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And I would take this in. Certainly he meant her papers, but in my young mind it was she I saw going up in flames, up into black curling smoke. It was her hair I saw shriveling to ashes and rising, her flesh melting; it was her eyeglasses I saw exploding from the heat and thenas in the moviesonly the frames that survived and landed, with a dramatic thunk, at the edge of a circle of ashes. It would be the end of a scene, the glasses in the foreground of a low-angle closeup shot in which smoke and a few glowing embers of orange were a blur in the background. My mother would be gone from me; I feared this constantly. She was vulnerable and a little afraid of the world and smaller than average. She sat on a pillow when she drove and wore high heels everywhere, even at home. Whenever she went alone to a movie or to run an errand, I prayed for her safe return. I worried she might be kidnapped by a strange man as she crossed a parking lot, and we would be left to live with just our father. It is true my mother almost burned to death once in her childhood. She was playing in the kitchen with her older brothers when they turned on the stove and accidentally set her on fire. It was a gas stove; the flames jumped, or my mother was standing too close. If it had not been for an aunt passing unexpectedly by the house that afternoon, that might have been the end of my mother, then and there. But the aunt threw a blanket over her and saved her. My mother was six years old. She later told me this story as a kind of justification: it was the reason she never taught us how to cook. As for my mother’s collection of newspapersthese have since been thrown away, too. are bleak and downright tragic: incest, overdose, paranoia, as well as the fault lines of racism in the Latino community. Granados, who is now 36, was born and grew up in El Paso. Her father was a truck driver, her mother a secretary. They worked to move the family from the barrio when the author and her siblings were still quite young. After finishing college, Granados landed a series of jobs with newspapers in El Paso, Austin, and California, following the footsteps of the boyfriend whom she would later marry. Somewhere around Long Beach she began to think that “this business” wasn’t really for her and started searching for something different. She joined VISTA and ran a tutoring center, edited a fashion magazine for Latinas, and found her way into a workshop run by author and fellow El Paso native Dagoberto Gilb. Eventually Granados figured out that what she really wanted to do was tell her own stories. She enrolled in the creative writing program at Texas State University in San Marcos and received her MFA degree last May. Her first teachers, however, were the members of her familyher real introduction to storytelling. Granados says that like everyone else in her family she was infected withperhaps blessed is a better wordwhat she refers to as “the embellishment gene.” At the end of the book, she offers a quote from her mother and sharpest critic: “It just comes out of her like a pedo,” CHRISTINE GRANADOS “I’ve got so many stories,” says Christine Granados. “But they’re not the truth. The truth would mean going back to my grandmother and asking her all these things.” Instead Granados has crafted her own version of truth by assembling a vibrant collection of charactersclueless Anglo lawyers; overprotective fathers; daughters who mother their mothers; hapless receptionists who yearn to be a part of the telenovela social and sexual whirlwind of their low-lift co-workers; Evangelical ministers who engage in affairs with their sisters-in-law, \(as revealed during a marathon funeral and curanderasand turned them all into a divine comedy set in El Paso. Or to be more precise, El Chuco. There is always an edge to her writing, a layer of irony and pathos that resides somewhere deep below the surface. Drifting through her debut collection, Brides and Sinners in El Chuco, are moments that Christine Granados photo by Ken Esten Cooke JULY 22, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5