Flesh Wounds and Purple Flowers: The Cha-Cha Years


175 pages
ISBN 1-55152-098-2
DDC C813'.6





Reviewed by Ian C. Nelson

Ian C. Nelson is librarian emeritus and former Assistant Director of
Libraries (Collection Management & Budget) University of Saskatchewan
Library and Dramaturge for the Festival de la Dramaturgie des Prairies.


Flesh Wounds and Purple Flowers is a finely tuned novel about the Latino
experience of immigration to our northern country and its “stilted
theatre of multiculturalism.” The perspective is not just Latino,
however, for the protagonist (whose first-person reflections alternate
in short chapters with those of traditional narration) is an outspoken
gay Chilean immigrant, and the flesh wounds and purple flowers of the
title refer to bruises from rough sexual bondage and skin lesions from
AIDS—the results of tumultuous, promiscuous relationships.

In spite of this and the specific descriptions of some encounters, the
novel is pre-eminently a message about safe sex from a loca (a queen)
who embraces Genet’s politics of the oppressed and is critical of
North American regulated freedom and enforced acceptance of lifestyles.
These seeming paradoxes find a home in the chaotic Latino temperament of
Camilo and his/her friends as they carve lives and loves in Chile, Cuba,
New York, Seattle, and Vancouver.

Camilo often has recourse to popular song, in English or Spanish, to
find expression for his feelings. In fact, there is a lot of
counterpoint Spanish gracing the text (phrases, folk sayings, parts of
the Spanish mass). This material may irritate readers not familiar with
the idiom since the linear narrative almost never has an exact English
echo for the expressed nuance. Indeed, the prose itself abounds in
provocative “attitude” and descriptions that are, if not purple, at
least as tortured as the celebrated Latin American religious
iconography. One simple example: “A clumsy choreography of garbled
words plunges out from my tumescent lips, leaping in capricious
pirouettes that chill the mid-air like ice picks, falling to the ground
and crashing into a diaspora of crystal tears.”

Francisco Ibaсez-Carrasco was born in Santiago, Chile, came to Canada
in 1985, and leads an admittedly double life as a social
researcher-for-hire and as a published writer of gay erotica. He teaches
at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C.


Ibañez-Carrasco, Francisco., “Flesh Wounds and Purple Flowers: The Cha-Cha Years,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 25, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/7376.