New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice • “A searing account of grief and the quest to bring her sister’s murderer to justice years after the fact” (The Boston Globe), from “one of Mexico’s greatest living writers” (Jonathan Lethem).
I seek justice, I finally said. I seek justice for my sister. . . . Sometimes it takes twenty-nine years to say it out loud, to say it out loud on a phone call with a lawyer at the General Attorney’s office: I seek justice. September 2019. Cristina Rivera Garza travels from her home in Texas to Mexico City, in search of an old, unresolved criminal file. “My name is Cristina Rivera Garza,” she wrote in her request to the attorney general, “and I am writing to you as a relative of Liliana Rivera Garza, who was murdered on July 16, 1990.” It’s been twenty-nine years. Twenty-nine years, three months, and two days since Liliana was murdered by an abusive ex-boyfriend—and Cristina knows there is only a slim chance of recovering the file. And yet, inspired by feminist movements across the world and enraged by the global epidemic of femicide and intimate partner violence, she embarks on a path toward justice. Liliana’s Invincible Summer is the account—and the outcome—of that extraordinary quest.
In luminous, poetic prose, Rivera Garza tells a singular yet universally resonant story: that of a spirited, wondrously hopeful young woman who tried to survive in a world of increasingly normalized gendered violence. Following her decision to recover her sister’s file, Rivera Garza traces the history of Liliana’s life, from her early romance with a handsome but possessive and short-tempered man, to that exhilarating final summer of 1990 when Liliana loved, thought, and traveled more widely and freely than she ever had before.
Using her remarkable talents as an acclaimed scholar, novelist, and poet, Rivera Garza collected and curated evidence—handwritten letters, police reports, school notebooks, interviews with Liliana’s loved ones—to render and understand a life beyond the crime itself. Through this remarkable and genre-defying memoir, Rivera Garza confronts the trauma of losing her sister and examines from multiple angles how this tragedy continues to shape who she is—and what she fights for—today.
About the Author
Cristina Rivera Garza is the award-winning author of The Taiga Syndrome and The Iliac Crest, among many other books. A recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship and the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize, Rivera Garza is the M. D. Anderson Distinguished Professor in Hispanic Studies, and director of the PhD program in creative writing in Spanish at the University of Houston.
“Cristina Rivera Garza wanted to shed light on the life of her sister, killed 30 years ago. Her book, part of a larger call for justice by women in Mexico, helped locate the suspect. . . . [Liliana's Invincible Summer] is the record of a woman who, against the odds, refuses to be forgotten.”—The New York Times
“Not everything can be put into words, especially grief and rage, no matter how precise and skilled the writing is. The beauty of this book is that it reaches for that truth regardless, and in doing so, Liliana becomes indelible. She is so fully realized that by the end, the reader is also mourning. I will be thinking of Liliana for a very long time, perhaps forever.”—The Washington Post
“Women across the world are killed at shocking rates by men, usually partners or former ones. . . . Anger at this lack of accountability seethes through Ms. Rivera Garza’s book. Her main goal, however, is not abstract analysis of femicide but to chronicle a life lost to it. . . . Absorbing and poetic.”—The Economist
“A searing account of grief and the quest to bring her sister’s murderer to justice years after the fact . . . Reminiscent of Natasha Trethewey’s “Memorial Drive,” Rivera Garza’s memoir is both master stroke and a critical inflection point in her country’s brutal, patriarchal politics.”—The Boston Globe
“The Mexican virtuoso’s searing, propulsive memoir probes the murder of her younger sister . . . Rivera Garza recreates Liliana’s death at the hands of a violent ex-boyfriend, opening a Pandora’s box of bureaucratic demons and igniting a cold case that rallied a nation to the cause of domestic abuse.”—Oprah Daily
“Liliana’s Invincible Summer is a blueprint of one woman’s murder, but it is also the story of hundreds of thousands of women throughout the globe. I was shaken and alerted by Cristina Rivera Garza’s investigation into her own grief. It has inspired me to speak up as she has bravely done.”—Sandra Cisneros
“Cristina Rivera Garza has written something almost miraculous: not a cold case file or true crime story, but an attempt to recover Liliana’s life, her spark, her youth, taken away with such cruelty. This book is a revelation.”—Mariana Enriquez, author of Our Share of Night
“Reading this astounding, lyrical, and brilliant book will open your heart and break it, leaving you more vulnerable to both love and rage.”—Julie Carr, author of Real Life
“The heart-filled writing of this genre-bending book is a political act, a manifesto against patriarchy and the ‘straightjacket of machismo.’”—Javier Zamora, author of Solito
“This is sisterhood as mystery, yearning, and ghosted affection.”—Quiara Alegría Hudes, author of My Broken Language