Vestiges of Courage: Collected Essays, by Mireya S. Vela
Vestiges of Courage is a collection of personal essays that explores inequities and injustice. Raised between two cultures and two languages, Mireya S. Vela discusses how the systems in her family and in society worked to create an abusive environment that felt crushing, confusing, and hopeless. In her book, Ms. Vela delineates her experience of living through sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. This book is much more than a collection of experiences, though. Ms. Vela wants to know how and why abuse thrived in her family. She digs deep to understand why these things happened and how she survived.
“In language direct and wry, dancing between her family’s past and her children’s present, Mexico and California, English and Spanish, Vela makes us look—and hear and feel—the myriad forms of silencing and suffering visited upon women, children, immigrants, the poor, the unwell, and the unconforming by contemporary America’s preoccupation with border lines, color lines, and every other rigid norm of the clueless and the powerful.”
—Christine Hale, author of A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice: A Memoir in Four Meditations and Basil’s Dream: A Novel
“Crossing the borderlands between Mexico and the US, Mireya Vela has created an astringent collection of essays, with an unflinching honesty that burns through stories of cruelty and violence that threads through generations. In this pastiche of memoir stories, written with luminous, elegant sentences, we see the brave heart of a girl determined to survive and ultimately to thrive.”
—Sarah Van Arsdale, author of Towards Amnesia and Blue: A Novel
“Vela lights a fire. Some of her sentences burn. Others are capable of cutting. Her gorgeous essays leave the reader—for the better—bloodied.”
—Brad Kessler, author of Goat Song and Birds in Fall
“The patriarchy needs its submissive women in order to know itself, but Mireya Vela subverts the animalistic desires and perpetual alpha-male apathy by powerfully illuminating the burning wisdom that fans the secret flames in female hearts.”
—Tim Cummings, author and actor
“Mireya Vela writes to the bone. Her words cut through the gauzy untruths that divide us—about womanhood, about violence, about language, about justice—and celebrate the hard-won hope that’s stored in the body. These true stories will take your breath away. Read them.”
—Ana Maria Spagna, author of Uplake: Restless Essays of Coming and Going
“This book may be called Vestiges of Courage, but there is nothing wispy about the bravery exhibited in these stunning essays—Vela’s courage rises, full force, off every single page.”
—Gayle Brandeis, author of The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving my Mother’s Suicide
“Legacy of Rape,” earlier version originally published by Not Your Mother’s Breast Milk. “Legacy of Rape” is the story of a family that is built on rape—and how that family, the women in particular, make rape expected and acceptable.
“Doctores,” earlier version originally published by The Nasiona. When people are marginalized, their doctors are, too. In “Doctores,” Ms. Vela remembers her childhood and the decisions she and her family made.
“The Bridge,” earlier version originally published by Collective Unrest.
“The Bridge” is an essay about how a language splits a person and splits a family. This story is also about the inequities families undergo in the United States.
“Touch : Tocar,” earlier version originally published by Miracle Monocle. In “Touch : Tocar,” Ms. Vela contemplates the word “touch”, what it means in Spanish, what it means in English, and how they come together for a girl and her body.
Listen to the above four essays recited by voice actors in The Nasiona Podcast‘s “Episode 4: Systemic Abuse of Women.”
About the Author
MIREYA S. VELA is a creative non-fiction writer and researcher in Los Angeles. In her work, Ms. Vela addresses the needs of immigrant Mexican families and the disparities they face every day. She tackles issues of inequity and how ingrained societal systems support the (ongoing) injustice that contributes to continuing poverty and abuse. Ms. Vela received her Bachelor’s degree in English from Whitter College and received her Master of Fine Arts from Antioch University in 2018. She is also a visual artist.
Follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @mireyasvela