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Prairie Schooner: Contributor Spotlight on Chantel Acevedo

Date: Mar 23 2015

Like the narrator of her newest novel—like Chantel Acevedo herself—Acevedo’s grandmother was a storyteller. Acevedo explains in a feature from the Latin Post that her grandmother inspired Acevedo to tell her own stories and showed her how to use the language of narrative. The Distant Marvels (Europa Editions), Acevedo’s newest novel, comes out in April. It follows Maria Sirena, a storyteller by trade: she tells stories aloud as her fellow workers labor in a cigar factory. After becoming sequestered with seven other women following Hurricane Flora, one of the deadliest hurricanes in history, Sirena threads the story of her own life with the tale of Cuba’s history in an effort to entertain her fellow survivors. The Distant Marvels has already received acclaim, including a starred review from Kirkus. It’s also received praise in Italy, where it was published last year: La Repubblica calls Maria Sirena the “Scheherazade of the Tropics.”
Acevedo is the author of three other novels, most recently A Falling Star (Carolina Wren Press, 2014). Her first novel, Love and Ghost Letters (St. Martin’s Press, 2006), won the Latino International Book Award. She also edits the Southern Humanities Review. Earlier in her career, Acevedo contributed to Prairie Schooner. Her story “The Tourist’s Gift” appeared in our Fall 2003 issue:
I think of my sister at sunrise, as I always do. But today the thought of her brings a thousand winters into my heart. The light breaks through the makeshift curtain - sewn remnants of satin and flannel bought at costly black-market prices. I watch the rays tether their grip on my arm. The tiny hairs stand on end, and my skin blooms pink and shines with sweat, as it does at every dawning. The bundle of clothes and photographs wrapped in canvas and rope lay at my feet, a dented old milk jug filled with water at its side. The bundle has sat there for weeks now, and the day of departure has finally arrived.

For more with Acevedo, check out her website, or follow her on Twitter @chantelacevedo. And if you’re going to AWP, you can catch her at the panel “Europa Editions Turns Ten—An Indie Publishing Success Story.”