Black Lawrence Immigrant Writing Series Selection: Dressing the Saints by Aracelis González Asendorf

Upon careful review, the Editorial Board of the Black Lawrence Immigrant Writing Series recommends DRESSING THE SAINTS (formerly titled “The Last Lock”) by Aracelis González Asendorf for publication through Black Lawrence Press.


About the Author:

Aracelis González Asendorf was born in Cuba. Her work has appeared in TriQuarterly, Brevity Magazine, Kweli Journal, Aster(ix) Journal, The Adirondack Review, Puerto del Sol, The Acentos Review, Litro, The South Atlantic Review, Saw Palm, Black Fox Literary Magazine, The Hong Kong Review, The Santa Fe Literary Review and elsewhere. Her stories have been anthologized in All About Skin: Short Fiction by Women of Color, 100% Pure Florida Fiction, and Home in Florida: Latinx Writers and the Literature of Uprootedness. She is the recipient of the 2016 South Atlantic Modern Language Association Graduate Creative Writing Award for Prose, a 2019 Sterling Watson fellow, and 2019 C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize finalist.


Artist Statement:

The stories in DRESSING THE SAINTS, focus on the duality of the Cuban American experience, what is left behind and what is forged through hardship and struggle. The stories, set in the lushness of both Cuba and Florida, give voice to the pioneering, and now dying elders of the culture. Old loves are re-encountered, former enemies are reckoned with, and family secrets are revealed. Memory, what cannot be forgotten and what is elusively fading away, is ever-present in the stories. The collection chronicles the experiences of people who fled political oppression, women who fought for agency, and the perseverance of people establishing different lives in a new country.


Excerpt from “Dressing the Saints”


Carmela had lived there for fifty years, but it hadn’t always been her own home; it had been her younger brother’s. In Cuba, she’d stayed in her parents’ home well into adulthood, as was customary for daughters who didn’t marry. Her mother died, and then her father. She’d lived alone in her childhood home for less than two years before leaving Cuba in 1966. Carmela was forty years old. She left with her brother, Delia, and ten-year-old Luisa on a Freedom Flight.

They came to live in Coquina Shores because Delia had cousins here. That’s the way it was in the new country; one relative followed another. This house had one bedroom for her brother and sister-in-law, one bedroom for Luisa, and one bedroom for her.

Carmela looked at Maggie. She’d slid down on the chaise, and was stretched out flat, only her head leaning on the back support. Maggie was healthy and fit, in black workout shorts, a green T-shirt, and bare feet that she’d slid out of her sandals. Her grandniece’s black hair was cropped short like hers, except Maggie had a wide strand dyed bright red that crossed her head, swooped across her forehead, and tucked behind her right ear. Carmela couldn’t remember ever looking or feeling that young. In her day, a somberness was expected of women after it was clear they wouldn’t marry. With no man or children of their own, they were left to dress the saints—volunteering at the church, polishing the faces and changing the gowns of the virgins.