The need to tell stories is by no means the sole purview of women. But women have a capacity to share their stories with other women, in ways that are both universal and unique. There is a magical quality to that space where fears, joys, achievements, families, careers and love take flight together in a conversation. Count On Me is a book of such stories, and a celebration of the strength and wisdom that women give to each other and to men in different periods of their lives and under various roles.
Under the editorial wing of Adriana V. López and the organization Las Comadres para las Americas, 12 accomplished Latino authors tell their personal stories of how female friendship and advice have impacted their lives. The result is a marvelous, polyphonic blend that takes the reader to a world well beyond Latino heritage, to the rich realm of human emotions. Fiction writers, journalists, professors and even a chef unveiled with charisma and respect stories that describe admiration, grief, nostalgia, courage, fear, impotence, willfulness and much more.
The book revolves around the Spanish term comadre, a word to describe friendship and camaraderie in Latinas. In the introduction, Nora de Hoyos Comstock, the founder of the organization, suggests that this term takes on a new role for Latinas in the Anglo world, where a best friend, confidante, co-worker, advisor, neighbor or godmother also becomes a direct link to cultural and family heritage. In the United States community, mentorship and support are the foundation on which to build better futures.
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However, the description of coadrazgo goes even farther in each story. In Carolina de Robertis’ tale, Every Day of Her Life it is the means to celebrate the life and writings of a Lebanese friend who lost the battle with cancer. Stephanie Elizondo Griest’s Road Sisters is a joyful portrayal of a Brazilian-Texan union that illustrates the power of trust. Luis Alberto Urrea writes a surreal portrait full of loyalty and compassion for her friend’s struggles in Tijuana as a garbage collector, in Compadres.
There is a saying that “friends are the family we choose.” Behind all these stories, even the ones that describe injustice or separation, there is an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for friendship. Whether in Cuba or Mexico, in the kitchen or at school, virtual or natural, in an art show or a road trip, later in life or at a young age, the stories celebrate the serendipity and sacredness of meeting exceptional friends who walk with us in the curves and caverns of life.
The collection of stories makes a beautiful and inspiring anthology that showcases, with intimacy and power, the voices of contemporary Latina writers. The universal appeal and relatability of their stories should ensure that the books finds an audience well beyond Latino readers alone.