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Ink Paperback – October 15, 2012
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"Vourvoulias masterfully weaves an increasingly complex parallel universe at once fantastical and eerily familiar: a not-so-farfetched future world where myth and legend cohabit with population control schemes, media cover-ups, and subcutaneous GPS trackers. She takes us on a whirlwind, goose-bump-inducing exploration of the dualities of life and death, the light and darkness of the human spirit, the indelibility of ink as both marker and recorder of our lives and the shape-shifting, vile nature of colonialism and bigotry. By the time you reach the novel s bittersweet ending, you will know: this story is as immortal as the souls of the nahuales of our ancestors lore, and perhaps just as powerful" --~ Elianne Ramos, vice-chair of Latinos in Social Media (LATISM)
"Readers will be moved by this call for justice in the future and the present." --Publisher's Weekly
"A chilling tale of American apartheid, and the power of love, myth and community." --Reforma
About the Author
Sabrina Vourvoulias is a Latina newspaper editor, blogger and writer. An American citizen from birth, she grew up in Guatemala and first moved to the United States when she was 15. She studied writing and filmmaking at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y. In addition to numerous articles and editorial columns in several newspapers in Pennsylvania and New York state, her work has been published in Dappled Things, Graham House Review, La Bloga’s Floricanto, Poets Responding to SB 1070, Scheherezade’s Bequest at Cabinet des Fees, We’Moon, Crossed Genres #24, the anthologies Fat Girl in a Strange Land and Crossed Genres Year Two, and is slated to appear in upcoming issues of Bull Spec and GUD magazines. Her blog Following the Lede (http://followingthelede.blogspot.com) was nominated for a 2011 Latinos in Social Media (LATISM) award. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and daughter. Follow her antics on Twitter @followthelede.
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With “Ink,”Sabrina Vourvoulias — a writer, journalist and editor with Mexican-Guatemalan roots — has added a powerful meditation on immigration to this growing sub-genre. Set in the very near future, the novel depicts an America in which immigrants are required to receive a biometric tattoo in place of documentation, with colors corresponding to status.
The novel, which spans several years, depicts how this first repressive step (not as unbelievable as I would hope, given the current anti-immigrant climate in our country) leads to further persecution: the banning of the use of Spanish in public, creation of sanatoriums for supposedly sick “Inks” (as recipients of the tattoos are called), reversal of the rights of naturalized citizens, installation of tracking devices, sterilization and finally mass deportation.
Vourvoulias makes the brave choice of telling this story broadly and loosely, using four very different characters in New York State whose intersecting narratives weave together a compelling tapestry of communal victory.
Finn is a journalist whose interest in the Inks is at first a reflection of his desire to sell news, but whose love for an immigrant embroils him emotionally and intellectually with the movement. Mari came as an infant to the United States from Guatemala with her American father, fleeing the massacre of her mother’s people (from whom she inherited a spirit animal to which she is twinned at birth and which protects her and other Inks in moments of direst need).
Del, Finn’s brother-in-law, is a painter with a spiritual bond that links him to his land. Drawn to the movement by his relationship with fellow workers and Meche, the Cuban chemist whose artificial skin allows immigrants who “pass” as white to cover up their tattoos, Del uses his earth magic to help establish a sanctuary for those escaping the increasingly harsh regime. Abbie, an almost preternaturally gifted teenage hacker of indigenous North American heritage, volunteers at the “inkatorium” her mother runs, and she also risks everything to protect immigrants from the dehumanizing practices that begin to snowball into fascism.
The novel consists of three broad arcs in which these individuals’ almost vignette-like stories, driven by relationships and characters, show how the immigrant community and its allies struggle to survive and finally fight back against the repression.
Rather than resolve itself through the actions of a single heroic chosen one, the conflict in “Ink” is refreshingly dealt with — after heartbreak and loss and betrayal — by the tenacity and solidarity of an entire movement who network and take action, never giving up until injustice is overturned.
Vourvoulias pulls off a real feat through her deft dialogue, arcane plotting and insightful characterization: spinning a complex and completely recognizable world that seems to be waiting just around the bend. Even the magic in this genre hybrid feels tangible and authentic, a deepening of cultural traditions and indigenous religious beliefs.
At a time like the present, when immigrants are in such physical/political danger and law enforcement’s violation of minority rights is tragically underscored with frightening regularity, brave novels like “Ink” become not only a necessity, but a moral obligation.
The inks in this book--those marked with tattoos denoting their immigration status--are, as they are in this world, Latinos. All Latinos. Even those who are citizens are tattooed, likely so that even they can some day be rounded up. (Notice, every Latino is tattooed. Not every immigrant, every Latino. No matter how many generations back their family came to the US, no matter their legal immigration status. Because it isn't immigration that's the true issue, it's race.)
Something that struck me in particular was a scene where a white man and a Latina woman were discussing proposed ink regulations. She was upset by it, because even though she was a citizen she could see how this harmed her. He commented something along the lines of it is what it is, easily accepting these laws because they didn't directly harm him. This is now. This is institutionalized racism.
I also said once during reading that a certain couple was making me grin like a fool while I was reading about their courtship. The characters in this book feel so real in themselves and in their various relationships. Some are lovers, some friends, some only acquaintances, but all are brought together by this process and all live their lives with it constantly in the background. And that's part of the message: that they keep living their lives, and the fight goes on.
The immigrant population in this society (which seems otherwise indistinguishable from modern U.S.)are "inked" or tattooed with identifying bar codes that track their immigration status. We enter the story at a point in which the policy had already taken hold and it's consequences began to spin out. Those marked became even easier to discriminate against. Fear, hatred, racism; the focal point for all became anyone who was "other-ed" in this way. Volunteer border patrol agents would take the law into their own hands... law enforcement agents would see color as a mark of criminal intent... ultimately marginalization wouldn't satisfy and things got increasingly worse. The consequences are laid out in manner similar to what we have witnessed throughout history.
Though dark and realistic, the story is threaded through with hope, passion, love and magic. Vourvoulias incorporated some of the more mystical aspects of Latin American culture into the lives of her characters. Magic was used as a natural tool of survival and a deep well of emotional strength.
Her characters loved deeply and in realistically flawed ways. Not every love story had its "happily ever after," making each more precious for the time it had in this world.
I read Ink obsessively and was sad to have to leave the world and vibrant characters Vourvoulias had developed.