Curbstone's First Annual Miguel Mármol Prize for a First Book of Fiction, judged by Sandra Cisneros, has been awarded to Lorraine M. López, a writer and teacher, who is currently a Professor at Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia. Her Soy la Avon Lady and Other Stories, is a stunning collection of short stories that explore identity issues in the Latino community. The cast of characters in her stories include a young boyimpelled by his guilt over failing to prevent his parents' divorce who seeks to save an abandoned baby, an elderly man attempting to invoke his dead wife by regularly donning her clothing and make-up, a former National Guardsman whose failed attempts to connect with his family do not prevent him from trying, and a young woman determined to give birth to a murdered man's child. In the title story, an aging Avon representative, who is often mistaken for a transvestite, has become so estranged from the Spanish language she spoke as a child that she no longer remembers that she spoke it or what happened in her childhood. Many of the characters in these stories must negotiate differences in race, culture, language, class, and gender in attempts to discover who they are and where they are going.
López's vivid characters struggle both to find a place of belonging and companions who can accept them as well as self-forgiveness for the compromises they make in living necessarily bifurcated lives as they attempt to span the gap between cultures.
Sandra Cisneros noted, "I was impressed with the mastery of the story-telling, the swiftness of movement, the voices, the charactersreally wonderful. The characters were zingers, the dialogue sharp, the motion quick."
Lorraine López has worked as an educator for over a dozen years. She has taught middle school, high school, and at the college level. She completed her undergraduate degree at California State University, Northridge, and earned her Master of Arts and doctoral degrees at the University of Georgia. Her stories have appeared in numerous publications, including New Letters, The Crab Orchard Review, The U.S. Latino Review, and The Watershed Anthology. She is Co-Founder and Education Programs Director for the Institute for Violence Prevention in Athens, Georgia, and she teaches English at Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia.
Soy la Avon Lady and Other Stories will be published in the spring of 2002.
The deadline for submitting manuscripts for next year's award is December 15, 2001. Consult Curbstone's website for rules (www.curbstone.org) or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Miguel Mármol Prize, Curbstone Press, 321 Jackson St., Willimantic, CT 06226.