The potent sights, sounds, smells and textures of Miami don't begin to compare with the vibrant, witty interior of a Colombian immigrant teen discovering herself in Juli Delgado Lopera's dazzling first novel, Fiebre Tropical.
Francisca is an unhappy 15-year-old when her single mother, Myriam, transplants the family (which includes younger sister Lucía and grandmother Alba) to Florida from Bogotá. While living in a rundown townhouse, they're swept into the evangelical currents of Iglesia Cristiana Jesucristo Redentor, along with Tía Milagros, Myriam's sister, already deeply invested in the church's social pageantry. Frustrated by the move, Francisca resists this unfamiliar brand of religion, so fixated on eternal life. Meanwhile, she watches her sister embrace it thoroughly, mother descend into depression and grandmother sink into alcohol. Nothing gives Francisca joy except for the bubbly feelings she begins having for the pastor's daughter, Carmen.
A nuanced tragicomedy, Fiebre Tropical is an outstanding work of fiction by a transdisciplinary artist who has already earned several awards for previous work, including a Lambda Literary Award for the anthology ¡Cuéntamelo! Oral Histories by LGBT Latino Immigrants. Delgado Lopera seamlessly slips between English and Spanish throughout the novel, so monolinguists may want to have a translation app handy for full comprehension. But context more often than not brings absolute clarity in this fabulous coming-of-age story, whose rejoinders like, "I wondered what exactly Mami revealed about our house to the Pastora that made her think we all wanted to spend our afterlives together," impeccably balance humor and pathos. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness