Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa | Puerto Rico
I ran to this book after reading A Woman Of Endurance because I had to read everything written by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa. Daughters of the Stone follows the lives of five generations of Afro-Puerto Rican women connected by a stone, brought from Africa by a slave woman named Fela. She is regal, proud, and distrustful of her surroundings, but she knows she has a promise to her husband to fulfill.
Making a physical sacrifice, she births a daughter Mati, who learns about the stories of her mother’s ancestors from visits she gets in her dreams. So begins the daughters of this stone, who for the next four generations will falter in many ways to pass on the stories that originate with Mati. Some will try to learn what is taught, others will resist and dismiss the teachings, and one will venture back to where it began, to learn as much as she can, about these and many other stories.
Fela, Mati, Concha, Elena, and Carisa each have a section that tells their individual stories. It begins in slavery in 1800s Puerto Rico with Fela, her sole purpose is to have a daughter to continue the legacy. Mati, Fela’s daughter, embraces all of the stories and the healing talents that are both a blessing and a curse to her life. Mati’s daughter Concha turns her back on these stories and becomes resentful of the loss of her mother’s attention. But by the time she has her own daughter, Elena, the relationship with Mati is strained, which in turn causes a rift between Concha and Elena. Finally, there is Carisa who is raised away from the stories of her abuela, but as fate would have it, she travels to the source and is rewarded on levels she could never imagine.
The stone is a powerful yet silent symbol, a reminder to each woman that they are descendants of a legacy that stretches farther back than all of them combined can fathom. It serves as a reminder of the resiliency that exists in women who have had to make painful but necessary decisions for the benefit of the legacy. Fela made that first hard decision; then Mati was determined and committed to following the path outlined to her in her dreams, even risking her most personal relationships; Concha and Elena struggle, but the stone stays constant, especially when Carisa needs it most.
Ms. Llanos-Figueroa is such an impressive storyteller. She examines the complexities of mother-daughter-grandmother relationships, accurately capturing the fracturing that can occur when generations clash. Her writing is arresting, her narrative fearless, her characters powerful and flawed. She published this book when she was 60 years old, so all of her life’s experiences and all of her storytelling prowess are here, pouring out of these pages, just waiting for a reader to absorb them.