But these stories also expand the way we perceive the confines of our earthly vessel. In “Ini y Fati,” a centuries-old virgin saint befriends a small girl struck by lightning in a vacant city lot. The pair form an unlikely and heartfelt friendship: Fati, rescued from death by her newfound playmate, watches as Ini performs miracles, reviving a sparrow and willing purple flowers to appear instantaneously on a naked bush. Miracles, the high-wire acts of a boundless imagination, appear throughout the collection, and here, Ini proclaims, “I mend people’s petty ailments, and for what?” Her own answer is clear: “So they can go back to living their miserable lives. Full of hunger, abuse, disaster. And yet, people insist on living.”
The story asks enormous questions about the basis of faith and violence, especially violence enacted upon women and girls at the hands of men. Ini, who was stabbed to death by her own father, questions truth and the nature of God. “I’ve received no revelations,” Ini says. “Except, of course, myself.”
While this is Fragoza’s debut book, she has been published widely as a journalist, including in LA Weekly and The Los Angeles Review of Books, her work focusing on Chicano culture and identity in Southern California. That region glistens in this collection, and in the tenderly weird opening story, “Lumberjack Mom,” a young girl recalls the time, after her father abandons the family, when her mother showed a prodigious aptitude for axing furniture, weeds and the family’s barren and overgrown lime tree. Like the children themselves, the tree grew from seeds carried into the United States from Mexico. Roots, inheritance and blood run through this collection, pulsing in the veins of these Chicana characters.
“Eat the Mouth That Feeds You” is an accomplished debut with language that has the potential to affect the reader on a visceral level, a rare and significant achievement from a forceful new voice in American literature.