'Las Criaturas': The monstrous as a form of power and beauty
Tejana author Leticia Urieta publishes an anthology of poems and short stories featuring women we often don’t hear about.
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In 2018, Leticia Urieta, a Tejana writer from Austin, Texas, published her chapbook, The Monster (LibroMobile Press). The chapbook tells the story of a child in a migrant detention center grappling with the physical and psychological effects of detention on herself and her family, and the stories she tells become a monster of their own.
This year, Urieta, who holds an MFA in fiction writing from Texas State University, is back with Las Criaturas (FlowerSong Press, 2022), a hybrid collection of poems and short stories of untold women, that was finalist for the Sergio Troncoso Award for Best First Book of Fiction 2022.
Inspired by her Tejana roots and studies in creative writing, “Urieta highlights the cultures around her and the feminine experience by telling the stories we often don’t hear—or even want to hear. From migrant detention centers to sexual assault to mother-daughter relationships,the book paints painful yet beautiful pictures of femininity, making women feel seen in refreshing ways,” as described by Texas Highways.
The anthology is broken into three sections to show the multifaceted nature of the word 'criatura.'
In the story, "The Monster," a child in a migrant detention center is haunted by a monster made of her own fear.
In "La Mujer Alacran," a woman who is sexually assaulted transforms into a literal "scorpion woman" to protect herself.
In "The Inbetween Mother," a daughter attempts to reunite her selkie mother with her true form.
“The poems and short stories play with traditional storytelling forms and tales to ruminate on the monstrous, unruly, vulnerable, strength and beauty in the feminine and seek to reclaim people's power in powerless situations,” wrote the publishers.
“Otherworldly and musical, Las Criaturas positions the monstrous as a form of power and place of refuge, firmly asking readers the pertinent questions: “'Who creates the monsters? How do las criaturas that pervade our past, present, and future find justice?' Urieta has gifted readers a daring and playful new work that points us in the right direction,” said Reyes Ramirez, author of The Book of Wanderers.
Urieta currently works a a teaching artist in the greater Austin community and the regional program manager of Austin Bat Cave, a literary community serving students in the Austin area, as well as the co-director of Barrio Writers Austin and Pflugerville, a free creative writing program for youth. She is also a regular contributor for several cultural media. As a writer, she is currently at work completing a novel that tells the story of a Mexican soldadera caught up in the march to Texas during Texas’ war with Mexico.