This Writer’s On Fire: Désirée Zamorano -The Toast

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“I write to shred the cloak of invisibility thrust upon us.” – The Invisible Latina

“A mystery is the only place on this Earth where we really find justice” –  an interview with Wendy Werris at Publishers Weekly

Who she is

Désirée Zamorano lives in L.A., where she writes award-winning short fiction, plays, and novels. Zamorano brings her passion for engaging elementary and middle school students in enriching language arts expression and experiences to Occidental’s Community Literacy Center. She also collaborates with InsideOut Writers,  which works with formerly incarcerated youth.

She is currently the Visions and Communications chair of the California Council on Teacher Education, and is a former elected board member of both CCTE and the Independent California Colleges and Universities of California on Education of Teachers.

Why you should read her work

Zamorano writes intricate, thrilling, character-driven mysteries even when she is writing a novel about family (The Amado Women), the kind of mysteries that are so much a part of our everyday that we don’t even recognize them until we are forced to. These mysteries are about the people who are most familiar (family, lovers, friends, colleagues) and the secrets and invisible forces that move them. Sometimes there’s a crime and a detective (like kickass private investigator Inez Leon in Human Cargo); sometimes women have to do the detective work themselves without the training, guns, or krav maga (The Amado Women). These are the best kinds of mysteries, in which even a seasoned reader can be surprised — not by the more and more outrageous ‘twists’ that too many crime novels seem to rely on, but by humans and the deeply complex ways they are in the world and with each other. One of the minor ‘bad guys’ in Human Cargo is also the victim of terrible abuse and trauma, a trafficked sex slave since she was a girl. We want to pity her, to think better of her, but she’s despicable and selfish, a con artist, a racist. She’s also unspeakably brave and capable of joy. More layers, more mystery. Reading Zamorano means knowing that there’s always another layer you haven’t uncovered yet.

In the best mysteries, the kind Zamorano writes, there are always hidden forces at work, other worlds just next to this one. The path that leads to resolution, to justice, is never straightforward, never clear. There’s no tidy solution. There is justice, but it is painful, raw. It leaves marks. One of the major forces at work in Zamorano’s novels is class, complicated always by race, ethnicity, and gender. Class acts on and through these characters the way it works on us all — through shame, fear, desire, ambition. It makes these characters do terrible and wonderful things, things that shape them, twist them. They are always striving to better themselves without really seeing the hidden costs to them, their families, and invisible others. The promised reward is inclusion in the American dream, the middle-class white world of shiny new things, beauty, respect, power, but there’s always one more step — if you’ve ever been poor, you know that you are never really not poor. You are always just a slip away from poverty, a step away from great wealth. And if you are not white and male in America, that step up is wider, steeper. But Zamorano doesn’t explain or lecture; her characters live these truths, resist and succumb to these forces, fail and prevail. They find each other again and again. And, more important, they struggle for and find something that is all too rare in this world: justice.


Where to find her work

The Amado Women – “The Amado Women is a fast-paced novel that manages the rare feat of being both entertaining and heartfelt… A haunting, well-crafted story from a novelist at the peak of her powers.”—Hope Wabuke, The Rumpus

“This is spot-on writing from Zamorano, illustrating how class aspirations can erase our humanity or ability to connect with others, and demonstrating some of the pitfalls of middle-class existence.” –Vickie Vértiz, Los Angeles Review of Books

Read an excerpt.

Human Cargo – Désirée Zamorano is the creator of a dynamic Latina outsider named Inez Leon. A skilled private investigator with a tortilla chip on her shoulder, Inez lives for truth, justice and the Mexican-American way.

In Human Cargo, Inez gains access to Pasadena’s Russian community in order to find a missing family. She uncovers a culture of underground nightclubs and virtual slavery, as well the high price of a passage into this country.

Read chapter 1.

Modern Cons – Twenty-seven-year-old Jackie Paz knows too much about her mother’s life to trust her, which is why she’s struck out on her own, as a straight, a drone. Her mother, Maida, has tracked Jackie down to a small town in southern California, trying in her own way to set the past right, at just the wrong moment in Jackie’s life.

“Family inflicts the deadliest cuts in this compelling psychological thriller. Des Zamorano is a writer to watch.” —Dianne Emley, L.A. Times bestselling author.

Read chapter 1.

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