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Chains of Silver

by | Apr 17, 2018 | Book Tours | 0 comments

Chains of SilverAuthor: Claudia H. Long
Title: Chains of Silver
Published On: Mar 15 2018
Publisher: Five Directions Press
Pages: 197
Format: eBook, Print

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Crypto-Jews, secret Jews of Spain and Mexico, are still very much in danger in 1721. Fourteen-year-old Marcela Leon's parents are dragged away to face the last auto-da-fé of the Inquisition in colonial Mexico. Although her parents survive, Marcela’s life is forever changed. Sent to the Castillo hacienda for her protection, Marcela has difficulty grasping that safety requires silence about her beliefs. Her forthright speech and budding sexuality lead her into situations beyond her comprehension, ending with her exile to the northern silver-mining town of Zacatecas, where she becomes housekeeper to a Catholic priest.

Marcela grows up to be one of the richest, most powerful women in Zacatecas, adjusting to her separation from her mother and the loss of her religion. But she can neither understand nor forgive her mother’s obstinacy and abandonment. Her husband's death unleashes a new cascade of disasters, and Marcela at last recognizes and appreciates the source of her mother's power, and her own.

“You have become a woman in the two months you were gone,” my mother said as we finished the dish of chard and gourd. “My belly is full for the first time in two months as well.”
I looked away. I preferred her sharp tongue, her biting comments; her humility, I am ashamed to remember, shamed me. And so, although it terrified me to mention it, I needed to break through her misery. “People say you glow, Mother. I saw it myself for a moment when you came home.”
My grandfather pushed his chair back from the table and left the room without a word. And without a blessing. My mother bowed her head, and I could see her lips move over the old, familiar after-meal thanks, words she no longer dared say out loud. When she had finished she looked me in the eye. “I don’t glow. People see what they want to see. And we are eating from that, so do not complain.”
“We are eating from the garden. There is enough there to feed us without the degrading begging.”
“The degradation preceded the begging, Estér.” She called me by my Hebrew name, a name never used except on the Sabbath. I found it reassuring, almost comforting. “If the populace, fools they are, want to see Santa Susana under that hideous yellow cloth, let them. We must eat, and until your father sends money, I do what I must. Judge if you wish, but judge silently.”
At fourteen I could not be silent. But if my mother was still under the sambenito, still crafty and resilient, I could accept it. There was another burning question, another anger in me. “Tell me about Father. Where did he go?”
She shrugged. “He’s not a scholar, that is for certain, but he has a way in the market. His letter said he went north, as I told you. Your uncle is in Zacatecas, and perhaps he went there. We are stripped of all they knew we had, but there are family interests in the silver mines, and I hope that he has gone to claim them. If we don’t starve to death before he sends money, we should survive.”
“And Grandfather?”
She pursed her lips, as she had done when she first mentioned my father. “This is more than he can bear. It would be best to find him a refuge elsewhere. But I cannot live here alone, and your father said so cryptically that we would keep the house, though what sleight-of-hand he used for that I do not know. So here I have a home; your grandfather, shattered though he is, has a home; and so I must gather what little food is thrown to me, in exchange for a touch of my glowing sambenito.”
It was only when I was a woman nearing fifty that I appreciated what she had done.

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About the Author

About Claudia H. Long

Claudia Long is the author of Josefina's Sin, The Duel for Consuelo, The Harlot's Pen, and Chains of Silver. Three of these take place in Colonial Mexico during the Inquisition. She lives in Northern California where currently practices law as a mediator for employment and housing discrimination cases as well as complex business disputes. She is married and has two grown children and one magnificent grandchild.

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