Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pg. 99: Liza Bakewell's "Madre: Perilous Journeys with a Spanish Noun"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Madre: Perilous Journeys with a Spanish Noun by Liza Bakewell.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why is the word madre, "mother," so complicated in Spanish—especially in Mexico?

Leaping off the page with energy, insight, and attitude, Liza Bakewell's exploration of language is anything but "just semantics." Why does me vale madre mean worthless, while ¡quĂ© padre! means fabulous, she asks? And why do one hundred madres disappear when one padre enters the room, converting the group from madres to padres? Thus begins a journey through Mexican culture in all its color: weddings, dinner parties, an artist's studio, heart-stopping taxi rides, angry journalists, corrupt politicians, Blessed Virgins, and mothers both sacred and profane.

Along the way, a reader discovers not only an invaluable lexicon of Mexican slang (to be used with caution or not at all) but also thought-provoking reflections on the evolution of language; its winding path through culture, religion, and politics; and, not least, what it means—and what it threatens—to be a creative female, a madre.
Learn more about the book and author at Liza Bakewell's website.

Liza Bakewell is a linguistic anthropologist at Brown University.

The Page 99 Test: Madre.

--Marshal Zeringue