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Lotería by Mario Zambrano, graduate, the Riggio Program in Writing and Democracy at The New School

HarperCollins Publishers, 2013

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With her violent, alcoholic father in jail and our feisty older sister in Intensive Care, the life of eleven-year-old Luz Maria Castillo has slid into limbo. Stuck in state custody until her probable return to Mexico, she passes her time by dreamingly shuffling through a deck of Lotería cards. (These picture cards are used in a Latin American game of chance, somewhat similar to Bingo.) As she contemplates these images of mermaids, musicians, and ladders, Luz muses on associations from her formative young life. Arranged in 53 brief chapters, Mario Zambrano’s debut novel functions like a series of still lifes that move, incrementally rendering a portrait of a young girl searching for equilibrium in the midst of Diaspora.