Forgetting the Alamo, or, Blood Memory by Emma Perez. University of Texas Press (2009), $24.95, 206 pp.
Your first introduction to hiding was probably playing peek-a-boo, then hide-and-seek. After that, you learned to hide milk money from playground bullies and your diary from your mother. Through the years, you covered up your ignorance of school lessons (don’t want to seem too smart), your lack of dates on Saturday night (don’t want to seem too unpopular) and your growing body (don’t want to seem too appealing).
But that’s small stuff. Hiding can be life-saving. It can be life-or-death. Or, as in this new novel, it can be a means to revenge.
From the time that she was a very small girl, Michaela Campos knew that she was more like her father than her mother. Michaela went everywhere with Agustin — even to Miss Elsie’s, where little girls weren’t supposed to see what big people did.
So it was no surprise that, in the days after the battle at the Alamo, Michaela was with her father when he found his brother, her Tio Lorenzo. In anguish, he buried Lorenzo and rode off for revenge and battle, leaving Michaela to watch over the ranch, her mami and her twin siblings, Rusty and Ifigenia.
Michaela couldn’t let her papi fight without her, so she went after him, but she was too late. Carnage met her at the battle site and she found her papi dead. Grief-stricken, she returned to the ranch, where she found the twins murdered and Mami raped.
So Michaela ran.
Wrapped tightly in her papi’s buckskin coat and carrying his rifle and the knife that killed him, she hid her femininity while looking for the men who started it all: a man named Rove and her cousin, Jedidiah Jones, who somehow always managed to make Michaela smaller.
She aimed to find them and kill them. But she never aimed to fall in love with Clara. Clara was beautiful, with hair to her waist and a bright smile. Michaela loved her, but couldn’t tell her so. Instead, she watched the woman she loved fall for one of the men Michaela chased.
Filled with lush beauty, harshness and horrifying brutality, Forgetting the Alamo is one of those books in which you just know what’s going to happen at the end. And you’re happy to be wrong.
Perez says in the acknowledgements that she traveled through her locales, letting her imagination run while researching. That shows in this story of a young woman who is forced to come of age as the new state of Texas is born and settled.
I loved this oater, and when you read it, you’ll have a hard time hiding your appreciation, too.
— Terri Schlichenmeyer
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 12, 2010.