Zambrano, Mario Alberto. Loteria
Eleven-year-old Luz Castillo is a ward of the state. Her father has been arrested, her mother is missing, and her older sister Estrella lies in a hospital bed, probably dying. Luz, willful or damaged or both, refuses to speak to authorities and will not even engage with her mother’s sister on her rare visits to the facility. Instead, the child has begun keeping a secret diary addressed directly to God. Each entry is inspired by the imagery on a single card in the Loteria deck she has with her. Loteria is a Mexican game which is similar to bingo, but which uses vibrant pictures and rhymed riddles instead of numbers and letters. These images and riddles inspire Luz’s own vibrantly drawn diary entries, each a sketch in miniature of a family in the processes of complete dissolution or dysfunction. As she progresses through the deck, the full picture of just how and why Luz has come to this place emerges from out of the mosaic of individual parts.
Simultaneously vibrant and spare, engaging and heartbreaking, Loteria is a well-written and fascinatingly-structured tale of love, family, and, ultimately, the darkness that can lie at the heart of even seemingly happy families.