Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life"

Catherine Reef is the author of more than 40 nonfiction books, including many highly acclaimed biographies for young people. She lives in College Park, Maryland.

Reef applied the Page 69 Test to Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life, her new young adult biography exploring the tumultuous lives, marriage, and work of the artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and reported the following:
Frida & Diego is subtitled Art, Love, Life. Many of its pages look at the subjects as artists, but page 69 finds them enmeshed in “love” and “life.”

The marriage of Frida and Diego was battered and damaged by the infidelity of both spouses. On page 69 Frida is reeling from the worst blow Diego inflicts on her, his affair with her sister Cristina. It is summer 1935, and she has left Mexico to stay in New York with friends.
Observing her life from this great distance, Frida understood that she still loved Diego and he loved her. The affair with Cristina would end, and he would have others; he was never going to change. “I cannot love him for what he is not,” she concluded. So she forgave both Diego and Cristina, although the affair had not yet waned, and when fall came, she went back to San Ángel. She returned stronger, more independent, and vowing to live a meaningful life on her own terms.
Rivera also engages in introspection—a thing unusual for him—and he acknowledges a side of himself that is less than admirable, the satisfaction he takes in hurting women he loves. “Frida was only the most obvious victim of this disgusting trait,” he admits.

But what happens after Frida gets home? Leon Trotsky enters the story. The old freedom fighter and his wife have been living under a death sentence after being expelled from the Soviet Communist Party by a pathologically suspicious Joseph Stalin.
Anyone who spoke out against Stalin or his policies would be sent to a gulag (forced-labor camp), where starvation and brutality were the way of life, or exiled to Siberia, or killed. Terrified of enemies real or imagined, Stalin had millions of Soviet citizens put to death. In 1929 Trotsky was forced to flee. In his absence the Soviet government staged a series of trials that were rigged to frame him for plotting from abroad to assassinate Stalin.
Like vagabonds, the Trotskys have bounced from Turkey to France and Norway, never permitted to settle permanently.
Anytime, anywhere, Stalin’s supporters might track him down and execute him.
As we reach the bottom of page 69, Rivera receives a letter from a friend in the United States, asking if Mexico might give the Trotskys asylum. Rivera was a communist who opposed Stalin’s policies, and he was prominent and politically active, so for him to receive this request made sense. But we must turn the page to learn that he then appeals to President Lázaro Cárdenas, who welcomes the Trotskys into the country, setting the stage for further betrayal.
Visit Catherine Reef's website.

--Marshal Zeringue