Signs Preceding The End of The World by Yuri Herrera is the first novel about the US-Mexico Border I can remember reading. I read Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy years ago but it did not deal directly with the current issues about the border.
This book came to my attention during the controversy surrounding the novel American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins earlier this year. I have not read American Dirt so I can not make a direct comment about the novel’s quality. But it did make quite a stir in the Latinx Publishing community about lack of representation in traditional publishing while a novel like that one gets major press and recognition. Also, I attended a conference here locally in San Antonio discussing the issues that American Dirt presents about the border and Latinos in general. I learned about Signs Preceding The End of The World from that conference and several websites that provided alternative recommendations to read.
Herrera’s novel is only nine chapters and tells the story of Makina. She leaves her life back in Mexico to cross the border in search of her brother. Makina has a couple of messages: one from her mother and the other from the Mexican Underworld. The story reveals the dangers in crossing the border and violence that is enacted in order to pursue freedom.
I will admit that I could not fully embrace Makina as a protagonist. The reading experience was like watching someone from a distance and having a huge plexiglass separating me from the protagonist. The translation by Lisa Dillman felt authentic with Mexican slang like jefecita (little boss) and yond (over there) as examples. However, I reached the ending and wanted more story. It ended so abruptly that I thought I had missed something.
I’m glad that I read Signs Preceding the End of the World. It opened my eyes to world that gets sensationalized on Cable News TV shows and revealed the lengths that people will go through to pursue a better life.