Sometimes it’s hard to see just how far a grant’s reach extends

Sometimes it’s hard to see just how far a grant’s reach extends. For example, SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) partnered with the SLF again this year, giving us a $1500 grant this year to help bring out-of-town writers to Chicago — this expands the writer’s audience, and exposes Chicago readers to writers they might not run across otherwise. Sometimes internationally!

Tomorrow, multiple-award-winning Canadian writer Silvia Moreno-Garcia will be arriving in Chicago, and on Thursday, she’s coming to my classes. She’ll talk to my creative writers about her work and path to publication, and to my literature students about how she explores gender and sexuality in her speculative fiction. Quite a few of my students this semester are Latina, and I think they’re going to be particularly excited to meet her and read her work.

I’m going to have my students read a few of her stories in preparation, including this one, “Jade, Blood”:

“….She had spent longs days with her head bowed over the Bible, her lips mouthing prayers, fingers sliding across the cool rosary beads. These actions were mechanical, required of her, yet they brought no great joy or emotion. Covertly she wondered if God really looked down at her from heaven and saw everything she did, cataloguing her sins as the Mother Superior had warned her. Their books told of visions and angels and religious ecstasy which eluded her even when she fervently fasted and prayed.

The day she first peered into the cenote, this changed. She had read an account of Saint Teresa, her ecstasy. How she felt a spear of gold and fire go through her heart, filling her with the love of God. It was a similar experience. She felt pierced, rent, like a ship hit by a storm. There was pain and fire and gold and the taste of a dark sweetness in her mouth, which she later discovered was blood: she had bit her tongue. She stood by the cenote, her lips painted crimson like a common whore in the alleys of Mérida—fallen women, her mother made her cross the street when they encountered one, don’t look at her child—and knew herself in the presence of divinity.

Afterwards, she screamed, scaring off the birds which sang in the trees, making the monkeys nearby scream back, a cry which resembled the bark of dogs. Dogs and monkeys and birds and the crimson mark.

She ran away, of course. She fell and scraped her palms, the jungle snagged her skirt and her hair and she returned to the safety of the convent in an agitated, wide-eyed state. She bowed her head and prayed, baked bread and swept floors just as she’d done before.

Yet she could not forget the murmur of the wind through the trees, the greenish-blue waters of the cenote, the redness of the blood against her fingers as she tried to wipe them clean….”

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