Title: Each of Us a Desert
Author: Mark Oshiro
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: September 15th, 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBTQ+
From award-winning author Mark Oshiro comes a powerful coming-of-age fantasy novel about finding home and falling in love amidst the dangers of a desert where stories come to life.
Xochitl is destined to wander the desert alone, speaking her troubled village’s stories into its arid winds. Her only companions are the blessed stars above and enigmatic lines of poetry magically strewn across dusty dunes.
Her one desire: to share her heart with a kindred spirit.
One night, Xo’s wish is granted—in the form of Emilia, the cold and beautiful daughter of the town’s murderous conqueror. But when the two set out on a magical journey across the desert, they find their hearts could be a match… if only they can survive the nightmare-like terrors that arise when the sun goes down.
Mark Oshiro is the author of Anger is a Gift (Tor Teen), winner of the 2019 Schneider Family Book Award and nominated for a 2019 Lammy Award (in the LGBTQ Children’s/Young Adult category). Upcoming novels include Each of Us a Desert (Tor Teen), a YA Fantasy novel out September 15, 2020, and The Insiders (Harper Collins), an MG Contemporary with magical elements out Fall 2021. When they are not writing, crying on camera about fictional characters for their online Mark Does Stuff universe, or traveling, Mark is busy trying to fulfill their lifelong goal: to pet every dog in the world.
In this story, we follow Xochitl, she’s a young cuentista (story teller) from Empalme. As a cuentista, she receives stories from people and giving them to Solis, god of the world. Xochitl begins a journey to find her identity which is different from what she has learned in her village. “This is the story I was told of how las cuentistas were born; You gave some of us the ability to devour the truth of others, and You warned us. We should all know if someone had harmed another, if they had kept their truth from You. The longer one of us went without a cuentista, the worse por pesadillas became. And so we were cast out into the world to ingest what others had done wrong, them return it to You, to the eternal desert.”
This book deals with a few themes but I wanted to highlight the theme of love first. In the book, we get to experience what you can do for love to be specific for the loss of a loved one. I also wanted to highlight that the story about identity and how we can think we can are lonely in different places even though we are surrounded by so many people. “Sometimes, after a particularly difficult ritual, I would lie on my back on the earth, and I would let las estrellas surround me. They would fill every bit of my field of vision, and I would imagine that there was nothing else in the world. Just the desert beneath me and las estrellas above. I was hidden from You, and I would allow the loneliness to settle deep in my body. It was part of me, one I had no means of alleviating, except for las poemas.”
“I had been doing this more and more lately. I would tell my parents that I needed to take a story, to return one to the earth, and I would be gone for hours at a time. They claimed to understand me, but they understood only the need for the ritual. They didn’t get how much I needed to be away from home; away from all the responsibilities and the sad, needy faces; away from feeling stuck in a life I never chose.” This quote really spoke to me as I feel that sometimes we follow in our family’s footsteps and then we realize that we need to break out from that, find our identities and find ourselves. This reminded me of my journey in the book community as I struggled to find my identity and where I could fit. Now, I’ve found my community, it’s nice to feel like you found where you belong.