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Mastretta, Angeles 1949-

Mastretta, Angeles 1949-

PERSONAL:

Born October 9, 1949, in Puebla, Puebla, Mexico; daughter of Carlos Mastretta; married Héctor Aguilar Camí (a writer); children: Mateo Aguilar, one daughter. Education: National Autonomous University of Mexico, B.A.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Mexico City, Mexico.

CAREER:

During early career, worked as a journalist; Difusión Cultural de la ENEP—Acatlán, director, 1975-77; Chopo Museum, director, 1978-82; freelance writer.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Mexican Writers' Center scholarship, 1974; Mazatlán Prize for Literature, 1985, for Arráncame la vida; Rómulo Gallegos Prize, 1996, for Mal de amores.

WRITINGS:

La pájara pinta (poems; title means "Colorful Bird"), 1975.

Arráncame la vida (novel), Ediciones Océano (Mexico City, Mexico), 1986, translated by Ann Wright as Mexican Bolero, Viking (New York, NY), 1989, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden as Tear This Heart Out, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Mujeres de ojos grandes (short stories), Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1991, bilingual edition with English translation by Amy Schildhouse Greenberg as Women with Big Eyes, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Puerto Libre, Cal y Arena (Mexico City, Mexico), 1993.

Mal de amores (novel), Aguilar, Altea, Taurus, Alfaguara (Mexico City, Mexico), 1996, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden as Lovesick, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 1997.

El mundo iluminado, Aguilar, León y Cal Editores (Mexico City, Mexico), 1998.

Ninguna eternidad como la mía, Temas Editorial (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1998.

El cielo de los leones, Seix Barral (Mexico City, Mexico), 2003.

Contributor to books, including The Vintage Book of Latin American Stories, edited by Carlos Fuentes and Julio Ortega, Vintage (New York, NY), 2000; Madres e hijas, compiled by María Teresa Priego, Cal y Arena (Mexico City, Mexico), 2005; and story anthology La vida te despeina, 2005. Contributor to Mexican periodicals, including Nexus, Excélsior, Ovaciones, Siete, and UnomásUno.

ADAPTATIONS:

Film rights have been sold for an adaptation of Tear This Heart Out; film rights are also being negotiated for Lovesick.

SIDELIGHTS:

A best-selling novelist and short-story writer in her native Mexico, Angeles Mastretta has also been gaining an audience in the United States and other countries where translations of her work are available. She is best known for her novels Arráncame la vida (translated as Mexican Bolero and again as Tear This Heart Out) and Mal de amores (translated as Lovesick), both of which are set during the Mexican Revolution. Mastretta typically creates strong female protagonists, and her work is characterized by realistic settings laced with melodramatic plots. Although she dislikes the label of feminist author, Mastretta told Barbara Mujica in Americas: "I think that if to be a feminist is to believe that women are human beings, that they can be capable of forging and assuming their own destinies and taking their lives into their own hands to get what they want, then yes, I'm a feminist writer."

In her debut novel, Tear This Heart Out, Mastretta relates the story of Catalina Guzman, who marries a young general at the time of the revolution, when she is still a teenager. Horrified by how her husband becomes increasingly evil as he gains more and more power over people, she nevertheless remains a dutiful wife for years. She raises the children, organizes social affairs, and helps him with his duties. Eventually, however, she can no longer tolerate the man, especially after he cheats on her repeatedly, and she decides to wreak her revenge. New York Times Book Review contributor Alison Carb Sussman felt that Mastretta sometimes makes the novice mistake of telling rather than showing her readers what is going on in her story. The critic still praised Mastretta for the author's "understated descriptions of Mexico's social ills," as well as how she "realistically portrays how people are bent by and eventually defy the evil that surrounds them."

Mastretta's Lovesick earned an even more enthusiastic critical reception. Again, the story is set in revolutionary Mexico. The protagonist, Emilia, falls in love with the idealistic Daniel. When war breaks out, however, Daniel becomes an insurgent. Emilia is left alone, and she decides to go to America, where she studies medicine in Chicago. Returning home, she meets a doctor named Antonio, whom she marries. Though Emilia loves Antonio, Daniel finds her again, and she indulges in regular trysts with him. Finding herself in love with both the stable, kindly Antonio and the romantic, idealistic Daniel, Emilia balances her passions with both men. The interesting twist for many readers is that Mastretta allows her heroine to have a life in which she loves two men and never endures any negative consequences. Mujica declared Lovesick to be "an enthralling love story [told] with skill and humor." The critic concluded: "One cannot help but see parallels between the prerevolutionary Mexico she depicts and our own chaotic times." "Although marred slightly by a tendency to glorify poverty from a privileged perspective," added a Publishers Weekly writer, "this is a story to swoon over."

Another of Mastretta's books to be reviewed in America is her short-story collection Mujeres de ojos grandes (translated as Women with Big Eyes). As is typical of the author, all the female protagonists here are strong and independent-minded. The vignettes, which repeat some of the themes of her novels, often feature stories of infidelity, and the stories are all set in the first half of the twentieth century in Mexico. Mastretta's women lead ordinary lives as mothers and spouses in a chauvinistic culture. Jorge Hernandez Martin, writing in Americas, observed that while the author does not depict these women being physically abused, she does show how "the women's happiness, especially if it seems to result from an agreement with someone else, is viewed as an intolerable threat to society. The stories explore the causes of the unhappiness of these lonely, anxious married women." Americas contributor Mujica was disappointed that the brevity of the stories results in many of the protagonists becoming "too sketchy," though "there are significant exceptions." The critic believed that "this is not Mastretta's best book, [but] it has much to offer." In a more positive assessment, a Kirkus Reviews contributor described the short tales as "masterful" and called Mastretta "a greatly gifted author." This "celebration of womanhood will captivate readers who enjoy Isabel Allende and Laura Esquivel," asserted a Publishers Weekly writer.

Although she began her career in journalism, Mastretta always wanted to be a fiction writer, and she continues to pursue this career at her home in Mexico. "What I like," she told Mujica, "is to write books that give people something like an airplane ticket to another world, something like a chance to fantasize, to dream, to feel another world, to feel like they belong to another world."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Americas, May-June, 1994, Jorge Hernandez Martin, review of Mujeres de ojos grandes, p. 60; July-August, 1997, Barbara Mujica, "Angeles Mastretta: Women of Will in Love and War," p. 36, and Barbara Mujica, review of Lovesick, p. 62; July-August, 2004, Barbara Mujica, "Women Out of the Ordinary," review of Women with Big Eyes, p. 59.

Booklist, March 1, 1997, Donna Seaman, review of Lovesick, p. 1068; November 1, 2003, Deborah Donovan, review of Women with Big Eyes, p. 479.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2003, review of Women with Big Eyes, p. 1148.

Library Journal, April 1, 1997, Lisa Rochbaugh, review of Lovesick, p. 128; April 1, 1999, Maria F. Kramer, review of El mundo iluminado, p. 77; December, 2003, Mary Margaret Benson, review of Women with Big Eyes, p. 170.

Modern Language Review, October, 2001, Nuala Finnegan, "Reproducing the Monstrous Nation: A Note on Pregnancy and Motherhood in the Fiction of Rosario Castellanos, Brianda Domecq, and Angeles Mastretta," p. 1006.

New York Times Book Review, August 26, 1990, Alison Carb Sussman, "In Short: Fiction," review of Mexican Bolero; June 29, 1997, Polly Morrice, "Books in Brief: Fiction," review of Lovesick.

Publishers Weekly, March 10, 1997, review of Lovesick, p. 49; September 15, 2003, review of Women with Big Eyes, p. 40.

World Literature Today, summer, 1998, George R. McMurray, review of Lovesick, p. 592.

ONLINE

Hispanic Online,http://www.hispaniconline.com/ (April 1, 2004), Fabiola Santiago, "Angeles Mastretta—Mexico's Literary Queen."

Penguin Group Web site,http://www.penguingroup.com/ (January 22, 2007), biography of Angeles Mastretta.

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