Women Are Like Chickens:
All Eggs, Breast and Thighs
Women Are Like Chickens is the story of friendship, family and food. Lots of food. Set in the early 80’s, the reader weaves through the lives of four Mexican American friends raised in San Francisco’s Mission District. Although subject to cultural limitations each will define her own unique identity. Chickens is a social satire with insights about Mexican American women.
The occasional dark-humor is more of a perk.
Alex has been running the family restaurant since her father's fatal stroke when she was sixteen. Even though "God did not burden my Alejandra with beauty," as her mother puts it, Alex's eighteenth birthday wish for a husband brings sudden attention from Jaime Padrosa. When Alex sees the firm body and boyish good looks of the new produce man she instantly marries him with her eyes.
Alex stays home to raise their sons while Jaime runs the restaurant. The sudden elevation to proprietor incites a dark epiphany. It occurs the first time he interviews women for the position of cocktail waitress. When an interviewee with no restaurant experience offers him a blowjob (in lieu of a resume) he accepts.
Jaime starts gambling at the bar, hits on women customers, and is abusive to the staff. Ever loyal Alex hears the rumors and sides with her husband—for the sake of the family. But when a roll of film found in the garage is developed the photos reveal a visual account of Jaime's infidelity. Thirty-six different women (actually, thirty-five and a thumb) are wearing nothing but the white satin heels Alex wore on her wedding day!
Alex kicks the serial adulterer out, and then files for divorce. Only Jaime won't go away. Not satisfied with half of the business, house, and their savings, Jaime decides to kidnap their sons and make "la torta really pay."
On Alex's 25th birthday she wishes Jaime needed her as much as she needs him. Moments after the candles are blown out on her cake Jaime's motorcycle is struck by an oncoming truck. Miraculously surviving the accident he is left paralyzed from the neck down. When Jaime is released from the hospital—to Alex's care—it dawns on her that she got her wish.
Where Alex thrives in the restaurant's front rooms her sister prefers to work in the kitchen. Far away from the loud and unpredictable crowds. After nearly being gang-raped in Golden Gate Park, Leah moves to the bucolic Napa Valley and attends the Culinary Institute of California. When her instructor, Chef Jacob Lasson, finds out that she was the cook at one of his favorite San Francisco restaurants he reserves a kitchen for a tutorial on Mexican cooking.
She explains traditional techniques to the chef along with the origin of each dish. They learn from one another, about each other. They fall in love. Jacob is married and Leah agrees to become his mistress. The lonely affair lasts the span of her stay at the academy.
Having written several cookbooks Leah's lover encourages her to start writing down her recipes and cooking lore. By graduation, Leah has a firm offer for Sworn Secrets: Confessions from a Mexican Daughter. It is the first ever encyclopedia of Mexican cooking and details techniques and recipes in addition to passing along folk wisdom.
Tessa can't wait to go to Stanford and leave the small-minded people of the Mission District behind. During the summer break of her sophomore year Tessa and her boyfriend, Atticus, plan to fly back east to meet his family. As they are about to board the plane she finds out that his parents not only refer to her as "Maria," they're convinced she's an illegal alien trying to secure a green card and bag their rich American son!
While staying with Atticus' family in Washington DC, Tessa learns of the rash of burglaries taking place in Spring Valley. She gets caught in the middle of the conflict between the residents of this exclusive community and the suspected hired help. When Tessa discovers who the thief is she becomes the most hated person in the Capital—politicians aside.
Dulce is a precocious boy trapped in a woman's body and even buys most of her clothes at the boys' department of K-mart. She claims they have the most durable socks.
When a friend named Carolyn dies she bequeaths to Dulce her tattoo. The octopus had covered the back of her head, neck, torso, and buttocks; with tentacles extending the length of her arms, legs, and to the heels of her feet.
Months later, Dulce is packing her artwork for an exhibit at Galleria de La Raza and decides to take Carolyn along. At the gallery's opening party, a reporter from a local newspaper asks Dulce to elaborate on the piece entitled, 'Carolyn.' Raising her smart brown eyes to look at him, she says, "People are not just good subjects in art, they are good materials for art."
Shortly after Carolyn's "debut," Dulce receives letters from prisoners, war veterans, bikers, businessmen and a Holocaust survivor. All wanting her to take their tattoos—posthumously. Now, what is a budding artist to do with so much willing controversy?
Where is China? The first time we learn about Christina "China" Nieves is after her mysterious disappearance. She was last seen by her parents when she went to church to light candles for the American Hostages in Iran.
As the story unfolds, we learn that China actually moved to New York against her parents' wishes. Since she was eighteen and a legal adult, they couldn't lock her in her room like they had wanted to do. In order to save face, China's father implies to an inquisitive neighbor that their daughter is missing. The tragic news spreads through the Mission, like a cold through a preschool.
Mr. Nieves is pressured to report his daughter's disappearance to the police by a house filled with concerned relatives. Being a slow news day the media picks up the story. The Valencia Street home is soon bombarded with reporters and camera crews.
The reluctant couple now the center of a media blitz become curiously captivated by all of the attention. Mr. Nieves is promoted to usher at Saint Juanita's church. Mrs. Nieves, a whiny woman usually ignored, can't walk down the street without receiving food, flowers, and sympathy. While guests on Good Morning America the Nieves' get a little carried away and become the co-founders of a national Latino support group for parents of missing children.
For someone we never meet China leaves a profound impression on the novel. Cogent observations about life within a Mexican American community will be attained through this non-character.
Women Are Like Chickens:
All Eggs, Breast and Thighs
by Annette Sandoval
Release date: February 1, 2019
Genre: Literary Fiction
About the Author
Annette Sandoval’s writing is tightly bound to her experience as a Mexican-American. The youngest of five children, she began life in the barrio neighborhoods of Santa Ana, California. Annette‘s mother, Wanting one of her children to have an “American” name, named Annette after a Mouseketeer. Annette worked at Disneyland while in her teens. She was forced to wear a paper hat and a name tag. When people asked if AnnetteFunichello was her mother, she would say, deadpan, “Yes."
Her parents were both born in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Her father, Manuel, worked as a migrant worker and later as a janitor at a convent, where he was sponsored for green card status. After securing work and papers he sent for his fifteen-year-old bride, Felicitas.
At 21, Annette moved to San Francisco. She spent the next decade backpacking around the world, touring nearly every continent on her own.
She is the author of The Directory of Saints (Dutton/Penguin), which appeared in hardback in 1996. Her second book, Homegrown Healing: Traditional Home Remedies from Mexico (Putnam/Berkely), published in 1998, is one of the first modern works preserving this rich oral tradition. Her novel, Spitfire (Thomas & Mercer) 2012, is about an office drone who suspects her boss of being a serial killer. If that’s not scary enough, he’s got a crush on her! Her fourth child is named, Women Are Like Chickens: All Eggs, Breast and Thighs.
Annette lives in Newport, Rhode Island with Pip and their two rescue dogs.