It’s been three years since the ICE raid that ended in deporting Sia’s mother to Mexico. Her mother always said that she would cross the Sonoran Desert by foot to return home, but Sia’s family believes that she may have died in the process. But then one night, as Sia is lighting a prayer candle in the desert for her mother, a spaceship crashes at her feet and its only passenger is her mother, who appears to be very much alive.
Title & Author: “Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything” by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
Published By: Simon Pulse
Availability: Released on August 11th, 2020
Page Count: 432 pages
Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Sci-Fi, Latinx, Own Voices
Potential Triggers: Explorations of PTSD, some descriptions of sexual assault, physical abuse, domestic abuse/violence, physical assault, exploration of grief and parental death, abuse of police power, racism, racist slurs, racist violence, and use of sexist slurs
Sia Martinez is a vibrant, breathtaking, once-in-a-lifetime type of story that almost seems like it shouldn’t make sense at first glance. At its heart, it’s an impossibly perfect blend of love, spirituality, tradition, culture, inheritance, science, and poetry that is so profoundly beautiful in the way it lets each of those elements breathe and coexist.
The novel can be broken into two very disparate parts, the first part being a soft contemporary story exploring the dynamics of this Mexican-American family trying to piece themselves back together after racism and anti-immigration violence has left an indelible mark on their lives. We get to witness Sia discovering first love, experiencing growing pains within her friendships, trying to find her place in the social hierarchy of high school, and navigating grief alongside her father. This part of the book is so inexorably human in the way it explores these deeply-felt, emotional relationship dynamics.
Then you get thrown into the deep end in the second half of the book, which really leans into the sci-fi elements of the story and turns the expected “tragic immigration narrative” on its head. I don’t want to say too much because I think this story is best when experienced firsthand, but it poses the question of “how many ways are immigrants preyed upon, extorted, and erased?” and pushes that reality to the scientific extreme. The story not only understands all the ways the U.S. has abused Latinx immigrants, but uses that precedent to create a chillingly plausible sequence of events.
Raquel Vasquez Gilliland is a poet first and foremost, and that shines through in her prose, which absolutely nails the tenuous, exorbitant experience of being alive. With unshakable clarity, Gilliland weaves a beautiful story about discovering your own power and achieving the impossible that should not be missed.
Adri (they/them) is a queer, trans, and non-binary Mexican-American book reviewer. They’ve been creating BookTube content for over six years on perpetualpages and remain interested in creating content that celebrates and centers marginalized voices, intersectional viewpoints, and inclusive ideologies. When they’re not re-watching RWBY or Avatar: The Last Airbender, they can be found writing, laughing out loud while listening to podcasts in public, playing video games, and wearing geeky graphic tees to telegraph their interests to other people.