Ladies Gallery, The
A Memoir of Family Secrets
Publication Date: October 6, 2009
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A shred of black lace. A broken hand mirror. A spidery strip of false eyelash. These are the fragments left to Irene Vilar, granddaughter of Lolita Lebrón, the revered political activist for Puerto Rican independence who in 1954 sprayed the U.S. House of Representatives with gunfire, wounding several congressmen, and served twenty-seven years in prison. In The Ladies' Gallery, Vilar revisits the legacy of her grandmother and that of her anguished mother, who leaped to her death from a speeding car when Vilar was eight.
Eleven years after her mother's death, Vilar awakens in a psychiatric hospital after her own suicide attempt and begins to face the devastating inheritance of abandonment and suicide passed down from her grandmother and mother. The familial pattern of self-destruction flings open the doors to her national inheritance and the search for identity. Alternating between Vilar's notes from the ward and the unraveling of her family's secrets, this lyrical and powerful memoir of three generations of Puerto Rican women is urgent, impassioned, and unforgettable.
Irene Vilar was born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. She is the author of Impossible Motherhood (Other Press, 2009). The Ladies' Gallery was a Philadelphia Inquirer and Detroit Free Press notable book of the year and was short-listed for the 1999 Mind Book of the Year Award. She is a literary agent and editor of The Americas series at Texas Tech University Press.
The Women's Review of Books
Lolita Lebrón's granddaughter, heir to the most public female embodiment of heroic self-sacrifice in Puerto Rico in this century, has written a memoir full of searing, intimate truths, silences broken open to reveal the personal costs of public mythmaking . . .A momentous act of courage."
This memoir introduces us to a writer bound to make an impact . . . An autobiography as fantastic as any novel . . .It is a mark of Vilar's art that her story seems warm and alive."
St. Louis Post - Dispatch
Just as artist Frida Kahlo's splintered self-portraits and diaries personify Mexico's proud yet fragmented self-image, Vilar' s intimate accounts about herself and her family personalize Puerto Rico's political, social, and cultural wars for its identity."
Philadelphia Inquirer, Notable Book of the Year
Startling, raw, and affecting, a painful exercise in which memoir as therapy becomes memoir as art."
Kirkus Reviews (STARRED)
Stunning. A lyrical and visionary memoir of depression, Puerto Rican identity, and young womanhood."