41 pages 1 hour read

Elizabeth Acevedo

Family Lore

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2023

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The Cost of Silence

Though the Marte women in Family Lore love one another, their relationships are nevertheless strained by silencing. Elizabeth Acevado suggests the Marte family’s gaps in knowledge not only perpetuate misunderstanding but patriarchy. As a member of the family’s youngest generation, Ona explicitly poses the question, “How do lineages of women from colonized places, where emphasis is put on silent enduring, learn when and where to confide in their own family if forbearance is the only attitude elevated and modeled?” (131). In the novel, the answer lies in silence, isolation: Despite being surrounded by other women, the Martes lack support due to self-isolation. For example, the Martes lack medical knowledge of the female body, leading to painful situations such as Ona’s reliance on pornography to reclaim her vaginal gift and Mamá Silvia and Matilde’s miscarriages. Outside of medical issues, Pastora never learns of her mother’s hatred for the Santana family on her behalf. The Martes’ refusal to clarify and question norms upholds patriarchy, as it thrives on keeping women ignorant. For example, though Matilde’s husband Rafa is an adulterer, Silvia insists the couple stay together, as Matilde’s inability to conceive makes her “broken.” Silvia accepts Rafa’s behavior as the norm, dooming her daughter for years.