Bad Girls by Camila Sosa Villada is a translated work. I haven’t read many translated works, as far as I know (I am sometimes really bad about checking these things). On one hand I would love to read translated works, on another I am not sure how I feel about them. While diversity comes from reading translated works, it is hard to tell how much of the work is the authors and how much is the translators.
In this case the translator is Kit Maude. The book is beautifully written…or translated…or both.
The story blends magical realism, incorporating Argentinian folklore, with autobiographical fiction. The book tells the story of a group of travesti, transgender women sex workers, and how their life changes after one of them finds an abandoned baby in the park where they work. This first person story is non-linear, taking place in the present as it revisits the Camila’s dysfunctional, abusive, and poor family as she grows up queer.
While the ending is somewhat hopeful, and we know Camila comes out of these experiences okay (after all, she wrote this book, acts, and does activist work), it is a sad book. It is hard to know how much of the authors life has been fabricated into fiction, and how much of the book really happened, but one gets the sense more of it is true than not as she writes about the abuse and ridicule both from her father and many of the clients she entertains and as she writes about the deaths of some of her friends either by AIDS/HIV or under unknown circumstances.
These themes also rum through The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara. I do not plan on writing a review is, as it is, more or less, fanfiction of Paris is Burning. It’s not a bad book, and anyone that has enjoyed the documentary will enjoy the book. The parallel I want to draw is about the tragic and uncertain life of transgender sex workers.
These kind of stories deserve to be told. People really do live these kinds of unfortunate lives, either by choice or because their options run out or worse, were never there. In the case of Bad Girls, the fantasy elements soften the story and make it read more like a fairy tale.