Reviews of Anthropologies: University of Iowa Press, Fall 2011
From Sonora Review:
The beginning of Anthropologies feels like something you’ve remembered before—a frail mother recounts stories for a middle-aged daughter. But then, the daughter is 18, and she wears bell bottoms and a black tee shirt and argues with the mother about a boyfriend. The argument ends and it is Colorado in 1968, and the windows fog as a young girl dries dishes with a young mother, and suddenly you aren’t remembering—you are living in a world so specific and complete you can’t have passed through it before.
Beth Alvarado’s Anthropologies is a pile of perfectly ordered snapshots, so quickly and quietly stacked that soon the remembering becomes a world unto itself. Alvarado is the daughter of Margaret, the niece of Dorothy, the younger sibling to a half-brother and half-sister born of a father who died in Saipan and a mother too early a widow. Margaret meets her second husband en route to a bridge game in Puget Sound, and Alvarado’s childhood ends when the family moves from Grand Junction to Tucson. “My father was a solitary man,” Alvarado says of her father.“How I hated him,” Aunt Dorothy says of her father, Alvarado’s grandfather.
So is the fabric of a family created, through memories stacked one on top of each other.--Link to the rest of the review by Megan Kimble in Sonora Review, September 23, 2011
From Publishers Weekly:
Sparked by her mother's deterioration into old age, Alvarado (Not a Matter of Love) has written a three-part memoir about her family life that approaches prose poetry. It is searing at moments, especially when she discusses her life as a junkie, but the narrative then becomes dreamy, even vague. Despite the loose structure—not even chronological order is respected—vivid portraits of her parents, children, in-laws, and especially, her husband ring true and sharp. A section focusing on her leaving her white, suburban upbringing to marry her Mexican husband and move into the home of his immigrant parents is particularly striking. Coming from a university press, this book risks being overlooked. However, readers should seek it out for Alvarado's distinctive and compelling writing. (Sept.)
From Kirkus Reviews:
Alvarado (Not a Matter of Love, 2006) follows her debut short-story collection with a memoir that also explores the intersection of Hispanic and Anglo cultures in the western United States. This highly personal work weaves together stories of her parents' lives as well as her own experiences with love, familial attachment, heroin addiction, motherhood, travel and her writing. "I have autobiography anxiety," she writes, explaining that she felt "no tenderness" for the self recorded in her adolescent journal. This may explain, to some degree, the wild deviation Alvarado takes from typical autobiographies. With no quotation marks and chapters averaging one page, she writes only in the present tense, from her perspective as a girl up to now, in her mid-50s. This somewhat jarring structure imbues the book with a strong, immediate voice, and it's easy to imagine it read aloud as something akin to spoken-word poetry. Her overlapping of the past and present illuminates her legacy and the connections between herself and, respectively, her mother and daughter. In examining her own secrets, she recognizes that, even if she doesn't know what they are, her children also have secrets. She wonders if they tried to confide in her and she failed. "Maybe," she writes, "like my mother, I shut my eyes, my ears, my heart." But her memoir stands as a striking rebuttal to that fear. She lays bare in these pages the many stories and details of her life and identity. Devoid of self-pity or nostalgia, Alvarado's voice is bell-clear.
From Tucson Weekly:
[W]hat happens when you combine memoir's TMI template with the poet's subtle craft, when you match a commercial-minded endeavor with a writer interested in exploring ethnic identity?
The answer is Tucson professor Beth Alvarado'sAnthropologies. In a series of short one-to-two-page vignettes, Alvarado explores her mixed family in a fashion that is distinctive. A middle-class white woman married to a Mexican American, the author delves into her relationships to better understand the connection between memory and personality, the world and the self.
--Link to the rest of the review by Jarret Keene inTucson Weekly,September 29, 2011
Reviews of Not a Matter of Love New Rivers Press, Fall 2006
From Front Porch Journal 4:
From a bird's-eye-view, Alvarado's stories are. . .montage. In 'Phoenix,' as in several other stories, the point of view shifts between mother and child. Perspectives mesh. The characters' interior lives--as when Gloria and Danika drive to Phoenix, discussing and avoiding topics of sex and love--are equally weighted. Where, the reader might initially ask, is the eye, the focus, to land? But this roving point of view becomes Alvarado's strength rather than her weakeness. [Her] fluid structure successfully and unpretentiously mimics life; the result is evocative. . . .
Alvarado's storylines are cleanly crafted and unambiguous, her details raw. In 'Limbo,' Alvarado tells the tale of a Hispanic mother whose only son, Rey, is killed in a shootout. In the story's opening, an anonymous woman phones the mother, Lena, and says, 'I have your son's liver.' The claim, like the circumstances of Rey's demise, remains impossible to verify, though Alvarado reconstructs the shooting for the reader from Lena's perspective. . . . In this way, Alvarado's fictions are, in a manner reminiscent of Alice Munro, subtly metafictional. But Alvarado's collages are all her own, made from the rough ocotillo and saguaro-peppered stuff of the American Southwest. --Link to the rest of the review by Rebecca Hall in Front Porch, Texas State University at San Marcos From Tucson Weekly:Alvarado's great strength is exploring the intricate mazes of her characters' hearts. In "What Lydia Thinks of Roses," we meet a high school woman whose determination to rise above a boyfriend. . .is both believable and steady. Alvarado's measured development of Lydia leads us to first understand her as a character who struggles with that all-consuming fire many teenage girls feel: the desire to please the boy, but feel confident as well. . . . Whether describing a young boy whose sister has been shot and whose parents are separated or revealing two mothers who share children and had their turn with the same husband, Alvarado is able to straddle tension in the hearts of her characters, presenting to us a world with a tapestry as rich as any that great short story writers have given.--Link to the rest of the review by Luke Reynolds in Tucson Weekly, Dec. 14 2006
Family is at the center of the stories in this debut collection set in the Southwest: contemporary biracial families, Latino, Anglo, Indian; parents, children, step-children; their strength and their fragility across generations. . . . Love, jealousy, grief, betrayal, and guilt drive the action and reveal universal truths.
--Hazel Rochman, American Library Association
Cutthroat, A Journal of the Arts-- Pam Uschuk and William Pitt Root started this journal; I've been the fiction editor since fall 2008. We publish one on-line issue and one hard copy issue each year. You can follow the link to find out about the current fiction and poetry contest or to find submission guidelines. Esme Schwall, Erin Armstrong, Cara Blue Adams, and Al Dixon are past assistant fiction editors, and Kindall Gray and Alison McCabe are the current assistant fiction editors. The 2015 issue will be guest-edited by Luis Urrea. Spork Press archives --These journals were works of art in every sense. You can link to"How I quit heroin and other toxic substances" or "Emily's Exit," a story from Not a Matter of Love, here. Great selections, all genres, all about California.New California Writing 2011 --Check out their new anthology,--Heyday Books I am grateful to the following journals because I have recent work in them, but also because I love to read them: "The Astonished Dead," a story, in WHR ; "Days of the Dead," an essay, in Sonora Review; North American Review "Shelter," an essay. "Notes from Prague" -- Nimrod-- also contains photographs my daughter, Kathryn, took while we attended Western Michigan University's Prague Summer Programin 2006. Third Coast -- "Susan and the zunis," an essay appeared in the Fall 2009 issue. Cimarron Review-- "Clarity," was chosen as a "notable essay" by Best American Essays, 2010. Ploughshares--"Just Family," a story fromNot a Matter of Love, first appeared here.