26 Mar / The House of the Pain of Others: Chronicle of a Small Genocide by Julián Herbert, translated by Christina MacSweeney [in Booklist]
The “largest mass slaughter of Asians on the American continent” claimed the lives of over 300 Chinese immigrants in May 1911 in Torreón, in the Mexican state of Coahuila. Despite its magnitude, the massacre remains a “buried episode,” obscured by substantial erroneous coverage, that writer, musician, and teacher Julián Herbert describes as “the national fiction of a small genocide.” Amidst too many unreliable “incarnations,” what was missing was “a croníca, with its blend of literature and journalism … an all-encompassing report.”
With exhaustive zeal, Herbert interviews descendants, archivists, officials, and conducts impromptu “what-do-you-know?” conversations with Torreón cab drivers. He compiles several-century histories of China, the U.S., and Mexico. He investigates Sinophobia across the North American continent. He studies immigration patterns and cultural and economic clashes.
He confronts “the national novel about the small genocide … denial, calumny, obfuscation, contempt, half-truths,” and vigilantly reveals how 300 shoeless Chinese bodies were dumped in a mass grave and the betrayals that continued afterward. Award-winning translator Christina MacSweeney enables anglophone readers access to Herbert’s electrifying testimony, first published in Mexico in 2015.