No Stars in the Sky by Martha Bátiz

In No Stars in the Sky, her debut collection of short fiction, Martha Bátiz writes persuasively about loss and displacement, the fear of not know what’s around the next corner or who to trust, the tragedy of innocent lives lost to cruelty and corruption. Her characters are women wounded by circumstance, who have survived life-altering trauma, who have been victimized and violated.  

No Stars in the Sky is a remarkable volume that grants a voice to the voiceless.”

“Jason” chronicles the debilitating and inconsolable grief of a woman in the aftermath of her teenage son’s suicide, an event for which she feels responsible but which in her heart she knows was beyond her to prevent. The slightly unhinged narrator of “The Raincoat,” a Mexican immigrant living in Toronto, wears a yellow raincoat whenever she leaves her apartment to protect herself from bedbugs, a pervasive affliction in the city which she calls “the plague” and which has become an obsession.  

The narrator of “The General’s Daughter” recalls events from her childhood, growing up in the household of a powerful member of an authoritarian regime. It is the only life she knows, and so she enjoys and even boasts about the privilege her father’s position grants her. But such a childhood is a double-edged sword, which she discovers when she learns the truth behind her best friend’s disappearance.  

The stories are most effective when Bátiz writes from the perspective of the regime’s victims. “Apartment 91B” is narrated by a female academic who has fled her home in Argentina after accepting a teaching position in Arizona. “Teaching Russian literature wasn’t supposed to be dangerous,” she states. “But it was.” In raw terms she recalls her 5-year incarceration at the hands of the Junta, the beatings and torture that have marked her, and the disappearance of her husband, Ernesto, also an academic. But even after having found refuge abroad, new grief is forced upon her when her daughter, Malena, chooses to return to Buenos Aires to help her grandmother, Ernesto’s mother, search for Ernesto’s remains.  

Other stories recount the struggles of women seeking refuge from injustice, exploitation and mistreatment and their encounters with the deeply corrupt government systems they have no choice but to rely upon.  

Martha Bátiz’s stories are narrated in plain-spoken prose that seems to eschew literary flourishes. But it is the unadorned frankness of the writing that gives the stories their urgency, that causes the pain Bátiz describes to hit the reader at a visceral level, making it all the more real, all the more affecting.  

No Stars in the Sky is a remarkable volume that grants a voice to the voiceless. Poignant and memorable, occasionally shocking, it is not for all readers. But those who venture into its pages will find themselves transformed by the experience.

MARTHA BÁTIZ is an award-winning writer, translator, and professor of Spanish language in literature. She is the author of four books, including the story collection Plaza Requiem, winner of an International Latino Book Award, and the novella The Wolf’s Mouth, winner of the Casa de Teatro Prize. Born and raised in Mexico City, she lives in Toronto.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Astoria (May 3 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 300 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1487010028
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1487010027