This is a book for anyone whose parents or grandparents came from somewhere else, especially if they did not move by choice. White Islands/Las Islas Blancas is a beautiful bilingual edition of Agosín’s poetry and Nanfito’s translations, brimming with memories handed down from in and around the Mediterranean and the Aegean. The stories are not this generation’s, but a much earlier one – the Sephardic Jews who left Rhodes, Istanbul, or Sarajevo fleeing the Shoah.
The memories are sensual – a riot of colour, touch, taste, smell. The past seems like a forgotten dream, shaped above all by the sea.
The women who hold the memories also need remembering, as well as their stories and language.
Agosín perfectly captures experience of how the next generation grows up, at home where their mothers are not.
It would be easy to get stuck in a romanticised version of the past or wallow in sorrow. But Agosín does not do that, and no more do her heroines.
With these strong women behind you, may you travel lightly through the turn of this year, and into the next.
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