Plot/Idea: McPherson is raising up and empowering marginalized voices in remembering and dissecting a moment in history that is often overlooked. While exploring the intersecting experiences over multiple generations, she uncovers familial connections and explores the devastating effects of intergenerational trauma.
Prose: The prose is poetic and filled with Spanish throughout, which assists the reader in feeling more present; the book's language is continuously eloquent and flowing. On occasion there are very minute grammatical errors, but these do not detract from the beauty inherent in the writing.
Originality: While many wars have garnered mass amounts of attention from the world, others have not. There have been countless genocides, civil wars, political uprisings, etc. that have caused horrible atrocities in the lives of citizens, and the rest of the world has all but turned a blind eye to them. McPherson has put a spotlight on an experience that has shaped the lives of many, but that has hardly been explored in media. Inheriting our Names is an important book for marginalized voices, bringing to light the experiences of a people often ignored.
Character Development/Execution: The book is beautifully laid out and clear, with fonts pleasant to the eye. The shift between narrators can leave to a degree of reader disorientation, but this is a minor distraction.
Date Submitted: January 05, 2022
"Inheriting Our Names, C. Vargas-McPherson's lyrical account of the Spanish Civil War's impact on her family, is subtitled An imagined true memoir of Spain's pact of forgetting. This paradoxical description expresses the dual consciousness of living with traumatic memories that one's society refuses to acknowledge. These fraught political silences are paralleled by personal bereavements that disrupt mother-daughter bonding for two generations.On both the political and the personal level, then, Inheriting Our Names underscores the importance of remembering history so we will not repeat it. The Spanish Civil War is given scant attention in classrooms and historical dramas, as the Nazis tend to steal the spotlight. Yet through this book I discovered chilling similarities to our current situation in America.There's also an analogy to our fraught debates about how—or even whether—to teach painful truths about racism and colonization. Vargas-McPherson notes that in 1977, two years after Franco died, Spain passed the Law of Amnesty, which limited what could be written or spoken about the atrocities of his government. 'While those who fought for the nationalist cause were glorified by Franco's regime and the Roman Catholic Church, the bodies of those who opposed Franco are buried in countless unmarked shallow graves all over Spain.' In 2007, the country enacted the Law of Historical Memory, which finally acknowledged and condemned the Nationalists' violence, gave descendants the right to look for the victims' remains, and established a Truth Commission. Inheriting Our Names is part of that opening-up project."
"I love that this book is described as "an imagined true memoir" and, indeed, it is both searingly honest and richly imagined. I was utterly engrossed by this lyrical, profound story of secrets and revelations, trauma and transformation, and am so glad to have discovered this writer."
"What an amazing book. Trying to make sense of her own childhood experience, the author has travelled back three generations in her family's history to Seville in Southern Spain. There, as the fascist dictator Franco comes to power, the author attempts to imagine the grief of her grandmother who lost a young daughter to hunger. She explores how the suffering caused by this loss affected the generations to come. There is much to learn in this book about the history of Spain's civil war and also about how trauma can be transmitted from mother to child, but this is not a dry history book or a textbook of psychology. It is a lyrical and loving act of imagination, a painful but beautifully-told story, which feels like a magical realist novel. So much can be hidden in families, and even more so when generations have been brought up under a terrifying regime of silencing. But C Vargas McPherson has bravely ventured into hidden chapters of her family history, and in the act of retrieval she has attempted to release what darkness has been trapped. And throughout this book, she dares to explore how we are to live and be loving in a world where such horrors can happen."
"The focus on parentage and ancestry feels very Gothic, and the inclusion of Gothic visual elements supports that material quite well. It's all very delicate, like a stained-glass window—it's amazing to find so much lightness in a story about decades of brutality and trauma."
"An intensely rich and beautiful book written with the poetic touch of a writer whose heart unmistakably beats with Andalusian blood, Inheriting Our Names: An Imagined True Memoir of Spain’s Pact of Forgetting by C. Vargas McPherson is the devastating story based on true events of a family torn asunder by Franco’s Civil War in 1930s Spain. Tragedy mingles with religion and tradition as hunger and death approach the family’s barrio in the city of Seville. Now, their granddaughter, the author, travels to Spain to imagine their story, and uncover the truth that stays silent under Spain’s so-called Pact of Forgetting. This is a story of grief and pain, but also of healing and identity, of three women separated by time and war who weave together in a stunningly passionate examination of hidden history and its effects on the past, present, and future."