Trujillo, Carla. What Night Brings. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press, 2003.
Every night, Marci Cruz prays to God and Baby Jesus to turn her into a boy, and every morning she checks to see if they granted her wish. She doesn’t actually feel like a boy, though:
It’s because I like girls. I don’t know how or when it happened. Maybe I was born this way, but the second I saw chiches, I wanted them. I couldn’t stop thinking of girls, during the day at school, at night in my dreams, and especially when I watched TV. Now I know you can’t be with a girl if you are a girl. So that’s why I have to change into a boy. (9)
The other reason it would be nice to be a boy is then Marci could grow big muscles. She needs to be strong so she can beat up her dad. She and her little sister hate him because he’s so mean. He cheats on their mother and yells at everybody. And when he gets really mad, he takes off his belt and beats them. The problem is, it’s impossible to predict what will make him mad.
What Night Brings is the story of an 11 year old girl who is clever, hilarious, and knows exactly who she is. The prose is beautiful; perfectly capturing the worldview of a preadolescent narrator, while elegantly revealing the emotions and motivations of other characters. The dialog—both internal and spoken—is authentic and earnest, with code switching that makes the non-Spanish speaker work a bit, but doesn’t make the text inaccessible in the slightest.
This novel won the 2003 Mármol Prize for First Book of Fiction by a Latina/o Writer. I highly recommend it for public and academic libraries and high school and college humanities classes. What Night Brings should share a shelf with Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa.
Content note for graphic domestic abuse.