Books & Co.
Demitria Martinez
Mother Tongue

Original Airdate: June 21, 1995


About the Author

Demetria Martinez is an author, activist, lecturer and columnist. Her books include the widely translated novel, "Mother Tongue (Ballantine)," winner of a Western States Book Award for Fiction. Her autobiographical essays, "Confessions of a Berlitz-Tape Chicana" (Univ. of Oklahoma Press), won the 2006 International Latino Book Award in the category of best biography. She is also the author of two books of poetry, "Breathing Between the Lines" and "The Devil's Workshop" (Univ. of Arizona Press). "The Mystery of Valle San Francisco," a children's book Martinez co-authored with Rosalee Montoya-Read, was released in 2009 by the University of New Mexico Press. "Mother Tongue" is based in part upon Martinez's 1988 trial for conspiracy against the United States government in connection with smuggling Salvadoran refugees into the country, a charge that with others carried a 25-year prison sentence. A religion reporter at the time covering the faith-based Sanctuary Movement, Martinez was found not guilty on First Amendment grounds. Born in Albuquerque, N.M. in 1960, where she now resides, Martinez earned her B.A. from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. She teaches at the annual June writing workshop at the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Martinez writes a column for the independent progressive weekly, the National Catholic Reporter. She is involved with Enlace Comunitario, an immigrants' rights group which works with Spanish-speaking survivors of domestic violence.


About this Book

Demetria Martinez's "Mother Tongue" is a love story set in Albuquerque, N.M., about Jose Luis, a Salvadoran refugee, and Mary, a sometimes dreamy Mexican-American, who yearns to heal her new friend and his preoccupation with a war-torn, nightmarish past. Mary says, "With the power of love I'm going to help him forget ... the war that he fled from, that he says he still dreams about." In a marvelous blend of humor, tragedy, poetry, politics, newspaper items, movement bulletins, letters, recipes and flashbacks, Martinez uses the growing entanglement of Mary and Jose to gradually unveil the persecution and terror associated with the cruel realities of El Salvador's politics.