BOAT PEOPLEMayra Santos-Febres
Translated by Vanessa Pérez-Rosario
June 15, 2021
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The ocean in Boat People is haunted and the book is the heartbreaking journey from sea to horizon. Melancholy and songlike, Santos-Febres documents the nameless, the chum: bodies set adrift by commerce. Like M. NourBese Philips’s Zong!, this phenomenal translation in which I become “a drop of fish sweat,” my body dancing to the poetry’s music but also lamenting the violences that underlie it. —Carmen Giménez Smith, author of Be Recorder and Milk and Filth
Mayra Santos-Febres is one of our most powerful writers, and Boat People has long been a part of the poetic counter-tradition that shaped generations of Puerto Rican poets. Thanks to Vanessa Pérez-Rosario, English-language readers are now plunged into the depths of a text that, to echo Patrick Chamoiseau, is composed of "that strange conference of poets and great beings," lost at sea, tossed on shores, or caught in a world without return address or safe passage. Written like a border drawn on water, this oceanic book is both a source of life and a record of death. It remains as devastatingly urgent as the day it was written.—Raquel Salas Rivera, author of lo terciario and while they sleep (under the bed is another country)
Mayra Santos-Febres was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, in 1966. She studied Literature at the University of Puerto Rico and received two postgraduate degrees from Cornell University. She is a professor of Creative Writing at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras and a member of the International and Multicultural Institute of the UPR. She has received, among other awards, the Letras de Oro and the Juan Rulfo, both in the short story genre. She is the recipient of a John S. Simon Guggenheim scholarship (2017) and the Rockefeller Bellagio Center Residency (2018). Her works have been translated into French, English, German, Croatian, Korean, Icelandic and Italian. She is the author of the poetry books Anamú y manigua (1990), The escaped order (1991), Boat People (2005), Tercer Mundo (2014-20), and Huracanada (2018). She has also published the novels, Sirena Selena vestida de pena (2001), Cualquier miércoles soy tuya (2002), Fe en disfraz, Nuestra Señora de la noche, La amante de Gardel, and the collections of essays, Tratado de Medicina Natural para Hombres Melancólicos and Sobre piel y papel.
Vanessa Pérez-Rosario is a translator and professor of English at Queens College, City University of New York where she teaches U.S. Latinx and Caribbean literatures and cultures. Her translations have appeared in The Nation and sx salon. She is the author of Becoming Julia de Burgos: The Making of a Puerto Rican Icon (University of Illinois Press 2014) which will be published in a Spanish edition, Julia de Burgos: la creación de un ícono puertorriqueño (University of Illinois Press 2021). She is editor of Hispanic Caribbean Literature of Migration: Narratives of Displacement (Palgrave 2010). She is currently editing a bilingual anthology of Julia de Burgos’s collected writings.