Wednesday, October 12.
141 Danforth Avenue
Please join Thistledown Press and The Fine Print as we celebrate the publication of Stephen Henighan’s The Path of the Jaguar.
This is a free event.
In 1997, Guatemala is emerging from thirty-six years of civil war. Amparo Ajuix, a determined young woman who lives in a Mayan village with her husband, runs a savings club for the local women with the help of an American NGO. Eager to take advantage of Guatemala’s new democracy to strengthen the culture of the Mayan people, she campaigns to switch the language of instruction in the village’s primary school from Spanish to the local language of Cakchiquel.
But Amparo’s life is
wracked with tensions. Dona María, an older woman who influences the market where Amparo sells her handicrafts, is jealous of Amparo’s savings club. Amparo’s best friend, Raquel, is a born-again Protestant who disdains Amparo’s devout Catholicism. Yolanda, Amparo’s pretty seventeen-year-old sister, flirts with foreign men in the nearby tourist town of Antigua. Most seriously of all, Amparo’s husband, Eusebio, suspects that he is not the father of her second child, with whom she is pregnant. The erosion of complicity between them poisons their marriage.
In 2003, Amparo works as a teacher in a language school for tourists in Antigua. She is tasked with the special case of a man, whom she calls Ricardo, who wishes to study her native Cakchiquel Mayan language. The experience of teaching this man confronts her with the in-between nature of her own culture. She does not speak Cakchiquel perfectly, as her parents do, yet as a Native person she cannot be completely accepted into Spanish-speaking Guatemalan society, and her Catholicism is mixed with beliefs in traditional Mayan gods. Her crisis about what to preserve and what to discard from her culture is accentuated when her son, Pablito, an enigmatic boy whom she struggles to understand, falls ill.
Stephen Henighan is the author of three novels, including The Streets of Winter (2004), and three short story collections, including A Grave in the Air (2007). He has more than 45 publications in magazines and anthologies worldwide, and writes an influential column on culture for Geist. His journalism has appeared in The Globe and Mail, The Times Literary Supplement, and more. He has been a finalist for the Governor General’s Award, the Canada Prize in the Humanities, a McNally Robinson Fiction Prize, a National Magazine Award, and a Western Magazine Award. Henighan teaches Spanish-American literature at the University of Guelph.