This new iteration of Michael Nava's A Little Death is such a different book I could not remember which Henry Rios novel I was re-reading. Lay Your Sleeping Head is both sexier and starker than its original, which, in comparison almost seems like the outline of the novel that Nava has given us now. A much deeper and more personal introduction to Henry Rios—from his alcoholism to his passionate nights with Hugh Paris—this is both a poetic character study of the first queer Chicano lawyer in Latin@ letters and a mystery with a mission that uses the noir genre to expose family secrets such as incest, depression, and addiction, as well as the rampant homophobia of both mainstream and Latin@ culture. The most surprising part of this new edition is the 13-part Author's Note at the end. By learning more about the abuses and inequalities the author experienced in his family life, as well as the homophobic attitudes and policies of his coming out years in the 1970’s, intersecting with racial bigotry, internalized hatred, and stultifying isolation, we understand why Nava had to create a character like Henry Rios, dedicated to social justice and committed to healing from his own demons. If you're a young queer of color just discovering the Henry Rios novels, this book will fill you with recognition, this book is your own "affirming flame" (with nods to W.H. Auden).
Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Professor of Chicana/o Studies
and Chair of LGBTQ Studies at UCLA, author of
Desert Blood: The Juárez Murders