'Saints of the Household': When violence threatens your dreams of the future
Costa Rican-American Ari Tison debuts with a young adult novel about brotherhood, abuse, recovery and doing the right thing
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In Bribri (Indigenous Costa Rican language and people), the word for story is “siwa,'” writes Ari Tison on her personal website.
“'Siwa' is synonymous with story, history, knowledge, and wind as our stories carry through the generations like the wind bringing history and knowledge,” she adds.
Ari is a Bribri American and African descended poet and the author of Saints of the Household, a young adult hybrid poetry and prose novel about two Bribri American brothers — Max and Jay — who grew up with a physically abusive father and have always depended on one another for survival. They have learned that the only way to protect themselves and their mother is to stick to a schedule and keep their heads down.
But when they hear a classmate in trouble in the woods, instinct takes over and they intervene, breaking up a fight and beating their high school's star soccer player to a pulp. This act of violence threatens the brothers' dreams for the future and their beliefs about who they are. As the true details of that fateful afternoon unfold over the course of the novel, Max and Jay grapple with the weight of their actions, their shifting relationship as brothers, and the realization that they may be more like their father than they thought. They'll have to reach back to their Bribri roots to find their way forward.
Told in alternating points of view using vignettes and poems, “debut author Ari Tison crafts an emotional, slow-burning drama about brotherhood, abuse, recovery, and doing the right thing.” wrote the book's publishers.
“I love being a storyteller and getting to continue the tradition. In practice, sometimes this means I'm working on my novels, a poem, learning my Indigenous language, co-translating a Bribri story, or participating in a reading,” writes Ari Tison on her website.
She is also a contributor in Our Shadows Have Claws, a young adult folklore and horror Latine anthology published by Algonquin Young Readers in 2022. Set across Latin America and its diaspora, the collection of stories offers bold, imaginative stories of oppression, grief, sisterhood, first love, and empowerment.
Her poems and short works have been published in Yellow Medicine Review, The Under Review, Rock & Sling, and POETRY's first ever edition for children.
She was the winner of the 2018 Vaunda Micheaux Nelson award for a BIPOC writer with Lerner Publishing.