Yolanda Ramírez, a phlebotomist in Coachella Valley, California, begins worrying, in 1983, about the deaths of gay men, hemophiliacs, and women who have had cosmetic surgery. The novel unfolds with her explorations into the connections among these deaths, but it also explores Yolanda’s relationship with a gay couple, one of whose members has AIDS, the growing romantic relationship between her and Marina Lomas (who has run away from an abusive husband with her small daughter), her relationship with her father, Crescienco.

Crescienco, employed as a gardener for Eliana Townsend (whom he loves and who still has the scars from her cosmetic surgery), watches her slowly die from some mysterious and debilitating disease. Finally Yolanda convinces the hospital that her hunches about the mysterious AIDS virus having infected the blood supply are correct.


This novel explores family relationships (gay and lesbian partnerships, father-daughter relationships, husband-wife, domestic violence), ethnic connections (Crescienco and Eliana’s shared Mexican heritage), and the complex intersections among gender identity, sexual orientation, illness, and health. As lies are unmasked in this rich story, readers see that illness cuts across ethnic, sexual, and class lines.


University of New Mexico

Place Published

Albuquerque, N. Mex.



Page Count