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Serafina’s Stories by Rudolf Anaya


Rating: 3/5

What It’s About:

New Mexico’s master storyteller creates a southwestern version of the Arabian Nights in this fable set in seventeenth-century Santa Fe. In January 1680 a dozen Pueblo Indians are charged with conspiring to incite a revolution against the colonial government. When the prisoners are brought before the Governor, one of them is revealed as a young woman. Educated by the friars in her pueblo’s mission church, Serafina speaks beautiful Spanish and surprises the Governor with her fearlessness and intelligence. The two strike a bargain. She will entertain the Governor by telling him a story. If he likes her story, he will free one of the prisoners. Like Scheherezade, who prevented her royal husband from killing her by telling him stories, Serafina keeps the Governor so entertained with her versions of Nuevo Mexicano cuentos that he spares the lives of all her fellow prisoners. 


The Review

It was a struggle to decide what to rate Serafina’s Stories. One of my favorite parts of this book was the setting, time period, and all the historical elements that went into it. There were historical parts that I was already familiar with since I live in the Southwest region of the United States and learned some of these things in school. But still, Serafina’s Stories opened up a whole new perspective for me and made me think alot about history in a way I had never considered before.

Most of the books I’ve read on the forced assimilation of indigenous peoples have been in the mid 1800’s or later and set in northern parts of North America. The Spanish colonization of New Mexico was not a new concept for me. And I have even been to Santa Fe and seen some of the historical sites there. But this is the first time I have looked at it through the lens of the Pueblo people. Historical fiction has an amazing way of adding that element of humanity by experiencing that time period through the eyes of a character.

The complex relationship between the Pueblo Indians and the Spanish was an interesting one to explore. The book talked about how the Spanish forced the Pueblo to give up their religion, culture, and traditions. The Pueblo were also exploited a a source of groups and had to hand over a large portion of their food and resources to the Spanish. Which is what fueled the tension between the two groups and ultimately led to the Pueblo Rebellion of 1680.

what I didn’t like

My biggest disappointment with Serafina’s Stories is the storytelling part. The book alternates chapters between what is happening in Santa Fe and the stories that Serafina tells each night. I felt like it took away precious time from giving the reader more of the actual characters in the story. There are several interesting characters in the book, and their relationships with Serafina and the Governor would’ve benefitted from more depth. There is also a small moment of romance that I would have loved to see expanded on more.

Online Resources for learning:

National Museum Of American History – Spanish New Mexico

Khan Academy – Pueblo Uprising of 1680

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