it in a year and that time being bettere prepared
for convincing my professor although I'm not sure because there is very
little information available here.
Since I recently had the pleasure of meeting you, I hope I may be permitted to use your first name.
I want to thank you for your reading from Desert Blood (which I just purchased) last week at our institute's tenth anniversary celebration. Something that hard to hear must have been awful hard to write. Being an editor by profession, I noticed even through my tears that it was also very WELL written, finely crafted and constructed. I look forward, though with some apprehension, I must confess, to reading the whole book in a few days' time.
Thank you again, and my very good wishes for your life in all its aspects.
Institute for Latino Studies
University of Notre Dame
PS: I like your cats!
November 10, 2006
My name is Omar Gonzalez, and I am a gay Xicano from El Paso. I am now a graduate student in the Chicana/o Studies Dept at Cal State Northridge. I was extremely moved by your book. Thank you for putting more attention on this tragic situation on our homeland. Every visit to El Paso is bittersweet. I miss Chico's Tacos and the menudo, but I would suffocate if I ever lived there again. I have a question for you. I have noticed the level of homophobia among young Xicanas/os rising, and this disturbs me. I am out, and I always bring up queer issues in my classes. The faculty are supportive, but many students harbor latent homophobia. I used to be ashamed of claiming El Paso, but you and John Rechy make me very proud of El Chuco.
October 22, 2006 (can someone translate this from Italian for me?)
preferisco scriverti in Italiano per trasmetterti
esattamente le mie emozioni. Il mio spagnolo non
è dei migliori... spero tu sappia l'italiano o
che ci sia qualcuno che ti aiuiti a tradurre
Mi chiamo Ilaria, sono di Roma, ho 31 anni. Ho
letto il tuo libro IL DESERTO DELLE MORTI
SILENZIOSE, e... è come se un ombra si fosse
gettata sul mio spirito. Mi sento un pò come
Ivone che non sapeva nulla di tutte quelle
violenze. E ora... ora che questa spada taglia
anche la mia anima mi sento stupida e impotente.
Il tuo libro l'ho letto in due notti (di giorno
il lavoro mi succhia gran parte della giornata e
la notte è l'unico momento in cui posso dedicarmi
alla lettura). Notti interminabili che mi hanno
trasporatato sveglia fino all'alba, notti in cui
ho tremato, pianto, vomitato, notti in cui la mia
vita è cambiata. E questo grazie a te. Perchè nel
tuo libro sono custodite emozioni e fatti
sconvolgenti, intensi, di un'atrocità che valica
ogni possibile fantasia malsana, ma che è nostro
dovere sapere. E non è giusto vivere
nell'ignoranza, come ho fatto io fino a questo
Come è possibile che accadano cose del genere?
Come è possibile che ci sia tanta omertà? Come si
può odiare a tal modo? Domande banali che ti
sarai posta mille volte, lo so, ma che non mi
lasciano, neanche per un attimo, durante le mie
Sono profondamente addolorata.
Ho, naturalmente, firmato la petizione.
Questa lettera è solo per dirti che esiste una
persona nel mondo che ora è consapevole grazie a
te, al tuo libro. Che ritiene che il tuo lavoro
sia stato fondamentale, che tutte le animme del
mondo dovrebbero conoscere.
Se mai un giorno dovessi passare dall'Italia per
presentare un nuovo libro o altro, mi piacerebbe
esserci, poterti conoscere.
per ora ti ringrazio per tutto ciò che sei riuscita a darmi (e non è poco)
Un profondo abbraccio
October 19, 2006
Professor Gaspar de Alba,
My name is Tiffany Ivy and I am a student at the University of California Santa Barbara. This summer I did a small research project with five other women on the murders that are happening in Juarez. This summer was the first time that I had ever heard about the murders. Since then I have had it in my heart to bring awareness on this issue and to do what I can to bring an end to what is happening. I feel like the University is a good place to start and am planning an event sometime this winter at UCSB to bring awareness to what is happening. I read your book two weeks ago as an assignment for a chicana studies class I am taking and really enjoyed how you brought the facts of what are happening into your novel.
September 27, 2006
I'm currently a senior at the University of Kansas, majoring in Spanish. In my class this semester we are studying the overlappings of history and fiction and we recently have been discussing the Juarez murders. I'm currently writing a paper about how the Juarez murders have been portrayed in fiction and the consequences of this. I'm in the middle of your book and I noticed that your explicit intent was to NOT sensationalize the murders, which is precisely what I intend to argue as the best method for intertwining history and fiction. However, I was curious as to what your views were concerning the two Hollywood movies about the murders that will be coming out in the next few weeks.Bordertown with Jennifer Lopez and the Virgin of Juarez with Minnie Driver. If you have time, please let me know what you think about Hollywood's emergence in this issue.
July 24, 2006
Christina Marin who is a professor in Educational Theatre at NYU just loaned me your book. I'm originally from El Paso, undergrad at Northwestern (summer school at UCLA), MFA at UT Austin 2004. For my thesis project I created a one person performance inspired by an installation by Celia Alavarez Munoz ( El Pasoan) thru which I first learned of the Juarez murders in 1999.
I moved to NYC 2yrs ago and am a struggling actress. I'm working on re-writing my thesis. Its tough. I'm not a trained writer and I find myself so close to the material. It grips me. I read the first line in your book and had to put it down for several months and am just now able to read it. I too am filled with stories of growing up on the border. There is a strange comfort and understanding in reading your book.
If you know of any other writers/ artists in the NYC area that I could find encouragement from I'd appreciate it. I long to perform my story- my border story and my musingsover the Juarez murders. I can use support tho.
Bless you and thank you !
June 9, 2006
Professor...picked up your book by chance...liked the cover and it had a blurb by James Crumley...glad I stuck with it. I was amazed that this is going on with no one knowing...well I didn't. The numbers are staggering. The indignities suffered by woman workers there on a daily basis was just as shocking.
Every murder is solvable I think. The Boston Police Dept. cleared 7% last year.( Boston Globe and Boston Herald ) So if the perp is sitting there with a bloody knife in their hand saying 'I didn't mean it' they have a shot at clearing the case. Contrast this with the United Kingdom.
I go back and forth between Massachusetts and Nova Scotia...so am pretty aware of the implications of NAFTA as regards this area. From both sides. But you showed me a third side. Congrats on a very fine book...not only a page-turning crime novel but an educational one. Don't know what I can do about it...but if you have any ideas... Until there is no third world there will be no justice. One World says Bob Marley.
May 5, 2006
I am a professor at IUP (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), a rather
large university in the PA state system. I usually teach classes in
sociolingusitics, language and gender, composition etc. This spring,
however, I was assigned a freshman level class called Humanities
Literature. It's an "introduction" (read: learn-to-understand-and/or
like-literature) course, and while I had taught it in the past, I
hadn't recently--in the past 5 years.
I'll cut to the chase--I ordered, sight unseen, Desert Blood after
reading a review in Arte Publico. I did so because I thought the
topic important and I wanted to include something in crime/detection
genre. I put the book in the syllabus without having read more than
the first chapter. To tell you the truth, once I began reading, well
into the semester, I became a bit concerned that students would react
negatively. Or worse, that they'd simply blow off the book and topic
as not important to their lives. Boy, was I wrong! They were totally
overcome by the book--its message & its significance. Here's a quote
from one student's journal entry:
"The book Desert Blood was my all time favorite book to read during
the entire class. It made me angry, made me laugh, made me cry, but
it especially made me open my eyes to the fact tht you should not stay
ignorant about what is going on in the world..."
Also, during the time we were reading Desert Blood and talking about
it in class, campus ran a "chalk-on-the-walk" contest where students
could articulate any message they wanted. I offered extra credit if
students wanted to participate by chalking about any of the literature
we had read. One male student won, and he won with a message about
Desert Blood! I was thrilled.
I wanted to commend you on this book. It was an excellent addition to
a course which is oftentimes a yawn for students not interested in
literature. I feel that if I can continue to engage students in
discussions of socially relevant issues, I've done my job. Desert
Blood sure helped me to do that. Thanks,
May 3, 2006
Dear Alicia Gaspar de Alba,
my name is Jill Scherneck from the University of Sussex.
I have recently read your novel 'Desert Blood'.
I firstly wanted to express my respect and gratitude for this novel: I have found it extremely interesting and it touched me so deeply that I could not sleep, nor talk of anything else! So, thank you!
I think that the points that you have raised in your novel are extremely important. I also think that writing a novel instead of academia is a great way to reach out to the public!
and my greatest respect
University of Sussex
January 8, 2006
While flipping through channels on what started to be a rather dull Sunday afternoon I was pleasantly surprised to find you on my television. Until that moment I had never heard of you but most certainly had heard of the travesty of justice to the young women in Juarez. Oddly enough it had been several years ago that I first heard of this and I wondered what was being done to solve this mystery. On the other hand I had no knowledge of El Paso being a dumping ground for sex offenders and am appalled. But thanks to this information my choice of destinations next year after completing my social workers degree has been simplified, relocation to El Paso is certainly in order. My area of specialized studies is child abuse/neglect and sexual offenders. Sounds like my cup of tea waiting in El Paso.
So I just wanted to "Thank You" for this info, my time seeking relocation possibilities is now ended. In the event you are ever in the Oklahoma City area please give a call as I would love the opportunity of meeting you.
JANUARY 30, 2006
Desert Blood was an amazing eye opening, exciting, and gut wrenching read. The terrorand the element of suprise made it impossible to put down the book. I was leftwith chills down my body. I read the book in one sitting because of how much it touched me. I knew about the Juarez murders. I knew about the women, but i didn'tfeel it to the extent that it was echoing in my mind. THis book is in your face.
THese murders are happening and everyone should be aware. THis should definitelybe a requirement for law enforcent, and schools to read. People need to be aware.
THank you for writing such an amazing book!
Elisiana "Fuego Del Sol" Custodio
January 8, 2006
I just listened to you on book TV filmed in Texas. I wanted to write and let you know I very much enjoyed your thoughts.
I have been against immigrants crossing the US boarders but I am trying to get a better understanding.
Listening to you help bring down my prejudice wall. I don't know exactly why I built this wall I just know there is no reason to keep it standing.
I plan to read your new book
December 17, 2005
Hello again Alicia - I just finished reading "Desert Blood" early this am. It is stunning. The most throroughly documented and vital work on the Juarez murders that I have read to date. It should be required reading for anyone studying Border issues, femicide, Border corruption etc etc. Your insider knowledge of the area speaks volumes. I feel so fortunate to have heard you speaking at the Texas book fair here in Austin.
I have dedicated my work to the women of Juarez - and noticed that you also acknowledged Norma Andrade at the end of DB (she spoke to an Amnesty group here in Austin a couple of years ago about the murder of her own daughter). And I first heard about the appalling "snuff" flick industry from women of the group Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera , which prompted me to write YARD.
Your book hit me on many levels - not only did it deepen my knowledge of the Juarez femicide, but also my knowledge of El Paso (my grandfather used to work for ASARCO.) I look forward to hearing from you - and congratulate you again for exposing one of the most disgraceful realities of the Border.
November 11, 2005
dear ms. gaspar de alba,
my name is violeta sánchez and i am currently a graduate student at the
university of houston. i just read DESERT BLOOD for one of my classes and i just wanted to thank you. even though i already knew about the juarez
murders, your book has inspired me to learn more. as soon as i finished
reading your book late last night (or very early this morning), i signed the
NI UNA MAS petition and started reading articles on the web. i could not go to bed. i finally had to write a (poorly written) poem to get some stuff out of my system and i finally went to bed at 5 am. i was so haunted by your story and those i kept reading last night that i even dreamt (or nightmared) about it all. but i think this is good--these stories aren't supposed to leave your mind when you close a book or a webpage.
i also want to say that i happen to be a huge tori amos fan. as soon as you
mentioned the song "black-dove (january)", the song got stuck in my head and i heard it all through the irene chapters. also, those images from the
choirgirl hotel cd you described have actually been on my living room walls for a few months now. i used to think they were just neat images, that's why i framed them. now they've become reminders of the juárez women. i don't think i can get them out of my head.
once again, thank you. your writing is beautiful and your research
inspiring. miles de gracias.
October 9, 2005
Dear Ms. Gaspar De Alba
I just finished reading your book. It was quite a different way to read about murder since it had a very real background. I was chilled to the bone to understand the danger to yourself and the many others who had the courage to report on this story.
Although I can see that many magazines and newspapers wrote about this I live northeast of Dallas and am formerly from Van Horn 120 miles east of El Paso. I do not remember seeing anything on the murders. I am astounded that nothing has surfaced in our daily papers, ect
I believe that truth is a great globe and integrity is being true to where the light shines for you. My heart cries for the girls violated and murdered, their families and for all those at risk to shine the light on what is happening.
Vaya Con Dios
August 13, 2005
Acabo de leer tu libro y escuchado una entrevista tuya. Estoy tan contenta de haberte leído y saber que existe una mujer como tu. Soy mexicana y vivo en Canadá. Estoy organizando una marcha en mi ciudad Kamloops (cerca de Vancouver) para el día de "Take back the night" y voy a hablar ese día acerca de las mujeres de Juárez, porque por acá no se sabe mucho de lo que está pasando todavía. También quiero ir a investigar a las mujeres maquiladoras de Juárez personalmente, pero no sé a qué organización o grupo contactar para que me puedan dar entrevistas y quizás hacer un tour. Me da miedo ir sola porque escucho que es muy peligroso. Si tienes alguna idea o sugerencia, te lo agradecería.
Esperando recibir noticias tuyas, quedo a tus órdenes.
Margarita Lopez Garcia de Alba
June 28, 2005
Dear Ms. Gaspar de Alba,
I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your book "Desert Blood" (although I'm not sure enjoyed is exactly the correct word). Having lived in El Paso for several years - I graduated from Irvin High School in 1964 - and having returned there many times over the years, it was interesting to be able to identify many of the places you mentioned.
I first learned about the murders by reading the same article in Ms. Magazine, and I'm horrified that they are most likely still occurring. Juarez is a very different place now than it was when we first moved to El Paso in 1960. Crossing the border for the first time as a 13-year old, I was appalled by the poverty - little children selling chewing gum and sleeping on the bridge - yet I understand that conditions are much worse now.
I'll be returning to El Paso in September to visit a dear friend. When I see the star on Franklin Mountain, I will think of the victims lying in the desert and thank you for writing a book that has implanted itself in my memory and heart.
June 27, 2005
Dear alicia, i just wanted to let u know i just finished reading the book, thank you so much for giving the mujer artes ladies a copy, i wanted to say the book took me to another place within myself that i have never been. i am a different person today because of your book. you know i have never finished a book totally to the end,and your book i just couldn't put down,,,many late dinners,and my family saw and understood how important it was to me to finish to the end...i will always have a smiling child in my mind thanks to brigitt and ivon..may they stay forever happy... and forever safe.....once again thanks for an eye opening experience.......... deedee guajardo /mujer artes
June 13, 2005
Alicia, it is 11 p.m. and I just finished reading your book and I am a WRECK!! What a creature you have wrought! It has to be the strongest political novel in years. You are a genius in more than one way: 1)to make the horrors of the Juarez murders into A NOVEL, not another non-fiction work no matter how well intended; (2)to make the novel a suspense-killer that nobody could put down; (3)on top of all else, actually to offer an analysis of what is causing the killings when the reader is finally ready for that.
And more and more, and I am too wasted to write more but I did want to send you a mountain of congratulations and amor and and and!!!
Love and venceremos, Betita Martínez. Amen.
June 6, 2005
Just a quick note: I devoured your entire novel on my nightmare flight from Los Angeles to Miami (which took almost a day from door to door, go figure), and then re-read it on the plane to Madrid. Congratulations for a fabulous novel; smart, intensely readable, angry, political (without being preachy), moving, and empathetic. I was blown away, but not surprised to have that reaction given how much I have loved Sor Juana's Second Dream and yr poetry.
Abrazos transpacificos de ozlandia
May 26, 2005
I want to thank you for writing this book. I'm an El Paso native attending UTSA. I attended your reading there, and recently bought the book. I read it in one day, hardly ate, and hardly moved. I recently visited El Paso for a family reunion, and some cousins and I crossed over into Juarez against our parents' wishes. We saw the posters, and the fear was real. I wanted to talk about it with my family
who lives in El Paso, but it seems that no one was really interested. Those were murders that were happening "over there", as if a cement ditch and a barbed- wire fence made all the difference in the world.
MAY 26, 2005
Numbers don't count
No matter the amount
Three hundred plus
There is no fuss
Tears keep falling
The land keeps calling
For Coyotes and Mules
And anarchy rules
The law is green
The dirty looks clean
Across the River
The women shiver
Above waves a flag
A red, white, and green bodybag
I am a 35 year old black male who has lived in El Paso for over 26 years. My interest and sympathy have grown since I first learned of the continuing tragedy in Mexico. Desert Blood, for me, is a small flickering flame on a candle that shines brightly against the darkness of corruption and impunity which is allowed to fester uncontrollably. However, that flame has spread to my soul which has changed simple interest and sympathy into a sense of urgency and hope. Please allow me to share in your quest for the truth. Then justice will surely be realized. Sincerely,
From "La Bloga" 4/29/05
stopped reading Alicia Gaspar de Alba's Desert Blood for a while, not
owing to low quality, but because the first chapter left me gasping for
breath, it was so stunningly powerful. The writer hit me right between
the eyes and I hope you'll pick it up and see why. The author of Sor
Juana’s Second Dream has done it again, given us a piece that deserves
to be a blockbuster. But won’t. Subject matter of crucial interest.
Superbly written. So why doesn’t it get ink from NY or LA Times book
reviewers? Or your local paper? I wonder if ethnic labeling of
literature--Desert Blood has the subtitle The Juarez Murders–sets off a
counter in the editorial computers "Quota exceeded. No more ethnic
literature this quarter. Review something British instead."