Today I talked to Beth Alvarado about her new novel Jillian in the Borderlands (Black Lawrence Press, 2020)
We first meet Jillian Guzmán when she is nine. She’s mute, has a big imagination, and communicates through her drawings. She and her mother, Angie O’Malley live in the borderlands of Arizona and Mexico. Jillian can see ghosts – in the first story a dead child-bride saves her from the clutches of a predatory neighbor. These dark stories introduce faith healers, talking animals, and spirits of the dead. As she grows up, Jillian’s drawings begin to both reflect and create the realities she sees around her, culminating at the Casa de los Olviados, a refuge for the sick and elderly run by a traditional faith healer, Juana of God.
Beth Alvarado is an American author of both fiction and nonfiction. Her essay collection Anxious Attachments won the 2020 Oregon Book Award for Creative Nonfiction and was long listed for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spievogel Award for the Art of the Essay. She is also the author of Anthropologies: A Family Memoir and Not a Matter of Love and other stories, which won the Many Voices Project Award. Her stories and essays have been published in many fine journals including The Sun, Guernica: An International Magazine of Politics and Art, The Southern Review, and Ploughshares. Three of her essays have been chosen as Notable by Best American Essays. She is a recipient of a 2020 Oregon Career Artist’s Fellowship, and lives in Bend, Oregon, where she is core faculty at OSU-Cascades Low Residency MFA Program.