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Colección: INTERAMER
Número: 70
Año: 2001
Autor: Rhonda Dahl Buchanan, Editora
Título: El río de los sueños: Aproximaciones críticas a la obra de Ana María Shua

In This Sex Which Is Not One, Luce Irigaray affirms that “what remains the most completely prohibited to woman, of course, is that she should express something of her own sexual pleasure. [. . .] For in fact feminine pleasure signifies the greatest threat of all to masculine discourse, represents its most irreducible ‘exteriority,’ or ‘exterritoriality’” (157). Perhaps even more than female sexuality in general, any sort of maternal sexuality traditionally has been marginalized, for as Hélène Cixous asserts, “if there’s one thing that’s been repressed, here’s just the place to find it: in the taboo of the pregnant woman” (261). Ana María Shua breaks that taboo in her 1984 novel Los amores de Laurita, a narrative which serves as the literary representation of one woman’s sexuality from adolescence to the final stages of pregnancy. Shua takes that which is exterior or exterritorial to masculine discourse—female sexual pleasure and maternal sexuality—and makes it central to her text. In this transgressive and subversive act of writing the pregnant female body, Shua proffers a fictional exploration of the relationship between female sexuality and female subjectivity.

In The Mother/Daughter Plot: Narrative, Psychoanalysis, Feminism, Marianne Hirsch uses the notion of the family romance to “treat both motherhood and daughterhood as story—as narrative representation of social and subjective reality and of literary convention” (10). In this article, I also focus on Shua’s use of motherhood and daughterhood as story, looking particularly at the ways in which sexuality is imbricated into that narrative representation of social and subjective reality and of literary convention. My examination of the novel demonstrates how Laura’s sexuality and subjectivity are constructed both by social and subjective reality—realities often humorously depicted by Shua—and by literary conventions, a construction underlined by Shua in her depiction of a protagonist who both loves to read and sees herself in the role of various literary characters throughout the course of the novel. While Shua’s novel in many ways affirms and makes central a woman’s sexuality and subjectivity, analysis of the novel shows how that sexuality and subjectivity have been always already culturally constructed through prevailing discourses about female sexuality and maternity, prevailing discourses frequently passed on from mothers to daughters.

Until the last couple of decades, the mother has been studied mostly from “an Other’s point of view,” as E. Ann Kaplan points out on her work on motherhood and representation (3). Kaplan delineates three main types of discursive mothers in her study: the mother in her socially constructed, institutional role; the mother in the unconscious, first articulated by Freud as the split mother; and the mother in fictional texts, a mother who is produced by the tensions between the first two discursive spheres (6-7). In justifying her own study, Kaplan argues that no one has answered Julia Kristeva’s question, “What is it about this representation (of the patriarchal or Christian Maternal) that fails to account of what woman might say or want of the Maternal. . .?” (101, qtd. in Kaplan 4). Kaplan further points out that the “lack of cultural discourses setting forth women’s subjective pleasures in mothering (apart from such pleasures taking place under the auspices of the Father or the state)” still has not been adequately studied (4). Ana María Shua’s Los amores de Laurita is a literary discourse that, in part, represents women’s subjective pleasures in the maternal experience of pregnancy.

Shua composes the narrative text of two interwoven parts: one day in the married Laura’s life in her ninth month of pregnancy interspersed with various episodes of the adolescent Laurita’s life and love affairs. The chapters alternate: the two-to-three page sections dealing with Laura’s day have no titles while the longer chapters on Laurita are numbered and titled in a style reminiscent of many eighteenth-and nineteenth-century narratives.

The duality inherent in the novel’s structure emphasizes not only Laura’s dual role as daughter and mother, but also the dual character often seen as part of the feminine condition. Irigaray argues that woman “is neither one nor two. Rigorously speaking, she cannot be identified either as one person or as two. She resists all adequate definition” (26). Other critics and theorists make similar arguments about the pregnant woman, emphasizing the perplexing intersubjectivity of pregnancy, the radical challenge to notions about identity and difference that Julia Kristeva sees as inherent in the maternal condition. As Mary Ann Doane explains:

The maternal space is ‘a place both double and foreign.’ In its internalisation of heterogeneity, an otherness within the self, motherhood deconstructs certain conceptual boundaries. Kristeva delineates the maternal through the assertion, ‘In a body there is grafted, unmasterable, an other.’ The confusion of identities threatens to collapse a signifying system based on the paternal law of differentiation. It would seem that the concept of motherhood automatically throws into question ideas concerning the self, boundaries between self and other, and hence identity. (170)

With the particular physical condition of maternity, where one becomes two or two are housed in one, questions of subjectivity are especially problematic. Shua’s intermixing of the short sections on the pregnant Laura with the chapters on the adolescent Laurita highlights questions of the continuity of self and identity as well as concerns about the boundaries between self and other.

The novel begins with Laura in her doctor’s office for a pre-natal checkup.1 That the opening focalization is not through Laura, but through her male obstretrician (“Desde hace dos semanas ha resuelto abstenerse de fumar mientras sus pacientes estén en el consultorio” [9]) reflects what Tess Cosslett notes and critiques in prevailing medical discourses, the tendency of male medical practitioners to place themselves at the center of the discourse, to take control of the childbirth scene, of the birthing woman’s body and emotions.2 Having the original focalization be through the eyes of the doctor also means that the first presentation of Laura is one constructed through the male gaze, as a sexual object: “A pesar de su vientre voluminoso y de sus piernas levemente edematizadas, la señora Laura se mueve con agilidad” (9). Her husband also sees her as a sexual being, for he “se deja seducir por la engañosa dulzura de la cara de su mujer, esa suavidad fingida por la hinchazón de los labios, la falta de ángulos, el brillo de la piel y de los ojos” (10). “[L]a engañosa dulzura,” “esa suavidad fingida”—the language implies that her sexuality is feigned, deceitful, perhaps a snare for the male, a reading that resonates with the short passages that introduce the novel, passages that set up woman as a spider who traps and eats males.3

In a conversation with her unnamed husband4 that stresses the cyclical nature of women’s lives and experiences, Laura places herself quite consciously into a line of mothers and daughters as she comments on the much more thorough medical care she is receiving in comparison to her mother, who saw a doctor infrequently toward the end of the pregnancy, and her grandmother, who did not see the midwife until the pains had begun. She recalls that her grandmother was sixteen when Laura’s father was born.

The narrative breaks there to begin again on the next page as “I. DIECISEIS: En que Laurita cumple por última vez dieciséis años” (13). As she awakens, her mother comes in with her birthday present, a black leather purse, and a lesson on what being a woman entails.

—Gracias mamá, pero sabés que yo no uso cartera. Me pongo todo en los bolsillos o llevo un bolso.

—Hacés mal —su madre fue tajante—. Una mujer tiene que usar cartera. Una linda cartera haciendo juego con los zapatos. Es lo mínimo que se puede pretender de una mujer: que sea elegante. (16)

Thus from the first of the Laurita chapters, we are presented with the prescriptive social discourse of what it means to be female, a lesson being passed forcefully on from mother to daughter. We see the lesson received ambiguously by the daughter, as she both dreads becoming like her mother and realizes she could never fulfill the prescriptive role as well as her mother does. Laurita simultaneously scorns her mother for focusing on the matching of shoes and purse rather than on the meaning of life and envies her mother for a natural elegance that Laurita knows she will never have. Nancy Chodorow might argue that the scene exemplifies her contention that daughters “experience themselves as overly attached, unindividuated and without boundaries” in regards to their mothers, an over-attachment that often leads to overt criticism or rejection of the mother as well as to an immersion in “intense identification-idealization-object loves, trying to merge herself with anyone other than her mother” (137).5

In this first chapter, at sixteen, Laura has already begun this immersion into other intense identifications, having discovered a world of sexual pleasure with her steady boyfriend of two years:

Dos años de urgentes abrazos con el ascensor parado entre dos pisos, de agotadoras caricias en el sofá del living, de lentos placeres en los pajonales del Tigre, adonde salían a remar los domingos por la mañana y volvían al caer la tarde, horriblemente picados por los tábanos. (18)

The apt portrayal of teenaged relationships with physical encounters in odd places out of the sight of parents is pierced by the ironic authorial presence—revealed by the introduction of the horseflies—an authorial presence that in this novel frequently mixes the humorous with the erotic.

The same ironic humor is present in the description of Laurita’s mixed emotions—part guilt, part fear, and part excitement—en route to her first orgy en “II. LA FESTICHOLA: En que Laurita asiste por primera vez a una verdadera orgía” (43). Katherine Dalsimer notes that during the transitional period that is female adolescence, “self-disparagement and grandiosity often coexist, or fluctuate rapidly, creating a strange Alice-in-Wonderland sense of confusion and discontinuity” (8). This rapid fluctuation and sense of discontinuity is apparent in Laurita’s approach to the orgy. On a long, hot bus ride, Laurita cannot help studying the faces of the other passengers wondering “si algo en su actitud les estaba revelando que tenía puesto el diafragma, que le molestaba un poco porque seguramente (y cómo estar totalmente segura) se lo había colocado mal” (47). Upon approaching the unfamiliar, seemingly abandoned house, Laurita further worries that she might have gotten the address wrong and be about to

encontrarse con un grupo de vagabundos envueltos en trapos, calentándose (pero el calor era terrible, sin embargo) junto a un fuego, un grupo de hombres hambrientos que sin duda la violarían y no era tan malo, después de todo, haber llevado el diafragma puesto. (48)

Laurita’s teenaged imagination provides her with a stereotypical image of vagrants warming themselves by a fire, patently ridiculous in view of the sweltering summer heat. Yet the fantasy serves to incorporate both the bodily sensations of adolescence and the conflicted emotional states, with the thought of a potential rape helping to justify going to the party with her diaphragm in place.6

At the orgy she meets a number of anthropology students—“y Laura empezaba a preguntarse si no habría después de todo demasiados estudiantes de antropología para tan pocos indios en este desdichado país” (45)—is impressed by conversations about Cortázar, San Juan de la Cruz, Camus, Lewis Carroll, and others, gets drunk, throws up, and finally ends up on the couch with Sergio:

y se amaron como los incas dibujados en las vasijas arqueológicas y como los japoneses de ciertos grabados antiguos y como los árabes de las Mil y Una Noches y como un caballero y una bruja medievales y sobre todo, aunque no les hubiera gustado tener que admitirlo, como un muchacho y una chica argentinos, universitarios, de clase media, en una casa vieja de la calle San Nicolás. (61-62)

Laurita here tries to construct her subjectivity and her sexuality according to inflated romantic ideals taken from literature, anthropology, and history, but we again see her inflated notions pierced by Shua’s ironic humor.

The novel follows this split structure, with a short section about Laura, followed by a longer chapter on Laurita that takes its title and theme from a word, idea or image presented in the last paragraph of the previous section. Thus, although the novel jumps back and forth between different periods of the protagonist’s life, the reader finds recurrent motifs, aspects of the protagonist’s personality that can be traced throughout the sections. As teenager and as adult, Laura is a markedly sensual person, always aware of her body and all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations that surround her.7 She take sensual pleasure in eating, particularly sweets, and many of the sexual encounters with males throughout the novel follow scenes in cafes or bakeries.

In “V. UN BUEN MUCHACHO DE BUENA FAMILIA: En que Laurita conoce a un joven médico recibido, de muy buena posición” (121), Laurita has been sent by her mother to spend a summer at Punta del Este, “donde había [. . .] tan buen ambiente” (122). Her mother has insisted on buying her new clothing, and packs it carefully for Laurita, “como un cazador experimentado que revisa, engrasa y dispone con cuidado las armas que su hijo deberá aprender a usar en la próxima partida: Punta del Este, privilegiado coto de caza” (123). Again, the social construction of femininity is being forcefully passed from mother to daughter as Laura finds herself being pushed by her mother to do what her culture considers desirable for women—this time not just carry a good purse that matches one’s shoes, but marry a nice Jewish doctor. When at last Kalnicky Kamiansky, a young Jewish doctor soon-to-be cardiologist, invites Laurita out for a seafood dinner, she discovers her own “inesperada vocación de puta, un hombre iba a gastar dinero por el placer de su compañía y eso le gustaba, le gustaba enormemente” (129-30). Laurita again worries over the acceptability of her desires and her pleasures. As they kiss after dinner, Laurita experiences the splitting of identity, a separation of body and mind:

y Laura había tenido otra vez la oportunidad de asombrarse de sí misma, de su cuerpo, siempre dispuesta a desear incluso a un hombre tan radicalmente indeseable como era, para una Laurita, un Kalnicky Kamiansky apoyándose, casi cardiólogo, sobre su pecho. Sólo la abstinencia, se decía Laurita, podría justificarle las ganas, esas ganas generales, mecánicas, que el azar centraba en ese instante en ese señor desagradable que la besaba con técnica deficiente y entusiasmo. (132-33)

Although Shua presents a protagonist who enjoys her sensuality, she also underlines Laura’s continued compulsion to justify her desires, to compose a discourse that makes her sexuality acceptable. Irigaray argues that within patriarchal society, “woman’s desire [. . .] may be recovered only in secret, in hiding, with anxiety and guilt” (30). Shua depicts Laurita’s feelings of anxiety and guilt each time she recovers her own desire.

Anxiety and guilt are also evoked in the subtitle of “IV. CIRUGIA MENOR: En que Laurita acepta y sufre las consequencias del pecado,” (131) a chapter which narrates Laurita’s experience with an unwanted pregnancy. After having gone to an abortion clinic, paid, and entered the room where the procedure is to take place, Laurita changes her mind. The tale of her hurried exit from the clinic, the proceeding months, the pregnancy, the wedding plans, the eventual arrival at the hospital are covered in a few pages of narration leading up to a birth scene which the reader soon realizes is itself the abortion. In a chapter that echoes Julio Cortázar’s “La noche boca arriba” or Jorge Luis Borges’ “El Sur,” the earlier exit from the clinic and the months of pregnancy are discovered to have been but a flight of Laurita’s consciousness.

In Women Writing Childbirth: Modern Discourses of Motherhood, Tess Cosslett looks at both medical and fictional discourses on childbirth and discusses how the consciousness of a birthing woman, whether taken from an autobiographical account or from the story of a fictional character,

involves a process of negotiation with prevailing ideologies [. . .] whose aim is, I would argue, power: in terms of writing, the power to take over the story, in terms of childbirth, the power to control the experience; or, in both cases, the power to protest, or celebrate, lack of control. (3)

While in Shua’s novel the fictional childbirth scene of Laurita turns out to be an abortion, both that scene and the narrative of Laura’s later pregnancy are reflective of many of the concerns noted by Cosslett, as both Laurita and Laura struggle for power to take over the story, to control their experiences or, at times, to celebrate a lack of control in orgasmic experiences that threaten the discursive limits of the text.

In one of the most erotic (and for some readers, probably disturbing) chapters, Laurita exerts narrative power in order to control a final scene with Pablo, her unfaithful boyfriend of three years. When Pablo admits to a weekend spent with a girl in Córdoba, Laurita taunts him with the knowledge that she had slept with his friend Pancho that same weekend, something she says she had always wanted to do. Pablo insists on details, twisting her arm behind her back and accompanying each question with a punch in the face until:

Laura, en un estallido de rabia, de dolor y deseo, inventando a partir del confuso recuerdo de una breve historia que había sucedido hacía casi un año, una historia cuyo único sentido había sido precisamente éste, la posibilidad de atesorarla, de convertirla en recuerdo y en relato, porque, aunque era cierto que le tenía ganas, por Pablo y para Pablo se había acostado Laura con Panchito, le contó con placer, Laura, cómo le había acariciado con la lengua, lentamente, primero las pelotas, y había subido después, desde la raíz hasta la cabeza, lentamente, con la lengua, antes de ponérselo todo en la boca. (157)

Laura uses her power as narrator to re-take control of a situation that had in many ways left her control, as the break-up with Pablo is not one that she desires. In this scene, she skillfully uses her lengua (language) to describe to Pablo how she had skillfully used her lengua (tongue) on Panchito. She meets the physical violence that Pablo inflicts on her with a sexual discourse that has its own violent impact on him. After a savage sexual encounter of their own, which leaves Laurita’s face “manchada de sangre y semen y mocos y sudor, y negras lágrimas cargadas de pintura” (161), Laurita insists on the last word in their final goodbye. Just before she shuts the door, Laurita whispers in Pablo’s ear, “Te olvidaste de preguntarme. También me la dio por el culo, Panchito” (161). The scene between Laurita and Pablo is exemplary in its highlighting of the imbrication of narrative and sexuality that prevades Shua’s work.

Los amores de Laurita ends with a long chapter that seems to combine the two interwoven parts of the novel. The chapter is numbered and titled—“VIII. POR ORDEN DEL MEDICO: En que Laurita acata fervorosamente las órdenes de su obstetra” (167)—like the chapters on the adolescent Laurita, but deals with the pregnant Laura, who is referred to as Laurita in the title but as Laura in the text of the chapter. The last chapter stands out for its narrative style—a long interior monologue—and vivid portrayal of a woman’s sexuality during pregnancy. Laura is at home, alone, thinking about the doctor’s instructions to massage her breasts and nipples, “con jabón ahora desde el segundo mes, con los dedos, con una esponja suave a partir del quinto, al final con un cepillo, cepillito de bebé, que no lastime, cinco a diez minutos de cada lado, nada de alcohol” (167).

She thinks about all the weight she has gained, about the dessert she will make for her husband, and in the same sentence in which she is thinking through the steps of making the dessert, she jumps from thinking about whipping the cream to “quién quiere coger con una panza de ocho meses cumplidos, ya estoy en el noveno, treinta y ocho semanas es a término, soy una madre, las madres no cogen” (169). In this section, her own lived reality—the sexual desire she feels—goes against the culturally-constructed prevailing (and patriarchal) discourse—“las madres no cogen”.

Noting that at thirty-eight weeks, her baby is full term, thus making her a mother already, Laura underscores Paula Treichler’s point that childbirth not only produces a baby, but “simultaneously transforms the woman into a particular kind of social being, a mother” (117). Tess Cosslett similarly notes that “[a]s a process in time, motherhood puts into question a woman’s sense of identity, as her body changes shape and splits apart, and a new social role is thrust upon her” (118). Pregnancy already has transformed Laura into a particular kind of social being, for as she has noted, “[d]esde que su estado se ha hecho evidente, [. . .] la gente la trata con una suerte de gentileza compasiva, como si encontrara en una situación de invalidez parcial” (138). While pregnancy and childbirth may turn the woman into a new kind of social being, the dual, alternating, structure of Shua’s narrative allows both continuities and discontinuties between the self before pregnancy and the self during pregnancy to be stressed.

When Laura wonders if the doctors will shave her for the delivery, she remembers how difficult it was to see herself in the mirror when her pubic hairs were first growing in:

de espaldas al espejo, agacharme, mirar con la cabeza para abajo por entre las piernas abiertas qué decepción siempre, qué fea y peluda era mi concha, qué verde era mi valle, qué rara mi cara al revés, el pelo colgando para abajo, ahora es imposible, hacer contorsiones con semejante panza [. . .] . (169-170)

This scene explains the cover of Shua’s novel which shows the backs of two bare female legs, with a woman’s face peeking out between the legs. The face is upside-down, lips pursed into a small o, with blonde hair hanging down from the scalp. It is a provocative picture that startles the viewer into trying to figure out how the body parts relate. A viewer who proceeds to read the novel arrives at this scene and recalls the cover photo.

The mirror imagery not only harkens back to early adolescence when Laurita wanted to see the changes in her body, but may also prefigure a scene not included in the novel, the childbirth scene. Some women ask for mirrors either during the birth process so that they may see the head emerging or after the birth so that they may look at any resultant stitches. Cosslett cites a home-birth advocate who opposes the use of mirrors during birth because they remove the birthing mother from being a participant to being an observer of the birth (Rothman 177-78, qtd. in Cosslett 134). That the mirror story is inserted in the narration at a moment when Laura is wondering whether she will be shaved for delivery would seem to support this prefiguring.

The mirror scene in the novel can also be read as evocative of the mirror stage in Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytic theories. In Lacan’s theory, the infant sees her/himself in the mirror and in that mirror image finds a totalizing ideal that organizes and orients the self. With the mirror stage seen as a crucial turning point, it is interesting to note that in Los amores de Laurita, Laurita’s turning point would be when she can see her pubic hairs, when she can see herself becoming an adult woman, a more fully sexualized subject. Lacan’s discussion of the mirror phase as one that represents the transition from the pre-Oedipal stage into the phallic stage, as one that represents an early realization of subjectivity (a subjectivity that is a split subjectivity) thus brings up important concerns with subjectivity, the mother/child relationship, and the fusion/separation duality, all themes that resonate with my reading of Los amores de Laurita. Jane Gallop’s observation that “the mirror stage itself is both an anticipation and a retroaction. . . . It produces the future through anticipation and the past through retroaction” (78, 80-81) also reflects the anticipatory and retroactive nature of this particular mirror scene in Shua’s narrative.

Of course, in Lacan’s theory, the concern is with the realization of the subjectivity of the child; the mother’s subjectivity, like her desire, is of no import. But in Shua’s text, the mother’s desire is paramount. The description of the mirror scene is interspersed into the steps of making the dessert, “batir la crema, fijarse si hay bastante azúcar impalpable” (170). The long run-on sentence, the paratactic structure that refuses to prioritize, valorize or even distinguish between sexual thoughts, memories, and fantasies and the steps of making the dessert, thus naturalizes female sexuality, makes it a part of everyday reality in the text. A woman’s sexual pleasure is not exterior to her discourse nor does it disappear when she becomes (or is about to become) a mother. That sacred isolation in which mothers have frequently been placed is destroyed in Shua’s text.

The long run-on sentence that mixes the making of the dessert with the sexual fantasies and thoughts of Laura not only naturalizes female sexuality but also exemplifies how, within discourse, “a disruptive excess is possible on the feminine side” (Irigaray 78). Laura’s thoughts and fantasies disrupt linear discourse, erupt into excess and ecstasy, threaten the discursive limits of the text.

The novel ends with Laura, alone at home, undressed, reading erotic literature, examining her pregnant body in the mirror, wondering if the health of her unborn child will be affected by her sexual fantasies and her orgasms. This concern with the possible impact on the fetus of Laura’s sexual activities again demonstrates Irigaray’s claim that woman’s desire can only be recovered with anxiety and guilt. For in the married Laura many traces of the teenaged Laurita remain. When she gives herself an orgasm with the stream of warm water from the bidet of the bathroom:

Para justificarse, mientras gradúa contra uno de sus muslos la temperatura y la presión del chorro de agua antes de exponer a esa lluvia ascendente su delicada zona vulvar, se recuerda la importancia que todos los manuales adjudican a la higiene, a una correcta, diaria higiene de los genitales externos de la embarazada. (194-95)

Just as the adolescent Laurita justified wearing her diaphragm in case she was raped by vagrants en route to the party, Laura here rationalizes her orgasm as proper hygiene. Laura feels compelled to place her lived reality of sexual desire into an acceptable medicalized discourse of hygienic procedure.

On the last page of the novel, exhausted, Laura naps on her bed: “Pero en su vientre, enorme, dilatado, alguien ha vuelto a despertar. Es un feto de sexo femenino, bien formado, con un manojo de pelo oscuro en la cabeza, que pesa ya más de tres kilos y se chupa furiosamente su propio dedo pulgar, con ávido deleite” (196). This last image of the book, of the unborn baby girl sucking her thumb, takes the reader back to the beginning of the first Laurita chapter, which begins: “[v]io una forma gigantesca, borrosa, que no trató de identificar. Después reconoció un dedo, un dedo muy grande, rodeado de gruesos cables oscuros. Su propio dedo pulgar, el de su mano derecha” (13). Her thumb, surrounded by some of her hair, is the at-first-unrecognizable sight Laurita sees when she wakes up on her sixteenth birthday. That the novel ends with another female sucking her thumb creates a circular closure that ties the unborn child to the child her mother once was. That the baby is sucking furiously, with great delight, shows that this new daughter will be strong and sensual like her mother. The novel thus offers a continuum, as Laura goes from daughter to mother of a daughter.

For, in addition to being the literary representation of a woman’s sexuality, Los amores de Laurita is a story that places mothers and daughters at the center of inquiry. In revealing the story of motherhood as the unspeakable plot of Western culture in The Mother/Daughter Plot, Hirsch asks, “where are the voices of mothers, where are their experiences with maternal pleasure and frustration, joy and anger?” (23). Hirsch points out how mothers and daughters have been ignored in literature and studies “the intersection of familial structures and structures of plotting, attempting to place at the center of inquiry mothers and daughters, the female figures neglected by psychoanalytic theories and submerged in traditional plot structures” (3). Her aim is “to reframe the familial structures basic to traditional narrative and the narrative structures basic to traditional conceptions of family, from the perspective of the feminine and, more controversially, the maternal” (3). Ana María Shua has structured her novel from the perspective of the feminine, placed mothers and daughters at the center of inquiry, and provided a space for the voices of mothers, a textual space for their experiences with maternal pleasure and frustration.8 The difficulty Laurita had in seeing her sexual organs in the mirror as a teenager, and the almost impossible task that would be in her ninth month of pregnancy, can serve in metonymic relation to the difficulty women writers have had in writing about feminine sexual pleasure (especially of mothers) in the inherited masculine literary discourse. Women writers may have to contort themselves to affirm a feminine erotics which can continue throughout a woman’s life, but some, like Ana María Shua, are agile enough to do so.