-Eliza Metcalfe, editorial assistant, BOOKS + PUBLISHING

Culúa, pronounced cool-wah, is Samantha Wood’s tale of her year spent in Mexico, the land where her mother was born. Samantha, or ‘Samantita’ as she was known in Mexico, struggled to adjust to the country, arriving and leaving a number of times before settling in for the year that is the basis for this story. The book is a tale of Wood falling in love with Mexico—the people, the language, the art and the food—and discovering at the same time where she, a Mexican-English Australian, fits in the world. Bantam is well-established at publishing in the memoir–travel area and this is a fine addition to its collection. Wood’s storytelling is warm and familiar, her wonder at discovering new things is fresh and sincere and her passion for the language and the food is evident throughout. Spanish is used liberally in the text, not always with glosses, but in a way that adds to the feeling that the reader is learning the country alongside Wood. The cuisine of Mexico is also a major discovery in the book and after salivating over Wood’s delicious descriptions of dishes, I was thrilled to discover the recipes in the back. A really enjoyable read that deserves to do well this Christmas. 


'Samantha Wood describes her discovery of her Mexican-ness - the part of herself that she didn't know was missing, growing up in Melbourne, Australia. Her account of growing to love Mexico, and discovering the beauty of Mexico City in both its beautiful and ugly corners is heart warming and endearing. Will give anyone who's ever travelled to Mexico itchy feet to go again!'


ONE OF SAMANTHA WOOD'S earliest childhood memories is of her grandfather giving her a wobbly rubber map of Mexico that pulled apart like a jigsaw puzzle. He told her of the nomadic Culua-Mexica, who built a great empire in the valley of Mexico and became known as the Aztecs. Suddenly, the wanderers were a people with a new identity, a home...

Like her ancestors, Samantha yearns to find a place she can call home. Raised on the enticing glimpses of a dark and magical land conjured up by her Mexican mother's bedtime stories - a land oozing Latin rhythms, full of passion and fire, from bullfights to family feuds and bloody revolutions, roasted iguana and beans, to sugar skeletons - what begins as a visit to her enigmatic grandmother becomes a quest to find out what it means to be Mexican.

But as she learns to embrace Mexico verdadero - the real Mexico - she discovers a people who give a new meaning to larger than life, the fabulous strong women who rule the roost, the colourful macho men who think they do, and the invincible bonds between family, food, and the spirit world.

Always an outside, this nomad at last feels she has come home.


By Samantha Wood
Culua: My Other Life in Mexico, a memoir by Samantha Wood

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