FRONTERA STREET by Tanya Maria Barrientos: A Review

A very engaging novel of female friendships

This 2002 publication showed up in my Little Free Library, and I read it before putting it back in for neighbors to read. As a gringa, I learned a great deal about the Hispanic culture and even a few Spanish words. The buttons on the cover is what caught my attention, as well as the dark and light women pictured there. The novel shows how female friendship can transcend age, culture, and ethnicity. Dee, an Anglo woman visits a fabric shop in the Barrio, and after arriving, faints, causing the Hispanic women who own and work in the shop to go into a “tizzy.” Septima, the owner takes pity on this seemingly down-and-out woman and offers her a job, much to the displeasure of her employee, Alma.

The working environment is strained because of tension between Dee and Alma, and even becomes worse when Dee goes to “stay” with Alma and her ballerina daughter, Socorro. What the Hispanic mother and daughter don’t know is that Dee has a secret, a very unusual one. The longer Dee keeps her secret, the harder it is to “come clean” with the mother and daughter she comes to care for. Many contrasts pepper this story: the barrio vs the affluent neighborhood nearby, the Mexican vs Anglo culture, and all of the women involved must learn to set emotional boundaries. These are all strong women with strong ties of friendship, but are these ties strong enough to withstand the revelation of the secrets held between Dee and Alma, or Alma and Socorro? If nothing else, this novel ends on a note of hope and healing.