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Inheriting Our Names: An Imagined True Memoir of Spain's Pact of Forgetting

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"My mother, a ghost child like myself, was born in the shadow of my grandmother’s devastating and consuming grief, not unlike the pool of despair and sorrow in which I was born. Neither of us viable distractions for our mothers, neither of us salve, much less salvation, from their losses." In the winter of 1936, the year the Spanish Civil War erupts in Seville, Vargas McPhe "My mother, a ghost child like myself, was born in the shadow of my grandmother’s devastating and consuming grief, not unlike the pool of despair and sorrow in which I was born. Neither of us viable distractions for our mothers, neither of us salve, much less salvation, from their losses." In the winter of 1936, the year the Spanish Civil War erupts in Seville, Vargas McPherson’s grandfather trembles against the cemetery wall in front of a firing squad. Her grandmother holds her dying first born daughter. Rations are once again cut. And into this profoundly censured grief, Vargas McPherson’s mother is born. Silenced through shame, cultural tradition, and Spain’s official Pact of Forgetting, her family has unknowingly bequeathed these overwhelming and unnamed tragedies they could not carry themselves. Each of us carry untold stories from before we were born and in Vargas McPherson’s luminous memoir, she seeks to reclaim and name her family’s secret history. Traveling to Seville, Vargas McPherson reimagines her family’s lives during the brutality of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco dictatorship. There she uncovers layers of religious mysticism, class struggle, and the catastrophic losses uncannily reflected in the names of her family. Unearthing each of the names, she embraces and holds space for the pain endured by her grandmother and mother and arrives at her own transformational truth, releasing her inheritance of grief. A sweeping epic, rich with sensual and palpable prose, Inheriting Our Names is a searingly poignant and transcendent memoir of family, war, and transgenerational grief.


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"My mother, a ghost child like myself, was born in the shadow of my grandmother’s devastating and consuming grief, not unlike the pool of despair and sorrow in which I was born. Neither of us viable distractions for our mothers, neither of us salve, much less salvation, from their losses." In the winter of 1936, the year the Spanish Civil War erupts in Seville, Vargas McPhe "My mother, a ghost child like myself, was born in the shadow of my grandmother’s devastating and consuming grief, not unlike the pool of despair and sorrow in which I was born. Neither of us viable distractions for our mothers, neither of us salve, much less salvation, from their losses." In the winter of 1936, the year the Spanish Civil War erupts in Seville, Vargas McPherson’s grandfather trembles against the cemetery wall in front of a firing squad. Her grandmother holds her dying first born daughter. Rations are once again cut. And into this profoundly censured grief, Vargas McPherson’s mother is born. Silenced through shame, cultural tradition, and Spain’s official Pact of Forgetting, her family has unknowingly bequeathed these overwhelming and unnamed tragedies they could not carry themselves. Each of us carry untold stories from before we were born and in Vargas McPherson’s luminous memoir, she seeks to reclaim and name her family’s secret history. Traveling to Seville, Vargas McPherson reimagines her family’s lives during the brutality of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco dictatorship. There she uncovers layers of religious mysticism, class struggle, and the catastrophic losses uncannily reflected in the names of her family. Unearthing each of the names, she embraces and holds space for the pain endured by her grandmother and mother and arrives at her own transformational truth, releasing her inheritance of grief. A sweeping epic, rich with sensual and palpable prose, Inheriting Our Names is a searingly poignant and transcendent memoir of family, war, and transgenerational grief.

35 review for Inheriting Our Names: An Imagined True Memoir of Spain's Pact of Forgetting

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Gibian

    It's not a great revelation that we carry the pain of our parents. But how many of us ever really know what those pains are and the depth and breadth of intergenerational pain? Vargas-McPherson goes on a quest, back to her mother's native Sevilla, Spain, to try to untangle the rigorously silenced past. In this "Imagined True Memoir," she is poetic and thoughtful, courageous and insightful as she sits in the same church that her mother and her grandmother did. She tells the stories of the impact It's not a great revelation that we carry the pain of our parents. But how many of us ever really know what those pains are and the depth and breadth of intergenerational pain? Vargas-McPherson goes on a quest, back to her mother's native Sevilla, Spain, to try to untangle the rigorously silenced past. In this "Imagined True Memoir," she is poetic and thoughtful, courageous and insightful as she sits in the same church that her mother and her grandmother did. She tells the stories of the impact of the Spanish Civil War and Franco on her family members as well as the impact of the policy of "forgetting." The conclusion she reaches is one many of us do come to: that our parents' limitations are in response to horror and grief. But the heart, the curiosity, the penetrating lens into what might have led to her own particular family's pain - that makes this book a worthy read indeed.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Suzyharris

    I found this story captivating- one family’s experience of the Spanish Civil War and its reverberations through generations. Some moments I will never forget.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Maddie

    Inheriting Our Names is a stunning book. Vargas McPherson paints vivid imagery of pre-WWII Seville, scenes that are so visceral I felt as if I was hearing the music the dancers were dancing to and tasting the smoke in the air. The tender, thoughtful way the author explores and unveils the transgenerational grief that was carried by not only this one family but by all of Spain is beautiful. I highly recommend this book. The soft, magical realism paired with the historical and personal story is ca Inheriting Our Names is a stunning book. Vargas McPherson paints vivid imagery of pre-WWII Seville, scenes that are so visceral I felt as if I was hearing the music the dancers were dancing to and tasting the smoke in the air. The tender, thoughtful way the author explores and unveils the transgenerational grief that was carried by not only this one family but by all of Spain is beautiful. I highly recommend this book. The soft, magical realism paired with the historical and personal story is captivating; it reads like poetry.

  4. 5 out of 5

    John

    Inheriting Our Names is an astonishing, richly layered, and profoundly rewarding read. In this “imagined true memoir,” C. Vargas McPherson showers her readers with gifts, including: • a compelling, multi-generational saga with the sweep of Isabel Allende’s work • sharply drawn and tenderly portrayed characters with familial relationships as rich and deep as those conjured by Amy Tan. • descriptions of Seville that let the reader synesthetically experience that city of almost a century ago as vivid Inheriting Our Names is an astonishing, richly layered, and profoundly rewarding read. In this “imagined true memoir,” C. Vargas McPherson showers her readers with gifts, including: • a compelling, multi-generational saga with the sweep of Isabel Allende’s work • sharply drawn and tenderly portrayed characters with familial relationships as rich and deep as those conjured by Amy Tan. • descriptions of Seville that let the reader synesthetically experience that city of almost a century ago as vividly as Angela’s Ashes does for Limerick of the 1930’s. • the pageantry and mysticism of devout Catholicism equaling Garcia-Marquez • a primer on the Spanish Civil War, that little understood precursor to World War II that foreshadows so much of our current political landscape. So much more than a simple sum of its ingredients, this story is an intimate and compassionate observation of families coping with grief, death, and the loss of children. It is a reckoning on the politics of war-ravaged cultures and the human tolls imposed on them. It contains unspeakably transcendent moments, and all of it is embroidered in lyrical, exquisite prose.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Abigail DeWitt

    I love that this book is described as "an imagined true memoir" and, indeed, it is both searingly honest and richly imagined. I was utterly engrossed by this lyrical, profound story of secrets and revelations, trauma and transformation, and am so glad to have discovered this writer. I love that this book is described as "an imagined true memoir" and, indeed, it is both searingly honest and richly imagined. I was utterly engrossed by this lyrical, profound story of secrets and revelations, trauma and transformation, and am so glad to have discovered this writer.

  6. 4 out of 5

    C. Vargas-McPherson

    Three years of war. Forty years of silence. Thirty years of forgetting. One day of remembering. INHERITING OUR NAMES portrays a family trauma inherited from the Spanish Civil War, suppressed from memory, and passed through successive generations and across continents until one woman returns to Seville to reconstruct – and reclaim – her family’s history. A richly layered and lush exploration of transgenerational trauma, grief and release.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Micielle

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kye Cantey

  9. 4 out of 5

    Denise

  10. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Trenary

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ken

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lori Bennett

  13. 4 out of 5

    Peter

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dayna

  15. 4 out of 5

    Amy Wigand

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mae

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mbk

  19. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Gerhart

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brandi Valdez

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bettye Short

  22. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

  23. 4 out of 5

    Melissa ahmed

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sam

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kayla Kemner

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lori Piscicelli

  28. 5 out of 5

    Joan

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  30. 5 out of 5

    Pam

  31. 4 out of 5

    Madeleine

  32. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

  33. 4 out of 5

    Angela DeSilva

  34. 4 out of 5

    Christina Stockard

  35. 4 out of 5

    Chip Howard

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