Frida: A Novel of Frida Kahlo

Frida: A Novel of Frida Kahlo

by Barbara Mujica

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Frida Kahlo, painter and cultural icon, lived a life of extremes. The subject of an Academy Award(c) nominated film starring Salma Hayek, Kahlo was crippled by polio and left barren by an accident when she was a teenager.

And yet she went on to fall in love with and marry another star of the art world, muralist Diego Rivera. filled with passion, jealousy, and


Frida Kahlo, painter and cultural icon, lived a life of extremes. The subject of an Academy Award(c) nominated film starring Salma Hayek, Kahlo was crippled by polio and left barren by an accident when she was a teenager.

And yet she went on to fall in love with and marry another star of the art world, muralist Diego Rivera. filled with passion, jealousy, and deceit, their story captured the world's imagination.

Told in the voice of Frida's sister Cristina, who bears witness to Frida and Diego's tumultuous marriage, this is a brilliantly vivid work of historical fiction. What unfolds is an intense tale of sibling rivalry, as both sisters vie for Rivera's affection. Mujica imbues the lives and loves of these remarkable characters with sparkling drama and builds her tale to a shattering conclusion.

Editorial Reviews

Mujica, professor of Spanish at Georgetown University and two-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize, has here created an absorbing fictionalized account, drawn from twentieth-century Mexican history, of the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. The story is narrated by Frida's younger sister Cristina to her psychiatrist after Frida's death in 1954, at the age of forty-seven. A casualty of intense sibling rivalry, Cristina is emotionally overshadowed by her famous sister, and psychologically shattered by her harrowing death. Though a work of fiction, this book has a cast of characters that includes such historical figures as Leon Trotsky, Maria Felix, Dolores del Rio, Paulette Goddard and Frida's husband, the artist Diego Rivera. Some readers may question the liberties taken by Mujica in the name of historical fictionéfor example, in the book, Cristina is involved in an intimate relationship with her sister's husband. Most, however, will be compelled by this portrait of a powerful, talented, remarkably troubled woman.
—Mikita Brottman

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Confessions of a guilt-ridden sister spill off the pages of this tell-all historical fiction based on the life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, as narrated by Kahlo's younger sister, Cristina. Creakily structured--the text purports to be a transcription of Cristi's conversations with her psychiatrist--and sometimes transparently didactic, the novel paints a detailed picture of Kahlo and her milieu. Bullied in school for being half Jewish, Frida and Cristina grow up in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution of 1910 in Coyoacan, in the Central Plateau. Cristi, a very ordinary child, often feels eclipsed by her older sister, whether seeking attention from their emotionally distant father or later, from Frida's famous, philandering husband, muralist Diego Rivera. Despite Cristi's jealousies and Frida's insatiable need for attention, the girls keep in close touch when Frida goes away to school in Mexico City and Cristi is forced to take a job to help pay family bills. As Frida's life expands to include marriage to Rivera and travel in the United States, Cristi's world shrinks: she ends up back at home, caring for her two small children and ailing mother. Although events in Mexican history and the adventures of Frida's famous friends make for some intrigue, narrator Cristi is simply not compelling enough to sustain the reader's interest. Her very identity is defined by Frida, and although she professes to love her sister, the bitterness in her voice is evident as she reminds the reader that she was prettier than Frida and that Rivera loved to paint her in the nude. However, there are two movies in the making about Frida Kahlo's life, starring, respectively, popular Latina actresses Jennifer Lopez and Salma Hayek--and they could spark interest in all things Frida. Agent, Scovil, Chichak, Galen. (Jan.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This imaginative, fact-based novel from Pushcart Prize winner Mujica (The Deaths of Don Bernardo) uses the life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo to explore a panoply of themes: competition between siblings, the meaning of marital fidelity, and the role of the arts in social activism. The story is narrated by Cristina Kahlo, Frida's sister and lifelong understudy. Throughout, the tone is confessional, as if Cristina were letting the reader in on a multitude of domestic secrets, from the ways xenophobia and anti-Semitism hurt the half-Jewish Kahlo family to the way illness and disability--their father's epilepsy and Frida's childhood polio, followed by a near-fatal trolley accident when she was 18--skewed household dynamics and personality development. As the saga unfolds, sexual longings take center stage, and Frida's passionate if tumultuous relationship with left-wing muralist Diego Rivera is made painfully real. In addition, the Kahlos' personal tale is set in political context, and people including Leon Trotsky, John D. Rockefeller, Dolores Del Rio, and Edsel Ford make well-integrated appearances. Brilliantly crafted, this book resonates with historical and psychological insight. Highly recommended.--Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Mujica's Cristina is a vivid creation: hypocritical, vulnerable, cruel and fantastically insecure...this story burns with dramatic urgency. If Frida painted self-portraits awash in blood and morbid dreams, here Cristina is the real wreck, a fact that makes her a troubling and fascinating subject.
New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
Frida Kahlo (1907–54), the wife of Diego Rivera, is currently enjoying posthumous recognition as an accomplished woman and artist. This fictional account, narrated by Frida's younger sister Cristina, vividly portrays Cristina's own complex relationship with Frida and Diego and analyzes their characters and art. Less than a year younger than Frida, Cristina observed from early childhood that Frida was more self-confident and precocious. Her father's favorite, Frida defied her teachers, mocked her schoolmates, and was sexually experienced at an early age. Intellectually curious and strikingly beautiful, she always attracted attention, but childhood polio left her with a limp and a traffic accident made her barren and ultimately destroyed her health. Cristina describes Frida's association with student radicals, her conversion to communism, her seduction of Diego, and her growing stature as an artist. Frida and Diego married twice; both were often unfaithful; they were friends of people like Leon Trotsky and Paulette Goddard; and in the US they were fêted by the rich and famous. But there was darker side to Frida's glittering life: Cristina herself became Diego's lover, and by the time she died, Frida was abusing drugs and alcohol to alleviate the constant pain she was experiencing. As Frida declined, Cristina finally came into her own and was able to help her once-powerful sister. The best kind of fictionalized biography: rich, vibrant, and psychologically astute.. . . Shirley, John THE VIEW FROM HELL Subterranean Press(913 Beard St., Flint, MI 48503) (190 pp.) Jan. 15, 2001

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The Overlook Press
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767 KB
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18 Years

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Meet the Author

Bárbara Mujica is a novelist, short story writer, critic, professor of Spanish at  Georgetown University, and a contributor to many publications, such as The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. She is the author of the novels The Deaths of Don Bernardo, Frida, and Sister Teresa, and lives in Washington, D.C.

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