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Fiebre Tropical: A Novel

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Winner for the 2021 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction

Winner of the 2021 Ferro-Grumley Literary Award for LGBTQ Fiction

Finalist for the 2020 Kirkus Prize for Fiction

Lit by the hormonal neon glow of Miami, this debut novel follows a Colombian teenager's coming-of-age as she plunges headfirst into lust and evangelism.

Uprooted from her comfortable life in Bogotá, Colombia, into an ant-infested Miami townhouse, fifteen-year-old Francisca is miserable and friendless in her strange new city. Her alienation grows when her mother is swept up into an evangelical church, replete with Christian salsa, abstinent young dancers, and baptisms for the dead.

But there, Francisca also meets the magnetic Carmen: opinionated and charismatic, head of the youth group, and the pastor’s daughter. As her mother’s mental health deteriorates and her grandmother descends into alcoholism, Francisca falls more and more intensely in love with Carmen. To get closer to her, Francisca turns to Jesus to be saved, even as their relationship hurtles toward a shattering conclusion.

“Ebullient and assertive.” —New York Times

"Julián Delgado Lopera—remember that name—is an irreverent, shameless and disarming new novelist. They are a merciless satirist in control of a pitch-perfect voice that makes an indisputable case for Spanglish as the perfect vehicle to express what we are really like right now." —NBC News

ISBN-13: 9781936932757

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Feminist Press at CUNY The

Publication Date: 03-04-2020

Pages: 240

Product Dimensions: 5.40(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Julián Delgado Lopera is an award-winning Colombian writer and historian based in San Francisco. Delgado Lopera is the author of Quiéreme (Nomadic Press 2017) and the illustrated, bilingual oral history collection ¡Cuéntamelo! (Aunt Lute Books 2017), which won a 2018 Lambda Literary Award and a 2018 Independent Publisher Book Award. He is the recipient of the 2014 Jackson Literary Award, and has received fellowships from the Brush Creek Foundation of the Arts, Lambda Literary Foundation, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, The SF Grotto, and an individual artist grant from the SF Arts Commission. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Eleven Eleven, Foglifter, Four Way Review, Broadly, and TimeOut Mag, among others. Delgado Lopera is formerly the creative director of RADAR Productions, a queer literary nonprofit in San Francisco.

Read an Excerpt

Buenos días, mi reina. Immigrant criolla here reporting desde Los Mayamis from our ant-infested townhouse. The air conditioner broke, too. Below it was the TV, the flowery couch, La Tata half-drunk directing me in this holy radionovela brought to you by Female Sadness Incorporated. That morning as we unpacked the last of our bags, we’d found Tata’s old radio. So the two of us practiced our latest melodrama in the living room while on the TV Don Francisco saluted el pueblo de Miami damas y caballeros! And Tata, (at this age!) to Mami’s exasperation and my delight, went girl crazy over his manly voice.

Y como quien no quiere la cosa, Mami angrily turned off the stove where La Tata left the bacalao frying unattended, then Lysol-sprayed the countertops, smashing the dark trail of ants hustling some pancito for their colony in the back of the fridge. Girlfriend was pissed. She didn’t come to the U S of A to kill ants and smell like puto pescado, and how lovely would it have been if Consuelo could have joined us on the plane? Then Mami could have left Consuelo to the house-chore duties and concentrated on the execution of this Migration Project. Pero, aló? Is she the only person awake en esta berraca casa?

On the TV, another commercial for Inglés Sin Barreras and Lucía, La Tata and I chuckled at the white people teaching brown people how to say, Hello My Name Is. Hello, I am going to the store. Hello, what is this swamp please come rescue us. It was June and hot. Not that the heat dissipated in July or August or September or even November, for that matter. The heat, I would come to learn the hard way, is a constant in Miami. El calorcito didn’t get the impermanence memo, didn’t understand how change works. Na-ha. The heat is a stubborn bitch breathing its humid mouth on your every pore, reminding you this hell is inescapable and in another language.

We’d been there for a month, newly arrived, still saladitas, and I already wanted to go back home to Colombia, return to my panela land, its mountains and that constant anxiety that comes just by living in Bogotá. That anxiety that I nonetheless understood better than this new, terrifying one. But Mami explained to me over and over again with a smirk that look around you, Francisca, this is your home now.

Our To-Do List that doomed Saturday of the ants and the bacalao included helping Mami with the preparations for the celebration of the death or the baptism or the rebirth or the something of her miscarried dead baby, Sebastián. It has been argued—by the only people who care to argue, La Tata and her hermanas— that my dead brother’s baptism was the most exciting event in the Martínez Juan family that summer. This mainly because La Tata drank half a bottle of rum a day, couldn’t keep Monday from Friday, so obviously a fake baby’s baptism at a pastor’s pool was more important to her than, say, the fact that by the end of the summer my sister Lucía regularly woke in the middle of the night to pray over me. Or the fact that I will eventually remember this time, the first months of our arrival, as Mami’s most sane, grounded moment.

Pero we’re getting ahead of ourselves, cachaco. Primero la primaria.

We’d been prepping for the baptism celebration even before departing from our apartment on the third floor down in Bogotá. Inside the six Samsonite bags that Mami, Lucía, and yours truly were allowed to bring into this new! exciting! think-of-it-as-moving-up-the-social-ladder! life were black-and-gold tablecloths, hand-crafted invitations, and other various baptism paraphernalia. There wasn’t enough space for the box of letters from my friends or our photo albums, but we nonetheless packed two jars of holy water (instead of my collection of CDs—The Cure, The Velvet Underground, The Ramones, Salserín) blessed three days before by our neighborhood priest, water that was confiscated for hours by customs ( You don’t think we got water in the States? ) then quickly flushed down the toilet by Tía Milagros, who now soaking in Jesús’s Evangelical Christian blessing believed, like the rest of the Miami matriarchy, that Catholic priests were a bunch of degenerados, buenos para nada. Catholicism is a fake and boring religion. Christianity is the true exciting path to a blessed life in the name of Jesucristo nuestro señor, okey?

Now Mami hustled her bare butt around the dining room, head tilted hugging the telephone, wearing only shorts and a push-up bra, fanning herself with a thick envelope from the stack of unopened bills. Anxiously phoning the pastores, the incompetent flower people (Colombianos tenían que ser), the two lloronas in black—Milagros’s idea—would professionally mourn Sebastián while charging Mami fifteen dollars an hour.

MAMI WANTED A DEAD BABY’S BAPTISM, MOTHERFUCKER, AND SHE WAS GONNA GIVE IT.

Homegirl didn’t see anything wrong with chipping away—I would found out later—at our life savings by buying tears and feeding the congregation.

Pero—óyeme—you couldn’t fight her.

Esa platica ya se había perdido. Esta costeña estaba montada en el bus already. Mami never got a break. Never stopped to smell the flowers. Cómo se te ocurre. From the moment we arrived, Myriam del Socorro Juan was on her crazed trip to get-shit-done. We were handed to-do lists; we were yelled at, directed; we were being told what to do every single step of the way.

We were obedient. What else could we do? Where else could we go?

The outskirts of Miami is dead land. It is lago sucio after dirty lake with billboards and highways advertising diet pills and breast implants. With almost inexistent public transportation, no sidewalks, but a glorious Walmart and a Publix Sabor where a herd of Colombianos who came all the way from their land buy frozen arepas and microwavable Goya plantains. Lucía wasn’t complaining. La Tata barely had strength to fight Mami. The surrounding swamp collaborating with Mami in making every single day excruciating.

Pero, mi reina, siéntate pa’ trás. We’re only getting started.