Winner of the Kore Press 2016 Short Fiction Award, selected by Edwidge Danticat
“A moving and powerful story about sisterhood, grief, loss, and picking up the pieces without completely losing one’s self.” —Edwidge Danticat
Café Colima explores the bond of sisterhood in Richmond, California. While Arcelia and her sister Selene lost their parents at a young age, the girls are fortunate enough to grow up in a secure, loving environment with their grandparents Mamá Luz and Abuelito Gil, at the center of their lives. Mamá Luz owns a beloved Mexican bakery which the sisters find to be both a burden and a blessing. Arcelia works dutifully alongside her grandmother as she is expected to, while Selene seeks independence in a difficult, suburban community. Both sisters view the world with spunk and wild enthusiasm until the circumstances of their lives begin to erode their bond. When Selene tragically suffers an untimely death, Arcelia takes comfort in being the reliable, steady presence at her grandmother’s side. Time seems to stand still as long as pan dulce is selling and business is thriving, until a friend from the past arrives and causes Arcelia to question the mystery of her sister’s death. What will ultimately take Arcelia away from Café Colima to venture on a journey all her own?
Praise for Café Colima
Café Colima announces a brilliant new storytelling talent that has come into her powers—a moving story of mixed love and grief, as a young woman lost in the enduring mysteries of her sister’s death faces the last one: how really letting go of her can feel like the greatest part of the loss. Del Toro possesses a lyrical economy, a canny knowing, and an ear for the subtle music hidden in the ordinariness of love. —Alexander Chee
In Café Colima, Leticia Del Toro precisely and authentically captures a Bay Area landscape and human-scape that I can’t remember seeing before. Her characters, well drawn and multifaceted, the Café (a character in its own right), have done what only the best literature can, deepen my relationship to a place I already love. —Pam Houston
Excerpt from Café Colima
Since Mamá Luz has owned the panadería in town for thirty-two years, we have always lived on display. Our clientele are locals, mostly—people who’ve known our family since Selene and I were little kids: the moms who have time to get a panecito for their children, the earlybird construction workers and the viejitos without a place to go. They greet me, still, with that “ay que pena” expression. When someone in your family screws up, everyone tries to hide their certain knowledge that your life, too, has been ruined. I hate the way they look at me, as if searching for Selene in my face. The worst are those girls who’ve been lucky enough to study at college. When those girls come back to Richmond, they confuse me for Selene. They see my profile from where they stand looking into the kitchen and say, “Hey Selene, how you doing?” Maybe they think I’ve moved on, which sucks for Selene because it means they think she was the one most likely to get stuck here at Café Colima. I never return their hellos but simply move near the mixing machines. I let Mamá Luz be the one to tell them.