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Book Cover for: Linea Nigra: An Essay on Pregnancy and Earthquakes, Jazmina Barrera

Linea Nigra: An Essay on Pregnancy and Earthquakes

Jazmina Barrera

Critic Reviews


Based on 6 reviews on

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Nominee:National Book Critics Circle Award -Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize (2022)
Nominee:National Book Critics Circle Award -Autobiography (2022)

"Eminently worthy of acclaim." --Vogue (The Best Books of 2022 So Far)

An intimate exploration of motherhood, Linea Nigra approaches the worries and joys of childbearing from a diverse range of inspirations and traditions, from Louise Bourgeois to Ursula K. Le Guin to the indigenous Nahua model Luz Jiménez. Part memoir and part manifesto, Barrera's singular insights, delivered in candid prose, clarify motherhood while also cherishing the mysteries of the body.

Writing through her first pregnancy, birthing, breastfeeding, and young motherhood, Barrera embraces the subject fully, making lucid connections between maternity, earthquakes, lunar eclipses, and creative labor. Inspired by the author's own mother's painting practice, Linea Nigra concludes with an impassioned call: childbearing is art, and art is childbearing.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Two Lines Press
  • Publish Date: Nov 7th, 2023
  • Pages: 184
  • Language: English
  • Edition: undefined - undefined
  • Dimensions: 7.90in - 4.90in - 0.40in - 0.35lb
  • EAN: 9781949641585
  • Categories: Pregnancy & ChildbirthPersonal MemoirsEssays

About the Author

Barrera, Jazmina: - Jazmina Barrera was born in Mexico City in 1988. She was a fellow at the Foundation for Mexican Letters. Her book of essays Cuerpo extraño (Foreign Body) was awarded the Latin American Voices prize from Literal Publishing in 2013. In 2020, Two Lines Press published her On Lighthouses in a translation from Christina MacSweeney. She has also published work in various print and digital media, such as Nexos, Este País, Dossier, Vice, El Malpensante, Letras Libres and Tierra Adentro. She has a Master's Degree in Creative Writing in Spanish from New York University, which she completed with the support of a Fulbright grant. She was a grantee of the Young Creators program at FONCA. She is editor and co-founder of Ediciones Antílope. She lives in Mexico City.
Macsweeney, Christina: - Christina MacSweeney received the 2016 Valle Inclan prize for her translation of Valeria Luiselli's The Story of My Teeth, and Among Strange Victims by Daniel Saldaña París was a finalist in the 2017 Best Translated Book Award. Among the other authors she has translated are: Elvira Navarro (A Working Woman, Rabbit Island), Verónica Gerber Bicecci (Empty Set, Palabras migrantes/Migrant Words), and Julián Herbert (Tomb Song, The House of the Pain of Others).

Critics’ reviews

Praise for this book

"When interpreting pregnancy through art, no starting point is better than the musings of the Mexican writer Jazmina Barrera....To call [Linea Nigra] a memoir would be reductive--it includes so many references to fine art, literature, and history that it functions almost as an anthology or a masterfully curated museum of child-rearing." --The Atlantic

"A strange, slim, hybrid book...disarmingly fresh and provocative....[Barrera's] is a vision of art as feminine, never truly original or new, but a cycle: art as birth and death; bodies decomposing in the dirt, the roots 'the tree of our flesh.'" --The New York Review of Books

"A beautiful and lucid essay about the journey across motherhood seasons--pregnancy, childbirth and first months of parenting. Far from mythologizing motherhood as an idealized state, Linea Nigra sheds light on the complex and contradictory nature of gestation: a state crossed by terrors, but also by hopes and love; a biological and spiritual mystery that concerns all human beings, as individuals and as a society." --Fernanda Melchor, The Guardian

"[Linea Nigra] provides a space to dialogue with the sensations, frustrations, and revelations [of motherhood] that are hard to share with anyone who hasn't experienced them--but the book also opens a window on a fundamentally human story that has been insufficiently explored in literature." --Words Without Borders (The Best Books of 2022)

"Rich and lovely." --Julie Phillips, author of The Baby on the Fire Escape

"Part-memoir, part-commonplace book...[A] generous, openhearted project inviting readers to discover what is often hidden away, unseen." --Los Angeles Review of Books

"By way of linea nigra--the book and the line--Barrera ultimately gestures towards the poetics of writing as a mother. The demands on the maternal body and the wonders it yields in the white-milk months inform this poetics." --Chicago Review of Books

"Essayist Jazmina Barrera takes that physical line [the linea nigra] and writes about and (metaphorically) beyond it, packing her narrative memoir full of carefully considered and exquisitely worded musings on motherhood....the multilayered, deeply felt work that her life experience and obvious talent have combined to produce is eminently worthy of acclaim." --Vogue (The Best Books of 2022 So Far)

"Once again, we are reminded to think of writing, and gestation, as acts of acculturation and accumulation. Prenatal criticism is equally witness to, and affected by, pregnancy and art--in Barrera's words, 'one in the center of the other.'" --Nikki Shaner-Bradford, Astra

"Christina MacSweeney's translation from the Spanish is reminiscent of poetry, capturing a dreamy ruminative mood....Linea Nigra belongs among the few beautiful books that exist these days about motherhood and the self." --Full Stop

"Fascinating, a self-induced literary tell-all so rarely accessed in any other form." --The Rumpus

"An entirely idiosyncratic personal work of art...This book may have soft and curious skin, but its spine is pure steel, and as disconnected and immediate as each fragment feels, close reading reveals the meticulous skill of an artist in complete control of her work." --Helen Zuckerman, Hopscotch Translation

"Barrera offers a moving study of pregnancy, family, art, and loss in this showstopping essay...[her] voice is meditative, bolstered by poetic turns of phrase, precise language, and fresh metaphors. 'It's impossible to be original when you write about being a mother, ' Barrera reflects, though her own originality is striking. This beautiful meditation is thick with profound insights." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Barrera includes historical anecdotes and quotes from other women who have written about motherhood, childbirth, and pregnancy--from Mary Shelley and Natalia Ginzburg to Rivka Galchen and Maggie Nelson--and she argues that pregnancy is a fundamentally literary experience....Barrera communicates her trenchant observations in gorgeous, highly efficient prose that sharply reflects the fragmented reality of pregnancy and early parenthood. Rather than adhering to a traditional narrative structure, the author follows her trains of thought wherever they take her, and readers will be happy to tag along." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Part notebook, part audiovisual anthology, Barrera's hybrid essay Linea Nigra is not your typical book on motherhood. Instead it's a collection that serves as representation--a comprehensive 'compilation of images, citations, and references from women who have conceived of pregnancy, birth, and lactation through art and literature.'" --The Millions (Most Anticipated 2022)

"Barrera writes about pregnancy, birth, motherhood, and nursing while also drawing parallels to nature and natural occurrences, as well as art and spirituality. She captures the wonder and terror of the experience, and the creativity, rawness, and cyclic aspects of the process. It is lyrical and sharp, muscular and tender. It's subversive and universal all at the same time." --Jaime Herndon, Bookriot

"Christina McSweeney's sparkling translation of Barrera's lyrical, mosaic-like passages enables the sentences to gleam in English....Barrera's confident and beautiful book feels not only timely but also revolutionary." --May-lee Chai, author of Tomorrow in Shanghai

"A memoir and also so much more...This urgent and intimate book is one of the most stunning I've ever read." --Pierce Alquist, Bookriot

"Undulating musings that soothe and sustain, like a lullaby...[Linea Nigra] invokes the metaphor...that the archetype of the mother is within us even before we actually go through the process, and it is indelibly an essential part of who we are." --Mom Egg Review

"Jazmina Barrera investigates pregnancy as both a physical reality and a liminal state...impressionistic." --Foreword Reviews (starred review)

"A refreshingly different take on traditional what-to-expect titles for mothers-to-be." --Booklist

"This book is such a wonder and joy. I only wish it were a few thousand pages longer, so I could have the company of its intelligence and poetry for all the phases of my life." --Rivka Galchen, author of Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch

"In nuanced observation, and with enormous humor, [Barrera] shares how things and people can be known and understood, while allowing, as in life and death-- for what can never be known, or understood." --Leanne Shapton, author of Guestbook

"Barrera writes unflinchingly about motherhood--the minutiae, the hours nursing, the desire to make art despite exhaustion, the stitches no one talks about, the violence and beauty of birth--and creates an unforgettable tapestry that feels at once poetic and urgent. Reading Linea Nigra, I felt like I was sitting around a wise woman circle, a little more of my mother and artist self revived with each passing page. I am grateful this beautiful book exists, stares without looking away, and offers to each of us the motherhood that mainstream society doesn't sell us. This is the real shit, and it is vital." --Chelsea Bieker, author of Godshot

"An absolutely perfect book about mothering, writing, dismantling literary form." --Madeleine Watts, author of The Inland Sea

"An amazing book that takes the topic of motherhood and, before the incredulous eyes of the reader, impregnates it with many other things: the body, the concept of individuality, illness, and emotional attachments." --Emiliano Monge, author of Among the Lost

"Linea Nigra is a rallying cry for motherhood to be taken seriously, for a maternal canon. In putting forth this rallying cry, Barrera also delivers a prime example of why one should exist." --Lauren Cocking, Leyendo Lat Am