Ana Simo's debut novel Heartland is at once manic, brash and unsettling. It's also nearly impossible to categorize without running the risk of coming up short. It straddles the line between pulp noir and slapstick; it carries the can't-look-away sensibility of a telenovela. Simo, a Cuba-born playwright who co-founded the first lesbian theater in New York, takes readers on an erratic—and sometimes erotic—journey through the mind of a jealous lover. What keeps you engaged throughout is Simo's darkly funny and original voice.... Simo boldly tackles issues of race, sexuality, and immigration. It's an engrossing tale, to be sure—one with traces of surreal horror. Simo's gift lies not only in keeping the reader invested in her narrator's detailed observances and wild tangents, but in her own total fearlessness as a writer.... [A] pleasing cocktail that goes down unexpectedly smooth; it is truly unlike any novel I can think of, or imagine.”
—Juan Vidal, NPR Books
“This novel is singularly difficult to classify. Is it lesbian noir? Slapstick dystopia? Midwestern gothic? To say that it’s all of the above is not to exhaust the list of genres Simo straddles and, maybe, invents.... What holds everything together is Simo’s inventive and unapologetically irreverent voice.... Original, profane, and discomfiting.”
“At age 11, Heartland’s unnamed narrator wins a Blue Ribbon at the Elmira County Fair for writing “an inadvertently anti-Semitic fable,” which condemns her to become a “[w]riting-made-me-want-to-puke” writer. While supporting her “writing curse” with menial jobs and often masquerading as someone else, she falls for Bebe, the “love of [her] loveless, licentious life.” Losing Bebe to Mercy McCabe sets the spurned narrator on a mission-to-kill, luring McCabe back to Elmira, where murderous intentions go awry, hindered by frostbitten limbs, disappearances, unreliable staff, an insatiable librarian, and a return of the dead. Eschewing labels and defying expectations, Simo slyly confronts race, sexuality, multigenerational duty, immigrant dislocation, and even dirty politics while spinning a bizarrely spectacular, outlandishly disorienting (not-)love-story of lost, searching souls.”
—Terry Hong, Booklist
“Hilariously absurd and profane."
—N. K. Jemisin, The New York Times Book Review
“This seems like an wholly original novel. It is set in an alternate, pre-apocalyptic United States and promises to be a genre-bending high-octane debut."
—Rabeea Saleem, Chicago Review of Books, The Most Anticipated Fiction Books of 2018
“Part telenovela, part pulp fiction, and part dystopian satire, Heartland is the debut novel from Lesbian Avengers cofounder Ana Simo about one writer’s revenge on the woman who stole her lover.”
—Carolyn Yates, Autostraddle, 65 Queer and Feminist Books to Read in Early 201
“This is where America seems to be heading even as we speak: corruption and greed at the top leads to mass starvation at the bottom; refugees fill camps across the country until they rise up and attack the cities; and new enemies abroad are rising up with America in their sights. Against this dramatic background we have the story of a writer whose solution to writer’s block is to commit murder. Only it’s not as simple as that: for the writer the plan would only be a success if the chosen victim admitted her guilt and begged for execution. But the victim is wilier than the writer supposes.”
—Paul Kincaid, BestScienceFictionBooks.com
The debut novel by a 73-year-old Cuban-American playwright and activist.This novel is singularly difficult to classify. Is it lesbian noir? Slapstick dystopia? Midwestern gothic? To say that it's all of the above is not to exhaust the list of genres Simo straddles and, maybe, invents. The story begins in New York, where the narrator abuses drugs and lovers and lives off grant money while she's supposed to be writing the biography of a 19th-century Latina author. Then she loses the ability to write, and her precarious life falls apart completely. A chance encounter with her nemesis, a SoHo art dealer named Mercy McCabe, gives the protagonist a renewed sense of purpose: she will take revenge on the woman who stole her dream girl, Bebe. The world these characters inhabit is not quite this one. A caliphate rules from Constantinople. When the narrator and her rival set out for the Midwest, they cross a landscape ravaged by widespread famine and roving bands of cannibals. In addition to this subtly sci-fi twist, there are elements of surreal horror, as McCabe undergoes inexplicable transformations. What holds everything together is Simo's inventive and unapologetically irreverent voice, but the abandon with which she writes may prove problematic for some readers. One might argue that if anyone has earned the freedom to make liberal use of the word "dyke," it's a woman who has been active on behalf of LBGT causes since before many of her likely readers were born. Simo might have a similar claim to "fag" and "tranny." As a Latina, she might be said to be reclaiming "spic." But the sexualization of young girls—from 12-year-olds playing polo to 14-year-old Bebe—is a bit harder to take. Authors are, of course, free to use whatever language they like, and Simo is under no obligation to craft a likable protagonist or a comfortable narrative. But it's hard to imagine anything beyond a very narrow audience for this novel.Original, profane, and discomfiting.