Reviews: The Voting Booth After Dark by Vanessa Garcia
Review: The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive by Vanessa Libertad Garcia
The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive highlights the lifestyles of a minority group often overlooked by popular literature today: gay and lesbian Latino young adults. The raw exposure illumed by this collection of poems and short stories can be overwhelming to take in all at once, even though the writing only takes up 92 short pages.
Vanessa Libertad Garcia does not shy away from using the graphic images associated with the impulsive, reckless lifestyles of the young people in this collection of work. Almost every installment in the compilation alludes to the the false comforts of alcohol and the late-night darkness of the polluted clubs frequented by this group of people. However, the one-word titles, with the exception of the first poem, all denote emotions universal to the human experience.
The first poem serves as an introduction to the theme of the book, titled “The Dead End Days”. Garcia gets right into the biting descriptions that frequent the pages of The Voting Booth such as “Sucking the nectar out of life’s veins/ with greedy yellowed fangs/ like a drunken vampire.” She manages to balance out these somewhat radical images with more cosmopolitan sentiments like, “The hunt for love in loveless places.” Even if the reader feels like an outsider looking in, Garcia secures their interest by adding these traces of universality. This initial piece cracks the surface of the multitude of issues Garcia explores throughout the book.
Garcia moves on to various, rather dismal emotions such as “Humiliation”, “Longing”, “Hopelessness” and “Anguish”. Each of these subsequent entries is subtly, yet effectively tied to the title preceding it. Some, such as “Longing“ tell short fictional anecdotes of characters in the midst of a vicious cycle of drinking, going out, and living in squalid conditions they have created for themselves.
“Her place has been a pigsty for countless months. El pollo loco bags intermixed with empty forty ounce bottle of malt liquor…” is an image that invites the outside reader to envision the physical living conditions that mirror the addictive lifestyles of this restless population.
“Hopelessness” stands out in particular as an account of the point in the cycle where suicide seems to be the only option, but after careful consideration accompanied by the recurrent bottles of malt liquor; the character ultimately finds failure even in this option.
Beyond these intense images and story lines, Garcia is able to weave in the political culture of the day, more specifically the 2008 presidential elections. “Hatred” is a fictional account of an online chat between “Ms. Dash(-) American” and “guevarra_YOmomma” as they give commentary on the Democratic Primaries of 2008.
“Effort”, one of the last and perhaps one of the most definitive pieces of the collection, tells a tale of empty promises to oneself to live a better life. However, “Today, November 4th, 2008 dawns a different morning.” Of all the efforts that could have been made, this character goes to vote because “She’s a part of humanity today”. This shows the fervor Garcia has for the importance of voting in America.
Garcia leaves us with a poem themed around the failures of humanity, yet encourages the reader to “Try your best at peace. Try your best at truth” and to “Forgive your crumbling selves”. The decision to end with a piece that ignites a flicker of hope to the darkness of rest of the book acts as a comfort to the reader, who has just experienced the agony of all the characters throughout the book.
So whether you feel a familiar tie to the characters in the book, or you feel like a guest peeking in, Garcia offers connections that will leave you thinking for a long time to come.
Check out more about The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive at www.myspace.com/votingboothafterdark
You can also purchase the book at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and many other independent bookstores.