SHIPS IN HOUSTON by Nadia Villafuerte, translated by Julie Ann Ward, is a harrowing and heartrending collection of fifteen stories that bring to life characters who, though they exist independently from one another, inhabit the same world: Mexico’s southern border. Using acute attention to language, such as various dialects and slang, to create a nuanced and varied mood and setting, Villafuerte’s stories track exotic dancers, sex workers, truck drivers, drug dealers, immigration officials, and even a mayor’s daughter to create compelling fictions rooted in the harsh realities of borderlands that many choose to overlook. While the US’s southern border with Mexico might grab more headlines, these stories take place mostly in Mexico, where stringent immigration policies target Central American migrants, causing them to make fateful—and even fatal—decisions born from desperation, as these migrants live in fear of being deported from Mexico back to Guatemala, El Salvador, or Honduras. Bringing Villafuerte’s work into English for the first time, Ward deftly unfurls the author’s edgy and fragmentary stream-of-consciousness narrative style, creating a translation that is at once as jarring as it is deeply humanizing, giving readers unfettered access to complex characters in just a few page turns. Moving through the extreme push and pull of liminal spaces in Chiapas, Nadia Villafuerte’s stories of everyday horror—and hope—in SHIPS IN HOUSTON will haunt you long after you close the book.
Fiction. Latinx Studies. Women's Studies.
“Nadia Villafuerte’s spine-tingling realism snaps a series of uncomfortable close-ups on Mexico’s southern borderzones. The stories in SHIPS IN HOUSTON hold nothing back, depicting ‘the middle, a place that isn’t anything,’ as overrun by systemic violence—human rights abuses, corruption, sexual assault—that, in turn, works to maintain the deadly push-and-pull of U.S. empire. Julie Ann Ward’s just-right translation is electrifying. It matches the psychological rhythm of those both in transit and stuck at one side of ‘the line—which is imaginary anyway.’ Together, Villafuerte and Ward bring us a must-read collection: required reading for grappling with the reality of what today’s borders are, what they do.” —Olivia Lott, translator of Lucía Estrada’s Katabasis
“Rich and compelling, heartbreaking and illuminating, raw, evocative, filled with truth: these stories compel us to see borderlands with new eyes. Nadia Villafuerte is an extraordinary writer, her evocation of migration stories is unparalleled, and in Julie Ann Ward’s beautifully rendered translation, SHIPS IN HOUSTON is an elegant, wrenching tour de force.” —Rilla Askew, author of Fire in Beulah and Kind of Kin
“Nadia Villafuerte’s SHIPS IN HOUSTON presents stories with diverse literary forms, narrative perspectives, and language use, and Julie Ann Ward’s translation gives English-language readers access to Villafuerte’s fictionalizations of Mexico’s Southern border. We keenly feel Lucy’s inability to get tickets to see El Buki in ‘Christmas in Tapachula,’ and the way Elena compares herself to J.Lo and finds herself wanting in ‘Cosmo Girl.’ In these— and other stories— in buses, bars, brothels, and hospitals, Ward’s translation makes everyday characters’ challenges come to life.” —Rebecca Janzen, author of Unlawful Violence and Unholy Trinity
“The series of short stories in SHIPS IN HOUSTON conjures the sights, sounds, and smells of border towns, and the voices, gazes, bodies, desires, dreams, and all-too-human shortcomings of those who pass through them. Julie Ann Ward astutely captures the grittiness and the poignancy, the horror and even the humor of Nadia Villafuerte’s stark prose, making for a compelling read through the borderlands of geography and identity, gender and humanity.” —Juliet Lynd, Department Chair of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Illinois State University
Nadia Villafuerte was born in Tuxtla Gutiérrez in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. She studied journalism and music, and has received fellowships from the National Fund for Culture and Arts (FONCA) and the Foundation for Mexican Letters (FLM), both in Mexico. Her publications include three collections of short stories: Preludio (Omega, 2002), Barcos en Houston (Consejo Estatal para la Cultura y las Artes de Chiapas, 2005), and ¿Te gusta el látex, cielo? (Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 2008), and the novel Por el lado salvaje (Ediciones B, 2011). Her work has also been anthologized in various collections. She has an MFA in Creative Writing in Spanish from New York University. Villafuerte lives in New York City, where she is currently pursuing a PhD in Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literature at New York University.
Julie Ann Ward was born in Oklahoma. She holds a PhD in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from the University of California, Berkeley. Her book A Shared Truth: The Theater of Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol was published in 2019 with University of Pittsburgh Press, and her essays, fiction, and translations have appeared in World Literature Today, Latin American Literature Today, Dancing with the Zapatistas, PostScript, InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching, Theatre Journal, Trans/Modernity, Latin American Theatre Review, Revista de Estudios Hisp�nicos, Revista de Literatura Mexicana Contempor�nea, and Paso de Gato. She lives in Norman, Oklahoma.