- Southwest Book Award, Border Regional Library Association, 1997
- Premio Aztlán Literature Award, 1997
House of Houses
Re-issued by University of Arizona Press, October 2008
Download a hi-res jpeg of the book jacket.
A family memoir told in the voices of ancestors, this book is about oppression and survival and sometimes triumph as "any book about a Mexican American family must be." Mora’s house of houses is large, imagined, traditional, a refuge from the desert’s heat, where the generations of her family, living and dead, mingle through the months of a single year.
Read an interview with Pat about the book from Soundings: Voices from the Gaps.
Questions for Exploration - Questions for your personal reflection or to enjoy with your book group or class.
"In [House of Houses] a twist on the Day of the Dead tradition … it is the cemetery dwellers who feed the author, a woman ravenous for every crumb of her past … The men of the household are adored, feared, and revered, but it is the women who hold things together; their worries, quarrels, prayers, recipes,
gardens and fierce love for the children lend House of Houses its rich texture."—Edie Jarolim, The New York Times Book Review
"Pat Mora’s richly sensual family memoir, House of Houses, is a textual feast designed to summon her ancestors’ spirits to an imagined house hovering over the Southwestern desert between El Paso and Santa Fe--a conflation of memory and wish blending, the microscopic sensuality of Diane Ackerman’s work with the Jungian approach of Clarissa Pinkola Estes … House of Houses is [a] kind of regenerative act, a summoning of the powerful and necessary spirits, and an eloquent bearer of the old truth that it is through the senses that we apprehend love."—Janet Peery, The Washington Post Book World
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"Poet Mora's complex and dramatic family history comprises more than personal reminiscences: it also embraces resonant aspects of Mexican American history. Mora recounts her family's traumatic exodus from Mexico to escape the violence of Pancho Villa and his forces and their struggles to begin new lives in another country. To anchor her psychologically rich, dramatic, sometimes funny, often touching multigenerational tale, Mora uses the image of a house-the house of houses-during a single year, a fruitful metaphor that allows her to dwell on the bright beauty of flowers, birds, and trees, emblems of the loving legacy of her nurturing family."—Booklist
"Mora has created an ingenious structure for these recollections of her extended family, of their lives and the tales they share about the family's history. Woven in with these memories are recipes, fragments of songs and poetry, folk remedies, and jokes, all of the small matters that most reveal a family's identity. In a language deftly mingling the natural cadences of speech and precise, poetic imagery, Mora believably summons up both a group of tough, loving, idiosyncratic survivors and a vivid, detailed portrait of life in the Southwest in [the last] century."—Kirkus Reviews Read the full review.
"[T]he rich blend of narrative styles make "House of Houses" more than a singular family saga. It’s a celebration of spirit, a testament to the power of memory to evoke the past."—Hector A. Torres, Albuquerque Journal
"Mora turns her family's old adobe casa, built along the Rio Grande between El Paso and Santa Fe, into a place where present and past tense are one, a realm where memory and imagination are fused in the style of magic realism."—Paul Trachtman, Smithsonian Magazine
Read the full review.
"The memoir is almost seamless, moving in and out of life and death, English and Spanish, the kitchen and the
garden, then and now … This is a must-read for all interested in Chicano literature."—Ellen Shull, San Antonio Express-News
"A magical biographical recreation of her family’s history...Having established herself as one of the most significant Chicana poets of our time … Mora employs her word artistry, turning flowery and surreal observations into a colorful, often dreamy journey through her family’s history."
—Antonio López, The New Mexican
Questions for Exploration
Questions for your personal reflection or to enjoy with your book group or class.
- In what ways is House of Houses like and unlike other memoirs you've read?
- Why do you think memoirs have become such a popular genre?
- Name the person you connected to most in the book and describe the reasons why.
- The author asks "Why do certain events become central memories, part of the core life story we create about ourselves?" (page 24) How would you answer?
- Spanish words and phrases are used throughout the book. How does this affect your reading and understanding of the memoir?
- How is your family like and unlike the Mora family?
- Look through family photographs taken before you were born. Choose one and write a page about it. Would you like to share your piece with your reading group? A family member or friend?
- The author refers to her childhood home as the "house of houses." What does she mean? Would you describe your childhood home as your "house of houses"? If not, what three or four words would you use to capture your feelings?
- What humorous scene and sad scene most appealed to you? Why?
- The family stories in this memoir are organized through different seasons or rhythms - the rhythms of the garden, the church liturgy, the family. What seasons or rhythms would you use to organize your family's stories?
If you'd like to share your answers, we'd love to read them.