Surreal alienation

The Book of Wanderers
Reyes Ramirez
2022 University of Arizona Press

In “Ximena De Luna v. The New Mars Territory”, one of the short stories in this collection, the author explores the extension of earthly racism against Latino immigrants beyond the confines of our planet.

Written in the form of a legal deposition, it is a clever and almost playful device with which to examine the multiple ways in which migrants in the US are excluded from the benefits of mainstream, white society.

This story is a good example of the subversive and original means by which Reyes Ramirez approaches the theme of Latinx identity, in this case through the words of a mother fighting for her child’s right to an equal education on another world, but one shaped by the very same prejudices as ours.

By removing the arena of conflict to space, he forces us to consider what we permit closer to home, and how identity transcends the petty borders that divide us here on Earth yet remains fundamental to exclusion when considered as an unwelcome aspect of the human condition. The story is also recognition of the growing importance of social issues within the genre of sci-fi itself.

The Book of Wanderers is like that, tracing the challenges and triumphs of those who stray from their homeland and the perpetual sense of longing that can hollow out their lives, while carving out new possibilities for the short story form. 

It’s a brilliant collection, experimenting with diverse genres from realism to speculative fiction, and always delivering the surreal and unexpected.

Ever-present is the sense of alienation by which each of us live, exaggerated in the case of Latinx immigrants to the US. We come away not knowing who we really are and how we might ever become part of something bigger.