Carmen and Grace is a story set in the Bronx about feeling both trapped and loved. Not just stuck, but attached to the very people and places that threaten, yet paradoxically secured, your survival.
Once Carmen and Grace learn to see themselves, compared to others, escaping poverty becomes the underworld journey they must attempt. What they cannot imagine is that it will take them even deeper into the very center of the world they are trying to leave. Getting out becomes both a mantra and a dizzying vicious circle of crime and deception.
When Doña Durka first comes into their lives, in their early adolescence, she changes everything. As both a beneficent mother figure, and fierce protector, she teaches them that survival is neither easy, nor guaranteed. Durka’s unexpected death leaves Carmen and Grace’s lives upended in ways that force them to question each other as well as themselves; a situation intensified by Carmen’s secret pregnancy.
The story takes place in New York City over more than two decades from the early nineties to 2014, a time where both drug violence and draconian drug laws, that were notoriously applied unjustly and unequally, deeply scarred a generation of young people. As Carmen and Grace both walk the spiral of trying to be loyal to those they love, and free to be themselves, they form a loving sisterhood of women known as the D.O.D who are tightly bonded in their spirituality and merciless support for one another. How can Grace turn back when she is the only one who can protect them? How can Carmen leave the only family she’s ever known?
I write with a desire to both entertain and unsettle. My favourite kind of book to read is one that propels me through world I want to judge and question, but feel suddenly a part of and more able to understand from within by the reading of it. Carmen and Grace asks readers to consider that every underworld journey is both a material and spiritual one. Perhaps most importantly, I write from the perspective of living in/with, and loving, a place and people often portrayed one dimensionally. The heart of the Bronx, and Carmen and Grace, goes way beyond poverty and crime, and is held in the universal quest to be seen, valued, known and understood.
You can now order Carmen and Grace by Melissa Coss Aquino online.