Love War Stories by Ivelisse Rodriguez

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Title: Love War Stories
Author: Ivelisse Rodriguez
Genre: Short Stories
Topics: Love, Family, Relationships
Publisher: The Feminist Press at CUNY
Publishing Year: 2018
Pages: 200 pages
Format Read: Paperback
My Rating: 4.5/5
 

This year I’ve been making it a goal of mine to seek out and read more short story collections and it’s been an incredible shift in my reading life. Short stories collections have the extra challenge of creating a world to immerse yourself in, developing conflict and delivering a gut punch all in a couple of pages, which as a reader can be greatly entertaining and rewarding. So when I saw that Love War Stories, a collection centered around the expectations of love as a Latinx was coming out this year from The Feminist Press, I knew I needed to get my hands on it and I’m so glad I did! Love War Stories delivers a complex and heartfelt look at love in each of its stories; it is an absolute treat for the mind and heart to read!

Summary: Puerto Rican girls are brought up to want one thing: true love. Yet they are raised by women whose lives are marked by broken promises, grief, and betrayal. While some believe that they’ll be the ones to finally make it work, others swear not to repeat cycles of violence. This collection documents how these “love wars” break out across generations as individuals find themselves caught in the crosshairs of romance, expectations, and community. 

Each story offers a different take on what it means to love while Latinx (Puerto Rican specifically, but each theme feels widely applicable too). Love takes a different shape in each story. Sometimes it’s passionate but secret, other times it’s unrequited, sometimes it lives in a memory only. The protagonist and targets of affections change in each story as well as the circumstances giving the reader different lenses (geographical, socio-economical etc.) through which to explore the central theme of love and all its complications. If you are looking for neat conclusions and definitive answers you won’t find that here. What you will find are stories that make you pause and reflect after finishing each one and might even make you a little uncomfortable with how close they hit home.

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Love War Stories beautifully articulates a lot of sentiments that will be familiar to anyone who has experienced the intersection of cultural expectations and generational clashes when it comes to expectations of love and relationships. Although it is an overgeneralization, I find that Latinx culture often contains contradictions when it comes to love. One one hand we romanticize ‘true love’: it is everywhere: in our songs, TV shows and pop culture. On the other hand the permissiveness that we give ourselves or others to talk about and experience different kinds of love can be quite narrow, rigid and defined by tradition. More often than not these expectations about love are observed and passed down from the older generation to the younger generation who in turn perpetuates or rebels against them in their own way. Rodriguez deftly explores these contradictions, double standards and what happens when you step outside this narrow path. The result is an emotionally raw but beautiful collection of stories.

As is the case with any short story collections each reader will probably take away something different and will resonate with different stories based on their own experiences. Personally, my favorites where the titular Love War Stories which came at the end and The Belindas, a slightly longer piece in the middle. The Belindas is gritty and urban and contains one of the best character development elements I have read in a long time with a twist that had my heart pounding right up util the end. The titular Love War Stories is a little more philosophical in its narrative but does an excellent job of wrapping the stories together in a way that will leave you breathless. Ultimately this is a collection that bravely brings to the light what is often left unspoken.
 

Read if you like:

  • Explorations of inter-generational conflict and cultural norms
  • Feelings: honest with a side of messy
  • The ‘it’s complicated’ Facebook relationship status