A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of The Year
A Time Best Book of the Month
A World Literature Today Notable Book
Named a Most Anticipated Book by Bustle, NYLON, Literary Hub, and The Millions
"Feliciana's sections are looping and abstract, while Zoe's are as clipped and sharp as any journalist's writing would be. The contrast between them is irresistible . . . Lozano writes their stories, and their growing connection, with such warmth that often reading Witches feels like sneaking into Feliciana's house with Zoe. By the end, the novel feels like a community." —Lily Meyer, NPR
"Set in Mexico, this is a layered, kaleidoscopic and powerful story exploring relationships, fluidity, pain, healing, power and patriarchy." —Karla Strand, Ms.
"The magic within the text of Witches exists in language . . . Lozano’s interest in the fluidity of a piece of art mirrors Witches’ own interest in fluidity—of gender, time, and even the perception of reality . . . In her Loop, an unnamed diarist explores the awful reality of gender-based violence, but in Witches, Lozano uses it as a point of connection for Feliciana and Zoe. She doesn’t just raise awareness of the problem but imagines a way to save lives that exists outside of oppressive structures." —Shelbi Polk, Shondaland
"Who needs a standard plot when you can write as exquisitely as Brenda Lozano? . . . The women reveal themselves, through stories of mothers, daughters, sisters, lovers—men are essential but peripheral, often dangerous—in a rhythm that enchants and floats the story forward, confirming the capacity of words to cast a powerful spell." —Cat Auer, The A.V. Club
"A terrific read from a writer who explores the power of the feminine in a world set on narrowly defining and belittling it." —Sarah Neilson, A Them Best Book of Summer
"Readers of Fernanda Melchor’s form-busting, psychedelic takes on recent South American history won’t want to miss Brenda Lozano’s Witches . . . Heather Cleary fluidly translates Lozano’s spiky narrative, immersing readers in its horrors without obscuring its beauties." —Chicago Review of Books
"Vivid . . . Lozano is a keen observer who brings two very different worlds to the page with vibrant passages and a lot of heart. Work in translation is crucial because it opens doors to other places, ideas, identities, and cultures, and that’s what this novel accomplishes very well." —Gabino Iglesias, Locus
"Witches is a glorious novel about gender-nonconforming people who brave a hostile world to be themselves." —Eileen Gonzalez, Foreword Reviews
"Lozano published [Witches] amid a cultural crisis in Mexico as fury over femicide reached a crescendo. Translator Cleary has made a Herculean effort to craft an equivalent experience for English readers to offer 'a chance to connect across and through differences' in the spirit of Lozano's memorable tale." —Booklist
"One of the most striking voices of a new generation of Latin American writers." —Pierce Alquist, Book Riot
"Beautifully rendered, this is a book to meditate over and perhaps reread." —Library Journal
"Lozano does a wonderful job distinguishing the disparate characters and their fluid identities, and Cleary’s translation strikes the perfect balance of immersion and clarity. Powerful and complex, this marks a new turn from an intriguing writer." —Publishers Weekly
"Lozano eschews traditional narrative for the discursive pleasures of voice . . . A fascinating immersion into a little-known world, written with tenderness and humanity." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Potent and intriguing . . . The women's stories dovetail, with echoing experiences of sisterhood, motherhood, purpose, and gendered violence. These elegant streams of consciousness ripple with tantalizing figurative language, eddying together as they flow into one refreshing river of a novel . . . It is heartbreak that this novel seeks to guide readers beyond, becoming itself a healing, meditative space to confront the cruelties of the world." —Dave Wheeler, Shelf Awareness (starred review)
“I’ve always wanted to encounter a voice like this in literature, a contemporary bruja oaxaqueña, without folklore or cliché, with true feeling, complexity, and poetry. It feels like discovering that Juan Rulfo has transformed into a twenty-first century woman, or better yet, that he has returned as one of the many voices that live in Brenda Lozano. A beautiful, painful, funny, and tender novel." —Francisco Goldman, author of Monkey Boy
“In this gem of a book, Lozano demonstrates a poet’s ear for language and a fine attunement to how voice builds character. Taking inspiration from Mexico’s quintessential oral poet, healer María Sabina, the zigzagging narratives of its protagonists remind us that psychedelia found its origin in the revelation that buffs the mind clean. Cleary’s inspired translation partakes of the same vital spirit.” —Mónica de la Torre, author of The Happy End / All Welcome
"Braiding together the voices of two women—a mystic and a skeptic—Witches, to borrow Brenda Lozano’s words by way of Heather Cleary’s translation, runs into shadows to bring light. This is a story of the world’s repeated failure to control feminine power and the sheer magic of language itself. An enthralling, passionate story about secrets both holy and profane." —Catherine Lacey, author of Pew and Nobody is Ever Missing
A Hay Festival and Bogotá 39 honoree, Mexican author Lozano (Loop) tells the story of Indigenous Mexican healer Feliciana and Zoe, a journalist interviewing Feliciana about the murder of her cousin Paloma. They come from wildly different cultures—Feliciana belongs to an agrarian society with strictly defined gender roles, while Zoe enjoys a contemporary urban lifestyle in Mexico City—their lives hold parallels; they are both quiet rebels, while Paloma and Zoe's rebellious sister Leandra stand out as vivid characters who defy societal strictures more boldly. There is little traditional plot but instead two overlapping narratives that merge and converge in unexpected ways. Zoe's straightforward narrative contrasts with Feliciana's, which features long, elliptical sentences and many repeated phrases, and the significance of some events mentioned frequently in passing only become clear toward the end. Paloma is a Muxe, a self-identifying third gender among the Zapotec people of Oaxaca, and it's worth reading Cleary's translator's note to see why she retained some cultural words without translating, and how she dealt with gender when using terms that traditionally only refer to males or females but here are used to describe characters across the gender spectrum. VERDICT Beautifully rendered, this is a book to meditate over and perhaps reread.—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman
An aging faith healer recounts practicing her calling amid gender-based violence, loss, celebrity, and murder in Mexican author Lozano's second novel to appear in English.
In Feliciana's poor, hardworking family, the gift of healing is passed from fathers to sons, not daughters. It's her cousin Paloma who teaches her the art, shot through with Christian faith, and the herbs and mushrooms to use. Born male, Paloma is Muxe—a third gender accepted among the Zapotec people since pre-colonial times. Once she began to identify this way, changed her name, and began to sleep with men, she gave up being a curandero and began to train Feliciana, who goes on to achieve worldwide renown. Narrated from the alternating points of view of Feliciana and Zoe, a journalist who's interviewing her, the stories weave around both women's struggles to find their voices and make their own ways. Feliciana endures a hardscrabble childhood and an alcoholic husband, then other people's jealousy at her success. Zoe grieves her late father and deferred dreams. But the most vibrant character is Paloma, whose murder is reported in the first sentence. Earlier, having been beaten for being Muxe and left with a scar on her face, she wore a brooch to call attention to it: "We don’t hide our scars, we show them off." As in Loop (2021), Lozano eschews traditional narrative for the discursive pleasures of voice. "Paloma once said to me, she said, Feliciana, love, shaman, curandera, witch, those words are all too small for you because yours is the Language, you are the curandera of the Language, and yours too is the Book. And Paloma also said once, Feliciana, love, it’s not always necessary to cure mankind because men aren’t always ill, but men are always necessary and good for what ails the Muxe in me, dear." A sensitive, informative translator's note explains that Feliciana is loosely based on a Oaxacan curandera internationally famous in the 1950s and '60s.
A fascinating immersion into a little-known world, written with tenderness and humanity.