Book by MARIO ALBERTO ZAMBRANO
Lotería is a Mexican card game that is played like bingo but with images instead of numbers. It is also the title of Mario Alberto Zambrano’s first novel about a traumatized child and her family, whose lives on this side of the border go disastrously wrong.
Zambrano uses lotería cards as a device to tell his story. Narrated by 11-year-old Luz Maria Castillo, the story is divided into 54 short vignettes, each beginning with a full-color picture of a lotería card. It is a gorgeous and expensive-looking book. (Applause for artist Jarrod Taylor here.)
A brief primer: The cards are printed with simple images: The Rose, The Drunk, The Mermaid, The Sun, etc. Each image has a corresponding dicho, or saying, but the dealer often improvises these sayings with inside jokes. Once the dealer calls out the saying or joke associated with the card, the players look for the image on their own tabla, or board. The first player to mark off a line of images wins. Lotería is good family fun. But in Zambrano’s Lotería, the Castillo family holds the worst hand ever. Poverty, border economics, and dysfunction tear them apart and rob them of hope.