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Ships in Houston by Nadia Villafuerte, translated by Julie Ann Ward, is a harrowing and heartrending collection of fifteen stories that bring to life characters who, though they exist independently from one another, inhabit the same world: Mexico’s southern border. Using acute attention to language, such as various dialects and slang, to create a nuanced and varied mood and setting, Villafuerte’s stories track exotic dancers, sex workers, truck drivers, drug dealers, immigration officials, and even a mayor’s daughter to create compelling fictions rooted in the harsh realities of borderlands that many choose to overlook. While the US’s southern border with Mexico might grab more headlines, these stories take place mostly in Mexico, where stringent immigration policies target Central American migrants, causing them to make fateful—and even fatal—decisions born from desperation, as these migrants live in fear of being deported from Mexico back to Guatemala, El Salvador, or Honduras. Bringing Villafuerte’s work into English for the first time, Ward deftly unfurls the author’s edgy and fragmentary stream-of-consciousness narrative style, creating a translation that is at once as jarring as it is deeply humanizing, giving readers unfettered access to complex characters in just a few page turns. Moving through the extreme push and pull of liminal spaces in Chiapas, Nadia Villafuerte’s stories of everyday horror—and hope—in Ships in Houston will haunt you long after you close the book.
Downstate Legacies Undiscovered Americas
border, borderlands, Mexico, fiction, migrants, immigration, Chiapas, stories
Fiction | Latin American Literature | Latina/o Studies | Women's Studies
Villafuerte, Nadia and Ward, Julie Ann, "Ships in Houston" (2023). Undiscovered Americas. 3.