Sixteen-year-old Lava lives peacefully enough with her imperfect mother, Lila, and their boarder, Cody, an Iraqi war vet suffering from PTSD. Lava’s ex-addict father, Jesse, is released from prison, and Lava’s life in Detroit is upended when Jesse pressures Lava for her urine so he can pass his mandatory drug tests. After an altercation, Lava is sent to live with her mother’s cousin Lola in Seville. Lola is a larger-than-life flamenco dancer who teaches Lava the language of flamenco dance; Lava’s life opens outward as she becomes fluent in flamenco’s structure, giving her new modes of expression as she experiences first love, friendship, and betrayal, and uncovers family secrets. Rich with lyrical, sensual prose, Duende is a coming-of-age novella about mothers and daughters, about legacy, about self-expression, about defining a way to live.
About the Author
Alex Poppe is the author of four works of fiction: Girl, World by Laughing Fire Press (2017), Moxie by Tortoise Books (2019), Jinwar and Other Tales from The Levant by Cune Press (2022), and Duende by Regal House Publishing (2022). When she is not being thrown from the back of food aid trucks or dining with pistol-packing Kurdish hit men, she writes.
"This skillful novella, filled with lush and luscious prose, vibrates with energy and passion and keenly observed details, just as does the young narrator’s life as she moves through a series of encounters in Sevilla and elsewhere. Smoldering to the sexual heat of flamenco, the story dissects the complicated dynamics of family, love, violence, and growing up, all through author Alex Poppe’s unflinching gaze." —Randall Silvis, author of When All Light Fails, Disquiet Heart, On Night’s Shore, Two Days Gone, National Endowment for the Arts, Drue Heinz Literature Prize, Fulbright Senior Scholar Research Award, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts
"In this bold and electric contemporary novella, a teenage expat on the cusp of womanhood is caught between two worlds: her childhood home in Detroit where her family’s troubled history haunts her, and her year in Seville, where a missing girl populates the periphery of her attention. Suspended by the rhythm of flamenco, Lava, our heroine, is self-reliant by necessity, and her sentimental education examines a body in flux. In intoxicating prose, the intuitive and inventive language of flamenco acts as both a way to keep time and to lose it, as question and answer, as remedy and protest, as forcefield and conduit. In Duende, Poppe shows us the links between twin mysteries, how trauma can reverberate through a life, how a girl becomes a woman. This novella is visceral and kinetic; heartbreaking and hopeful, and not one to be missed." —Kate Wisel, author of Driving in Cars with Homeless Men, 2019 Winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize
"Duende is a remarkable story that dances with electrifying tempo. Pulsing with empathy, lush and sinuous prose taps the soul of flamenco’s language. Lava’s sense of herself grows with each planta, chaflan, golpe, and we take flight with each page turned. A gifted raconteur, Poppe knows how the world spins." —Charlie Hailey, author of The Porch: Meditations on the Edge of Nature, Camp: a Guide to 21st Century Space, and Slab City: Dispatches from the Last Free Place; Guggenheim Fellow; Fulbright Scholar
"Duende reads like Alex Poppe smashed a stained-glass template of the coming-of-age form, then arranged the shards into a brilliant mosaic. It's a spellbinding, unpredictable page-turner, but it is first and foremost an undeniable work of art. When an adolescent American girl in Spain dives headfirst into flamenco, a phantasmagoria of uncompromising truths are churned up, but she refuses to turn back in her pursuit of agency." —Don De Grazia, author of American Skin
"Duende is no ordinary coming-of-age tale, although the longing that pulses at its center is as timeless as the Flamenco music that weaves through the book. Alex Poppe performs a narrative dance with these pages, weaving together Sevilla, Spain and Detroit, Michigan. Her rhythmic sentences and sensory details will leave you hungering for streetside cafes, Flamenco halls, and carnivals. Poppe is a rare storyteller, gifted with both precision and heart." —Rachel Swearingen, author of How to Walk on Water and Other Stories, Winner of the 2018 New American Fiction Prize
"Like the beautiful and complex rhythms of the music of flamenco, Alex Poppe’s Duende vibrates inside her reader. This moving story explores what it means to be a mother, a daughter, and a woman, and a culture of music and dance provides Lava, the teenaged narrator, a place to belong when belonging is as ephemeral as notes on the breeze. Poppe’s exhilarating dance sequences and clear-eyed images of Seville stand in vivid and remarkable contrast to the suffocating grit Lava leaves behind in Detroit, creating a vast and vibrant tapestry of story." —Patricia Ann McNair, author of Responsible Adults, The Temple of Air, Chicago Writers Association’s Book of the Year, Devil’s Kitchen Readers Award, And These Are The Good Times, finalist Montaigne Medal