Lilianna’s Invincible Summer is a nonfiction book by Cristina Rivera Garza, one of Mexico’s greatest contemporary writers. On 16 July 1990, Lilianna Rivera Garza, Cristina Rivera Garza’s sister, was suffocated by her ex-boyfriend, becoming another of Mexico’s countless victims of femicide. She was a twenty-year-old architecture student who had been trying for years to end her relationship with a high school boyfriend who refused to let her go. A few weeks before the tragedy, Lilianna made a decision that she would leave him behind and start a new life in England. But his decision was that she would not have a life without him. Returning to Mexico after years of living in America, Cristina Rivera Garza curates evidence to defy a pattern of increasingly normalised gendered violence and to understand a life lost.
Lilianna’s Invincible Summer is a powerful and astonishing book that calls out a multitude of societal issues at play in Mexico, from femicide and toxic masculinity to systemic injustice. Thirty years after Lilianna’s murder and still her murderer remains at large, despite the police knowing his identity. Consequently, she and her family have been deprived of closure and justice. Throughout the book, Garza also tells of the police’s lack of cooperation in providing her with the documents she requested related to the tragedy. Garza also details the alarming rate of femicide in Mexico and the country’s blatant inability to recognise it as a major issue. Most profoundly, though, Garza traces how femicide is linked to larger global issues, highlighting the history of women being controlled and abused by their supposed lovers all over the world. Femicide, Garza interestingly concludes, is directly related to a hatred of women that stems from toxic masculinity. Certain men, it seems, have a deep hatred of seeing a woman with power and independence. In this sense, femicide is a hate crime that carries the purpose of removing women of their power.
What is most special about this story, though, is the fact that it is not just a work of activism but also a means of providing a loving, tender tribute to Garza’s sister. Garza reconstructs Lilianna’s life through letters, journals, friends and relatives. This means of storytelling created an intimate portrayal of Lilianna that was heartfelt and beautiful. Through her journal entries, we followed Lilianna and traced her life through her most important milestones - her first kiss, first boyfriend, high school - and from her friends’ and relatives’ anecdotes, we gained an impression of the profound impact she had all on those around her. In this way, Garza allows us to really know and understand Lilianna and therefore grieve her loss along with her loved ones.
Overall, Lilianna’s Invincible Summer is a harrowing book that explores femicide through the death of one woman whilst also providing a beautiful commemoration of Lilianna. Lilianna’s Invincible Summer will be available to purchase from 16 March 2023.