Faltas: Letters to Everyone in My Hometown Who Isn’t My Rapist
Cecilia Gentili, 205 pgs, LittlePuss Press, littlepuss.net, $18.95
Nowadays most people don’t really write letters, but there’s a long history of writers using them to explain them-selves. Indeed, the tradition goes all the way back to Cicero and Pliny the Younger. Cecilia Gentili’s book Faltasis a modern addition to this canon. Through a series of letters to people she grew up with, we learn not only about growing up queer and trans in 1970s Argentina, but how Gentili became the person she is today.
Faltas isn’t exactly a fun read. Gentili writes of being dirt-poor, a dysfunctional relationship with her parents, and sexual abuse. At times one wonders how she managed to escape with her life. But it’s not a downer of a book—Gentili is funny, and tells her story with charm and grace. Nobody was rich in her hometown, but some people had power over Gentili and weren’t afraid of using it. From a young age, she was sexually abused by a neighbor. He’d tell her things she wanted to hear (“you’re my girl,” etc.) and in return, used her for sex. Elsewhere, Gentili writes of Dona Marchesi, a midwife who “as long as I can remember she could see my thoughts… and she hated me for them.” Her mother, Alemana, was distant and exists almost as a peer, not a parent.
Gentili uses her sense of humor to set the reader at ease while she tells stories of cruelty and abuse. When she hooks up with her friend Juan, she quickly realizes they’re both bottoms: “Clearly this was not right,” she writes. “We were more like those baby birds we had seen in National Geographic…except instead of food, we were waiting for dick.”
Gentili’s lived and worked in the States for over a decade, even doing a one-woman show, but Faltas is her first book.It shows her as a compelling storyteller who makes the ghosts of her hometown come alive. It’s a welcome and refreshing take on the tired trans memoir genre.