By Tiana Finney, SFR Intern
There are more than a few kinds of people who reside in the Land of Enchantment—among them are the native-born who know their side of New Mexico like the back of their hand, and the newly christened New Mexicans hailing from distant locations across the country and globe. In La Ranfla and Other New Mexico Stories, Martha Egan, a transplant from Wisconsin, depicts both newcomers and longtime locals alike with earnestly drawn characters.
The first short story of Egan's collection, “La Ranfla,” is filtered through the eyes of a Midwestern outsider who leaves law school in Berkley to live in Los Llanos with her hippie boyfriend. On her drive to Los Llanos, Mary Louise (self-named “Starshine”) stops at a gas station in Española where she first experiences culture shock. Two young men who look at her car pepper their conversation with Spanish, saying, “I like your ranfla, lady” and "better go get Abuelito.” In confusion, Mary Louise first interprets ranfla (meaning ‘ride') as her breasts, sunglasses, or dress and abuelito as motor oil. Those accustomed to occasional bilingualism will laugh and probably wonder that abuelito isn't part of the American vocabulary, not to mention the words chica, hombre, mi amor and huevos rancheros—all of which are included in the book's glossary.
La Ranfla and Other New Mexico Stories captures the emotional connections and funny misunderstandings of human interactions. “Green Eyes,” a piece about a grandmother who never left rural New Mexico and her relationship with her modern granddaughter, is almost entirely composed of dialogue, paying tribute to the value of the oral tradition and dramatizing the differences between generations.
As Egan's various characters struggle to relate to one another, crossing sometimes monumental barriers in communication, the reader realizes what a gift it is to find an author who addresses the necessary exchange across boundaries of gender, generations, values and cultures.
La Ranfla and Other New Mexico Stories
Friday, Oct. 30
Collected Works Bookstore
202 Galisteo St.