Pub Date: May 10, 2022

Author: Magdalena Gómez

Mi’ja is a new voice for old wounds, a time machine we are all invited to enter to reclaim the genius of our youth, an opportunity to revisit the loneliness and wonder of things we could see and understand only as children. At once heartbreaking and hilarious, Mi’ja chronicles the first nineteen years of the life of poet laureate, acclaimed playwright, and educator Magdalena Gómez—a life not meant for a child, nor is this book. It is fairytales and bestiaries in ceiling cracks; mythologies on the fire escape; realities of how the smallest acts of kindness can conquer despair. This book will reward you with revelations and celebrations of your own life; it may help you remember or perhaps even discover your truest, most honest self.


“Don’t miss the numerous creative and syncopated renderings and re-mixings of the Boricua Spanglish of the time, a treasure trove of New York Puerto Rican history reanimated by the ear and flow only a poet and performer like Gómez could bring…Gómez has long been a bridge between the foundational Nuyorican poets of the 1960s and 1970s and younger generations of poets and performers. Mi’ja is another kind of bridge: her “memoir noir” combines poems and dream records with vivid yet often raw and painful prose remembrances of growing up in the Bronx during a time of transition with parents steeped in old ways. She watches the borough transform and fray without losing its sense of struggle or its defiant humor, just as Gómez never has.”

—Urayoán Noel, Associate Professor of English, Spanish, & Portuguese / Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Spanish & Portuguese at NYU. Latinx Project Faculty Board Member.


“Gómez unflinchingly shares how adult physical and verbal violence warps a child’s ability to love and causes psychological wounds with no statute of limitations. Her lyric grace renders so many painful moments into riveting vignettes and unforgettable imagery. Gómez’s skillful crafting of this memoir immediately earns its rightful place alongside contemporary memoirs such as Grace Talusan’s The Body Papers, Kiese Laymon’s Heavy, and Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House.“

—María Luisa Arroyo Cruzado, MFA, MA


“A fiercely honest, wickedly humorous, and immensely insightful look at the heart of a poet. Mi’ja takes the reader on a transformational journey. We witness how scars become jewels, how compassion and wit are the best revenge, and how a river of passionate words and stories can soothe the worst injustices. Gómez dances with her ancestors, despite the stale cookies and slaps of childhood. What a harvest! Mi’ja will make you take a deep healing breath.”

—Beverly Naidus, author of Arts for Change: Teaching Outside the Frame, One Size Does Not Fit All, and creator of the Pandemic Healing Deities series; Professor Emeritus, University of Washington, Tacoma


Mi’ja belongs on your bookshelf between I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and The House on Mango Street. Pure passion, pure life, pure New York City. We thrill watching the narrator survive, thrive and tell her tale. Brilliant!”

—Lisa Aronson-Fontes, PhD; psychologist, professor, Fulbright
      Scholar, global speaker and author of Invisible Chains: Overcoming
     Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship
and Child Abuse and
          Culture: Working with Diverse Families


“Magdalena Gómez’s searing honesty excavates what is dishonest within us. What she allows us to witness here is catharsis—hers, and ours—we will not carry the weight of abuse and oppression on our chests any longer. We will sing, and our liberation will terrify tyrants.”

—Diana Alvarez, PhD (a.k.a. Doctora Xingona) award-winning
    poet, songwriter, and opera composer, Quiero Volver: A Xicanx
       Ritual Opera


“At once irreverent and true, Magdalena Gómez writes with the prose of a poet and the soul of a survivor. You’ll find yourself savoring each playful turn of phrase and philosophical rumination. By excavating and (re)writing her coming-of-age story, Gómez gives her younger self that voice and full humanity the adults in her life too often denied her, growing up. Mi’ja is thus a masterclass in the art of reparenting one’s inner child. Heartbreaking and hopeful, this memoir stays with you long after the final page.”

—Li Yun Alvarado, PhD, author of Words or Water


“The language dances.

The stories sing.

My heart broke and was mended, over and over again.

Magdalena, the wise elder, offers healing to Magdalena, the wiser child, and in turn opens a path, brimming with love and compassion, to heal all our child selves. Mijá is for those who have endured much suffering at the hands of those who couldn’t or wouldn’t love us in the ways we needed and, more importantly, in the ways we deserved to be loved. Her stories are hers, particular in time and place: various parts of New York City in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. The stories are also universal in the best ways; they travel the world, they speak many languages, they weave connections, and they show us how empathy, courage, and creativity are deep wells from which we all can draw as we soldier through this maddening world. Gracías a Magdalena por tus palabras y tu corazón tiernisimo.”

—Priscilla Maria Page, MFA, PhD; University of Massachusetts,
         Amherst Multicultural Theater Certificate Director, Dramaturgy Faculty


“Funny, painful, wickedly smart, and the definition of real.”

—Bob Spivey, PhD, Founder of SEEDS (Social Ecology Education Demonstration School), a Revolutionary Activist Art Group


“This book will be of historical and literary interest for decades to come.”