'This Is Not Miami': A manual to understanding Mexican society
Set in her native Veracruz, Fernanda Melchor's chronicles tell of violence and human degradation
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The Mexican city of Veracruz is the setting for Fernanda Melchor's book This is Not Miami/Aquí no es Miami, a compilation of hybrid stories and an alloy between journalism and literature, which lucidly addresses the conditions that germinated the terror of the so-called War on Drugs in a state especially hard hit by the debacle — her native Veracruz.
Most of these chronicles were written between 2007 and 2011, when the author lived in Veracruz.
"During that period, a lot of violent events began to happen that the media were not covering. We began to hear stories of the arrival of Los Zetas, of how people began to work with them. They were things that were happening to the neighbor, to the cousin of the sister-in-law," the author explained to Mexican newspaper El Informador in November 2018.
The book was originally published in Spanish in 2013. Now, a decade later, the book is published in English for the U.S. market, This is Not Miami (New Directions Books, April 2023) with translation by Sophie Hughes.
"Her books are about murders and rapes and porn addicts and the systemic abuse of women by men. And in the same breath they are about neglected little boys, emotional deprivation, and lives bereft of love," Sophie Hughes, who also translated her acclaimed novels Paradais (2022) and Hurricane Season, (2020), told The New York Times two years ago. "She writes about horror with humanity, with grace."
Beyond the intention of delivering an account of hard data, Melchor offers readers stories about people: victims and criminals, yes, but above all ordinary men and women given to the struggle for survival, with that deep and compassionate, but raw and direct look of hers that moves.
One of the objectives of this book is "that the stories are not lost, that the way in which the city changed is recorded, because we jarochos are party people, we welcome and in some way the spirit of the city has changed because of what we lived," she told El Informador.
"Fernanda Melchor's Veracruz is not so much a setting as a character in this wave of violence," said her Spanish-language editors.
As in her previous novels, Melchor's stories show how the violent and shocking aberrations that make headlines are only the superficial ruptures of a society on the brink of chaos.
Born in Veracruz, Mexico in 1982, Melchor is considered one of the most celebrated new voices in Latin American literature. She studied Journalism at Universidad Veracruzana and holds a master's degree in Aesthetics and Art from the Universidad Autónoma de Puebla. Some of her stories and literary reports have been published in magazines such as Replicante, Letras Libres, GQ and Vice, as well as in the anthology Mexico 20, New Voices, Old Traditions (Pushkin Press, 2015). In 2013, she was recognized by La Tempestad magazine as the emerging writer of the year in the Mexican literary scene, and in 2015 by Conaculta, the Hay Festival and the British Council as one of the most outstanding writers under 40 in her country. She has been awarded the Anna Seghers Prize, the Pen Club Award and the 2019 International Literature Prize of the House of World Cultures, among others. Her most popular novel, Hurricane Season, was finalist for the International Book Awards.