We are proud to post this informational piece about with multi-published author Concha Alborg. Her latest work, My Mother, That Stranger. Letters from the Spanish Civil War is a memoir about her parents and the lives they lived during the tumultuous Spanish Civil War.
Concha Alborg was born in Valencia, Spain, and grew up in Madrid. She has lived in the United States since the 1960s. More than any other event in her life, this move defines who she is, an immigrant living between two cultures. She may seem Americanized to her Spanish relatives, but she is from another country as far as her two daughters are concerned. Although Concha fits well enough in both cultures, a tell-tale Spanish accent marks her speech as well as her writing. She earned a Masters from Emory University (1977) and a Ph.D. from Temple University (1982). For over twenty years she was a professor of contemporary Spanish literature at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where she still resides. Since her retirement from teaching, she has dedicated herself to writing creative non-fiction. She has published a memoir, Divorce after Death. A Widow’s Memoir (2014), a novel, American in Translation: A Novel in Three Novellas (2011) and two collections of short stories: Beyond Jet-Lag. Other Stories (2000) and Una noche en casa (1995).
The origins of My Mother, That Stranger. Letters from the Spanish Civil War:
My Mother, That Stranger. Letters from the Spanish Civil War is a heartfelt memoir about Concha Alborg’s mother based on the letters she wrote to her fiancé, who was fighting against Franco’s forces during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The author found the letters –over 800 in number– that no one knew existed, hidden in an attic.
These long-lost letters made the author realize that her mother had been a very different person as a young woman from the mother she knew, thus the “Stranger” in the title. The author’s mother is exemplary of the women formed during the liberal Spanish Republic, who were silenced under the nearly forty years of Franco’s repressive dictatorship (1939-1975). This unique memoir illuminates the “official story” at an individual level. The author’s mother personal narrative adds to the understanding of this significant time because it shown how a family lived in the midst of war.
“Writing this book has been a journey of discovery as far as my mother is concerned, but it has also been a personal journey of discovery, because I have realized how much I am like my mother,” noted Alborg. “For example, I share a similar sense of humor, I am resourceful like she was, and I treasure my family as she did. Another trait we share is our love of cooking, which is an important element of the letters. Consequently, I have included an appendix with some of my mother’s recipes.”
In addition to being a family memoir, this book is also a universal story because it is an immigrant story, a story of self-discovery that many readers will relate to. Americans, more than ever, are searching for their roots, trying to find the origin of their families.
“In these political times of surging nationalism, this is a timely book in Spain as much as in the States. This month, over forty years after his death, Franco’s remains have been moved from the mausoleum he constructed for his resting place. Over 30,00 victims of the Spanish Civil War are still buried in mass graves. It’s never too late to unearth and revisit history,”Alborg explained. “My mother, who died in 1975–the same year as Franco–would be proud to be part of this history. It’s worth noting that the book is being published in England. Sussex Academic Press has a prestigious series directed by Paul Preston, an eminent scholar of the Spanish Civil War, which makes it the perfect home for my book.”
According to Alborg, her memoir has had a deep impact on those around her as well. “My family and friends have been very helpful in finding photographs and sharing information about the Spanish Civil War with me. It will be interesting to see if they share the same memories as I do when they read the book. I know that I have a unique point of view about my family’s lives if only because I see it from the geographical distance of living in the United States.
Alborg believes this book is the most personal and intimate one she has written, even more than Divorce After Death. A Widow’s Memoir, which focused on her marriage and her husband’s death. For this memoir, she had to dig deeper to understand her mother and her place in her large family as the oldest of seven siblings– and her place in the history of Spain.
“I have read all the letters several times and each time I find some relevant information I had missed before. Currently, I am rereading them again, because I am writing a Spanish edition of the letters written by my father. With the working title of Retrato del joven escritor Juan Luis Alborg (Portrait of the Young Writer Juan Luis Alborg). This will be altogether a very different book, since my father was a well-known writer on his own right.”