The Bracelets

Daisy Hernandez, University of Miami


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The Bracelets: A Novel begins five years after September 11, 2001, in a small town in New Jersey near Manhattan. Trinidad Zapata has recently been named director of the local library, and she and her husband, Arturo, are trying to have a baby. They have not been successful, but Trinidad is determined. She lost her own mother when she was young and her grandmother, who lives with them now, raised her in a home more devoted to activist politics than safety. The thirty-three-year old Trinidad has already managed to land a good job and to organize their finances to buy a home. The baby is next, and to that end she hangs an imitation of a classic Jan Van Eyck painting in their bedroom. It shows a skinny white couple with a baby bump in a room with a canopy bed behind them. Trinidad’s plans begin to fall apart when the Department of Homeland Security detains Arturo and refuses to say if they have him in a detention center. As she and her grandmother set out to find him, Trinidad discovers that her husband, who worked for the post office, was leading a double life that included an ambiguous relationship with a woman raising her children at a shelter nicknamed the “Bracelets,” because the women there are under house arrest and are required to wear electronic monitoring bracelets on their ankles. Faced with betrayal and loss and a grandmother who thinks they should advocate for the Bracelets, Trinidad has to reevaluate where she comes from, what she believes in, and what kind of life---and family and community---she truly wants. The Bracelets is a semi-dystopian novel. It includes the fabrication of certain major political events, such as the murder of Vice President Cheney with an anthrax-laced letter, a statewide curfew in New Jersey, and a terrorist group waging biological warfare. More importantly though, the novel takes events that have happened in different communities and concentrates them in one small town. The mothers under house arrest in the novel are loosely based on the experiences of women arrested after the 2008 immigration raid in Postville, Iowa; the disappearances of people in the novel is inspired by Argentina’s Dirty War; and the fictional detention centers and Homeland Security raids are modeled after those documented in contemporary news accounts.