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In a recent interview, Mexican writer Frida Cartas said that “escribir es dialogar con la gente” [“writing is having a conversation with people”] and that’s apparent right out of the gate in her self-published Transporte a la infancia, a memoir told in fragments from the perspective of Frida the child, Frida the adolescent, Frida who always was but hadn’t yet come out as trans.
In the prologue, she writes of the assumption that her mother was pregnant with twins: “I love to say sarcastically that that was my first contribution to at-home, anarcho-feminist abortion: swallowing up the other baby.” The erroneous duality of Frida’s in utero experience continues earthside; assigned male at birth, there was always a tension bubbling beneath her assumed identity, one which provoked ire in her father and acceptance from her mother. And it’s Lubia, her mother, who functions almost as a second narrator throughout the book, adding her own recollection of events to the narrative put forward by Cartas.
Many of the stories are shocking. In the opening chapter ‘Mátalo’, Cartas’ mother hands her husband a knife and instructs him to kill Frida if he hates her that much, while other sections talk of sexual abuse and bullying at the hands of older boys and men. Although the writing sometimes felt a little baggy—in need of a corset-tug of editing—Cartas’ overwhelmingly conversational style, peppered with slang and that especially Mexican use of verbs that feel like marbles in the mouth (like zangolotear and cuchichear) worked to draw me into each story for the most part. Of course, some fragmentary pieces stand out above others, including ‘La que de amarillo se viste…’ and ‘Como dijo Shakira’.
However, aside from painting a vivid picture of a lived trans experience by way of 28 distinct vignettes, I also read Transporte a la infancia as a love letter to Lubia, Frida’s mother. Described as a not-especially-feminine young woman originally from Oaxaca to whom Cartas clings like a “garrapata” (“tick”), Lubia is depicted as unswervingly accepting of Cartas throughout, always coming to her defense, be it literally or figuratively, like in ‘Reina del Carnaval’ when shoes became the reason Frida couldn’t be a queen rather than the fact she was read as male.
That’s why her seemingly abrupt absence from (the much shorter) Part Two of Transporte a la infancia—which covers broad swathes of Cartas’ adolescence in a more assured voice with clearer contextual considerations—struck me as odd and, also, a little sad. Similarly, a few threads were introduced and dropped, like the arrival of her adopted younger sister who Cartas hints that she eventually played a hand in raising. Maybe I’m just nosy or maybe it didn’t fit with the theme of childhood and adolescence draped over the collection, but I wanted to know more on both counts.
Even so, Transporte a la infancia offers a glimpse into the realities of a trans childhood in northern Mexico, one which is sprinkled with self-deprecating humour and given heart by repeated instances of true sincerity.
Buy Transporte a la infancia: U-Tópicas (Mexico)
(Please note that this book is self-published and therefore decently hard to find. Reach out to the author directly for more info.)
About Frida Cartas
Frida Cartas (Mazatlán, 1979) is a self-published writer of memoir and manifesto, as well as a self-declared ‘señora ama de casa’, based in Mexico City.
Other Books by Frida Cartas: Cómo ser trans y morir asesinada en el intento (Queen Ludd, 2017)