How Winter Began: Stories

How Winter Began: Stories

How Winter Began: Stories

How Winter Began: Stories


Irene gives the wealthy businessmen what they want, diving headfirst into the filthy river, thinking only of providing for her baby daughter, Marisa, as the men salivate over her soaked body emerging onto the bank. A young boy tries to befriend the reticent younger sister of the town's cruelest bully, only to discover the family betrayal behind her quiet countenance. Josefa, a young bride, is executed for murdering the man who raped her. Joy Castro's How Winter Began traces these and other characters as they seek compassion from each other and themselves.

Thematically linked by the lives of women, especially Latinas, and their experiences of poverty and violence in a white-dominated, wealth-obsessed culture, How Winter Began is a delicately wrought collection of stories. The question at the heart of this riveting book is how or whether to trust one another after the rupture of betrayal.


I jumped into the San Antonio River once, for a hundred dollars. After I got pregnant and had to quit dancing, I worked nights waiting tables at The Bayous down on the Riverwalk. The night I jumped, Marisa was still nursing, and my breasts were fat and swollen with it. The belly left was nothing, hidden under the black apron we all wore for pens and the money.

Eleven o’clock, we were still turning tables. CATS was at the Majestic, and we had a special menu to catch the people coming out late. They flooded the lobby, gabbing and impatient, all excited with their fancy clothes and the opinions they were saying. Maybe a hundred of them, and the manager freaking out, we’re out of this, we’re out of that, you bus table seven right now or you’re fired, and the busboy getting stoned in the cooler when you go in to find more lemons. Fuck, what a night.

A four-top of men from Tennessee kept messing with me— business guys, not theater people. They were in their forties, fat, flush with ego and big gold watches in the candlelight, proud over some triumph they kept lifting their bottles to. Every time I crossed the patio with more salsa or another round, it would be something: “Baby, are all the girls here as fine—” and that kind of shit. Come to Texas, play cowboy for a week. But one thing led to another until I was saying the things I say when men flirt. Bold, dumb things. Then it was happening: a hundred lay flat on the table, the river stretched out like a grin, and I was giv-

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