Bárbara MujicaSep 29, 2022
Miss Del Río
A Novel of Dolores del Río, the First Major Latina Star in Hollywood
Graydon House Books 2022
Miss del Río (Graydon House Books, 2022) explores the biography of a real-life actress, Dolores del Río, who became a silent movie star in Hollywood, navigated the transition to talkies, and eventually played a role in the establishment of the film industry in her home country of Mexico. The story plays out against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution, which influences the lives of the characters in ways both direct and subtle. Add to all this a dramatic tale of the fictional María Amparo (Mara)—Dolores’s hairdresser, confidante, and wry chronicler—and you have a novel that breaks new ground in interesting ways.
The novel opens with Mara late in life, remembering a friend whose commemoration Mara herself is too old and frail to attend. From there, we move back to the outbreak of the Mexican revolution, with Mara a small child being dragged through the streets by her caretaker, a rough woman known as Tía Emi throughout the book. Through Mara’s eyes, we see her first encounter and budding relationship (whether it is truly friendship is an ongoing theme) with the child Dolores, whose background is very different from Mara’s. Mujica then follows the lives of both women as they interact, overlap, and at times separate throughout Dolores’s career.
But Mara has a story of her own: to find out who her mother was, what happened to her, and how Tía Emi became Mara’s caretaker. It’s a tale even more compelling than Dolores’s fight to be taken seriously in her chosen career, and through it, Bárbara Mujica pulls us along to a dramatic finale and a satisfying conclusion.
Bárbara Mujica, professor emerita of Spanish literature at Georgetown University, is also a novelist, essayist, short story writer, and critic. Her novels include I Am Venus, Sister Teresa, Frida, and Miss del Río.
C. P. Lesley is the author of two historical fiction series set during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible and three other novels. Her latest novel, Song of the Sinner, appeared in January 2022.