Mother Island: A Daughter Claims Puerto Rico (Hardcover)
A searing and deeply personal memoir that explores the institutions—family, society, country—that defined a Puerto Rican woman and what she unlearned to rediscover herself
Growing up in the Midwest, raised by a Puerto Rican mother who was abandoned by her family, Jamie Figueroa and her sisters were estranged from their culture, consumed by the whiteness that surrounded them. In Mother Island, Figueroa traces her search for identity as shaped by and against a mother who settled into the safety of assimilation. In lyrical, blistering prose, Figueroa recalls a childhood in Ohio in which she was relegated to the background of her mother’s string of failed marriages; her own marriage in her early twenties to a man twice her age; how her work as a licensed massage therapist helped her heal her body trauma; and how becoming a mother has reshaped her relationship to her family and herself. Only as an adult in New Mexico was Figueroa able to forge her own path, using writing to recast her origin story. In a journey that takes her to Puerto Rico and back, Figueroa looks to her ancestors to reimagine her relationship to the past and to her mother’s native island, reaching beyond her own mother into a greater experience of mothering and claiming herself.
In stunning prose that draws from Puerto Rican folklore and mythology, a literary lineage of women writers of color, and narratives of identity, Figueroa presents a cultural coming-of-age story. Candid and raw, Mother Island gets to the heart of the question: Who do we become when we are no longer trying to be someone else?
About the Author
Jamie Figueroa is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer (Catapult 2021), which was short-listed for the Reading the West Book Award and long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, was an Indie Next pick, a Good Morning America must-read book of the month, and was named a most anticipated debut of the year by Bustle, Electric Literature, The Millions, and Rumpus. A member of the faculty in the MFA Creative Writing program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Figueroa has published writing in American Short Fiction, Emergence Magazine, Elle, McSweeney’s, Agni, The New York Times, and the Boston Review, among other publications. A Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA) alum, she received a Truman Capote Award and was a Bread Loaf Rona Jaffe Scholar. Boricua (Afro-Taíno) by way of Ohio, Figueroa is a longtime resident of northern New Mexico.
“A lushly written, deeply felt investigation into the meanings of home, lineage and selfhood—Figueroa thoughtfully examines the contours of what is given to us, & what can be chosen.”
—Melissa Febos, bestselling author of Body Work and Girlhood
"Figueroa enchantingly shifts and sifts through her memories...her exceptional command of her craft builds narrative tension while granting force to the way her personal history mirrors geopolitical devastation and imbuing her voice with the power of one no longer unclaimed by, but ready to lay claim to. A searching and lyrical memoir packed with nuance and depth."
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)