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“A one-of-a-kind book, beautiful, startling, and heartbreaking...Morillo has a novelist’s profound heart and the piercing truth-seeking of a documentarian.”

Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize–winning author, This Is How You Lose Her

A family murder kept secret, the mysterious disappearance of her father, the systematic erasing of family photographs, a turbulent relationship with her mother, layers of trauma and abuse. In Mother Archive, Erika Morillo reconciles these demons of her past by searching for and seeking out the roots of her family. Intertwining memories with archival family photographs, news clippings, film stills, and artistic images, Morillo revisits her childhood growing up in the Dominican Republic, a place and time riddled with a history of violence and a tradition of erasure.

Spanning three generations across three different countries, this memoir works as a map in which the author traces incidents in her family history to help her understand herself and her own experience as a mother.


“Mother Archive is the most moving and perceptive memoir I’ve read in years. Erika Morillo’s captivating image-text memoir is an inescapable open door into Morillo’s courageous investigation of a life scarred by the betrayal of those meant to protect us, our mothers. A fascinating psychological collage of prose and images, Morillo’s unflinchingly honest exploration of her life is also a woman’s quest for love and security—in her adopted mother figures, in her art, and in motherhood as she tries, with heart-rending compassion, to become the mother she never had.”

Julia Fierro, author, The Gypsy Moth Summer

“Morillo has created a dizzyingly complex visual and verbal world, where the brutality of history courses in the blood and curls the hair at the nape of the neck. At once a lyric confession, a body of photographic evidence, and an elegy for the irrecoverable past, Mother Archive begins with fire but is traversed by water—source of life and scene of death, symbol of distance and the substance in which images are developed. And at its center is an aching portrait of the mother, in all her uncanny similitude and impossible otherness. Morillo tells a crushing story about the hungers of migration and memory, about the scars of history, and about the undyingness of maternal desire. Readers will want to sit with her memoir's affecting lessons for a long, long time.”

Christopher Rovee, author, New Critical Nostalgia

“Mother Archive is a gorgeous epistolary hybrid memoir where a daughter courageously and lovingly holds her estranged mother accountable for burying their family’s history, including her father’s disappearance. It is impossible not to be moved by the intimate and haunting images juxtaposed with Erika Morillo’s confrontational letter that reveals the family’s tragic personal and political histories. For readers who love the works of Julia Alvarez and Isabel Allende that combine family and political histories, I highly recommend this book.” 

Angie Cruz, author of How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water

“Seamlessly integrating lyrical texts and stunning images, Mother Archive creates a tender, fierce, and moving portrait of intergenerational love and struggle, and the ways we make peace with the unresolvable past. A nuanced and revelatory passage through the hurt and intimacy of mother-daughter relations, set against the legacies of political violence and emigration. Morillo is a writer and photographer of extraordinary emotional force.”

Nicholas Muellner, Founding Co-Director, Image Text MFA and ITI Press, Cornell University

“Referencing the family album, with a narrative clear and brilliant like the sun of Boca Chica or Juan Dolio at noon, we are in front of an open work that defies categorization. Mother Archive is a tour de force about the sharpest points of the Island: the pain in the face of State violence —which takes her to her own father — to a present-day country still dangerous and uncertain. Morillo breaks from and surpasses what we thought until now as that which is “Dominican.” Mother Archive is the first great postmodern dictionary of Dominicanity.”

Miguel D. Mena, Dominican essayist, editor, and curator. Author of Poética de Santo Domingo

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