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  • Brittany Torres Rivera

Liliana’s Invincible Summer by Cristina Rivera Garza


















$18.00 | Published by Hogarth

Mar 12, 2024 | 320 Pages | 5-3/16 x 8|

ISBN: 9780593244111



 

“Until the very last moment, my sister thought she could win. She thought she could fend off patriarchy by herself and overcome it on her own.”

—Cristina Rivera Garza, Liliana’s Invincible Summer (Hogarth, 2023)


In Liliana’s Invincible Summer, Cristina Rivera Garza compiles and contributes to her sister’s archive of writing to recreate the years leading up to her femicide at the hands of her ex-boyfriend in 1990. This book lovingly depicts Liliana as a friend, writer, and revolutionary.


This memoir is composed largely of material that Rivera Garza uncovered among her sister’s belongings. Liliana, a prolific letter writer and self-archivist, emerges as an observant, deeply caring individual intent on defining her own story. “Liliana was the true writer of the family, by a long way,” writes Rivera Garza. In our email interview, she shared the importance of writing to both sisters: “Writing is one of those distance-destroying devices widely available to girls without means.” Liliana wrote not only to express herself, but also, according to her sister, to experiment with “both form and language.” These two desires are evident in one of Liliana’s coded letters to her best friend Ana, for whom she expressed romantic feelings, in which there are no spaces between words: “And here, writing down a message that wants to be read, and understood, but which, at the same time, resists easy or instrumental reading, Liliana was tremendously true to herself,” writes Rivera Garza.


Liliana’s love for Ana is one of many attributes that makes her revolutionary. “She is our contemporary in many ways,” Rivera Garza told me. Liliana’s views of love and desire were informed, in part, by her experiences with men; in her letters, Liliana holds the men around her accountable: “It’s their fault and I hate when they love me like this.” Incidents with her on-and-off boyfriend Ángel are not always explicitly described in her letters; in the previous excerpt, something has occurred between them that Rivera Garza describes in the text as “invisible to the archive.” However,  Liliana’s responses elucidate her character. “Liliana did not lose the ability to see herself as the author of her own life,” writes Rivera Garza. “Like many women in her situation, Liliana tried everything.” Among the ways she tried to retain her independence from Ángel was terminating her pregnancy, which coincided with or catalyzed a shift in her views on love and desire. “If love…hurt her, this reluctance to love…placed her squarely on the opposite side, perhaps the side of joy and freedom,” writes Rivera Garza. Liliana leaves Ángel and, a week later, he takes her life.


It is impossible to discuss femicide without also discussing victim-blaming. In Liliana’s Invincible Summer, Rivera Garza argues: “Grief is a double-edged sword for those who have lost loved ones, loved women, due to acts of intimate partner terrorism.” She continues, “The system in charge of blaming the victim, moreover, starts working when things are still fresh and does not stop over the years.” Upon her death, Liliana’s lifestyle, which is more in line with that of the average young person today than thirty years ago, was brought into question. But Rivera Garza reminds us: “Freedom is not the problem. Men are the problem—violent, arrogant, murderous men.” And Liliana was aware of this threat. One of the interviews with Ana reveals Liliana’s kinship with a sparrow that they hoped to set free. When it dies before they have a chance to let it go, Liliana laments: “She was about to be free.” But the dead sparrow is not the only symbol left for her loved ones. Cats. Popcorn, which she and her sister would eat with mustard. Apples, which Rivera Garza told me she “devoured joyously” and which her family eats in her honor on Christmas. And bathing suits, which would later feature in her sister’s life as she turned to swimming to process her grief. In this way, Rivera Garza is defined at least partially by her sister’s absence. “It means that we´re still together,” she told me. “We're a pair.”


Liliana’s Invincible Summer chronicles the passionate life of a woman who documented and owned her story even when she was “without means,” who loved freely even when her life was in danger, who was true to herself until the end.



 

Brittany Torres Rivera is a bilingual, Puerto Rican writer. She graduated from Florida International University with a BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Brittany is an alumna of the Fulbright Program and currently works as an Editorial and Administrative Assistant at Graywolf Press.

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