Francisco Goldman has covered such disparate topics as Guatemala’s political corruption and media manipulation in “The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?” as well delving into the world of 19th century Central America in his novel “The Divine Husband.” But Goldman says his latest creation, “Say Her Name” is and will be the hardest thing he’s ever had to write. The reason? “Say Her Name” is a personalized account of his young wife, Aura Estrada, tragically drowning at the age of 30 in a body-surfing accident in Mexico in 2007.
“On the day of her funeral, I made three promises [to Aura]: I’m going to establish a prize in your name. I’m going to get your book published. And I’m going to write a book about you,” Goldman says. “I felt like this was something I owed to her.”
Although most of “Say Her Name” is memoir, Goldman does fictionalize some parts, such as Estrada’s upbringing in Mexico City. “If I was trying to write a factual account, I would have approached the book in a different way,” he says. “Writing fiction is my way of trying to make sense of what is happening in my life. I wanted the creative freedom to write it how I wanted to write it.”
Goldman says the fact that Estrada was also a writer — he includes bits of her fiction and pieces of her diary within his writing — also helped form the book. “Aura and I were both writers and we communicated as writers. I wanted to engage her imagination with mine.” And yet, going through Estrada’s papers was especially painful. “It was keeping her with me — but on the other hand, it was the last thing I wanted to do in the morning,” he notes. “It really intensified my grieving to remember about what was now gone.”
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