Edited by prolific author Zoraida Cordova, Reclaim the Stars is a short story collection that features 17 tales by Latinx writers. The book is split into three sections, featuring sci-fi (“To the Stars”), low fantasy (“The Magical Now”), and high fantasy (“Other Times, Other Realms”) stories with diverse characters of all kinds of genders and identities.
Like any collection of short stories, one can dip in and out of this book at any point and find something to enjoy over the span of 20-30 pages per story (I think the longest story is about 40 pages). This book was a great way to meet new-to-me authors, and to read more from authors I’m pretty familiar with. Mermaids, witches, monsters, goddesses of death, sapphic princesses and the like populate these pages. Representations from almost every corner are visible, and complex themes and issues are explored.
CW: Racism, Sexism, Abortion, Transphobia.
One of my favorite concepts in Latinx literature is identity, an echoing theme in the anthology. In White Water, Blue Ocean by Linda Raquel Nieves Perez, literal and figurative generational curses overshadow the Garcia family. In the midst of this, seventeen year old Gabriel loves and accepts themselves as they are, much to the anger of their extended family. By the story’s end Gabriel comes to understand the root of the curse, and makes an unexpected connection. Here, identity is not at all convoluted for our main character, but it clashes with the expectations of the family. The interest of the story lies in the way this clash is resolved. Also, choices made by toxic elders in the story are reminiscent of Encanto. This is another thread common in Latinx lit, and Perez nailed it right on the heartache.
Creatures of Kings by Circe Moskowitz was dark and intriguing from the first sentence: “Vada Rivera is fifteen when she dies for the first time.” Vada spends her time isolated from the rest of the world, constantly questioning her mother about her unknown father, to no avail. On her 18th birthday, she is thrust into the truth of who she really is, and must decide if she should claim this identity for herself. I really enjoy instances where death is given human qualities (see this author interview for another story I loved that did this), and it was no different with this story.
The only issue I had with Reclaim the Stars is also what I most enjoyed about the collection: the breadth of the science fiction/fantasy genres. I love stories set in outer space and detailed magic systems, but in some instances, by the time I found my footing in the world of the story, it was nearly over. For me at least, it takes time on my part, and a gradual build-up from the author to immerse myself in the space of the story before I can really understand the stakes. Engaging with the characters was exciting here, but by the end of most stories, I was left wanting more. Personally, I think SFF is better suited to longer-length works. However, this is an anthology and is meant to be a sampling of multiple voices. In this light, the book works well.