Gringa in a Strange Land evokes the “counter-cultural” early l970’s, that exhilarating and confusing time for so many young people. Erica Mason, an American living in Mexico, is torn between working to become the artist she longs to be, and the lure of the drug culture. Set mostly in the colonial city of Merida in the Yucatan peninsula, the narrative also moves among Mayan ruins, laid-back beaches, and cities such as Belize and Oaxaca. A host of bohemian expats and Mexicans along with the complex character of Mexico itself, infuse this portrait of the artist as a young woman in exile, culminating in an unexpected resolution.
Dahl’s use of character and atmosphere are commendable for how they appear so simple yet enrich and perfectly blend together to create an intoxicating world. Dahl has recaptured a time and place she knew as a young woman from her own travel to Mexico in the 1970s. One might call this book “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman.” Dahl uses multiple languages and explores the character in a Bildungsroman manner.
Praise for Gringa in a Strange Land
Like the artisans who applied kaleidoscopic colors to the Mayan pyramids, Linda Dahl paints a vivid portrait of a young American artist who thrusts herself into the exotic maelstrom of Mexico in the ’70’s on a drug-, booze- and sex-suffused odyssey — a struggle to create art, find herself and seek love — amid the hippies and the druggies, the ordinary folk, the grifters and the adventurers all crossing paths in Merida and Oaxaca. You’ll think of Robert Stone’s work and Barbet Schroeder’s film More in that the novel so adeptly renders an era, a country and a state of mind.
This beautifully written novel tells the story of approximately one year in the life of Erica Mason, a 23-year-old American girl who has been living in Mexico for two years. Set in the l970’s, while America and the world were still suffering from the effects of the Vietnam war, and a time when the world was changing (women’s lib movement, gay rights and legal abortion), this book powerfully captures the spirit of the time, as well as showing the reader Erica’s own personal experiences.