Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano

First ImpressionsLotería book cover
I’m a sucker for good book covers.

I know, I know, authors have little to no say about this marketing aspect of the book and I shouldn’t (judge a book by its cover), but there’s no denying good visual impact. My version of Lotería shows a vibrant red rose on an azure background, but  watch out – this rose has thorns; the perfect metaphor for Luz Castillo and her story.

Drive-By Summary
Eleven year old Luz is refusing to speak to anyone. Something horrible has happened to her and she’s become a ward of the State. Parsed out in a series of memories triggered by images from a deck of Lotería cards, Luz’s narrative provide flashes of insight. As the pieces of Luz’s tragic tale fall into place, you realize you’re witnessing the devastating effects of racism and abuse on Luz and her family.

My Favorite Character
This book overflows with deeply flawed characters. I wanted to save Luz and her sister, Estrella, from the impending train wreck. I certainly rooted for Luz, hoping what few choices she could make would shift how her future would unfold.

Words to Live By
Luz while talking to her higher power: “I see You in people’s faces before they tell me something that means a lot to them. ”

Who might like this book
Lotería would work well for book discussion groups due to the dense layering of themes. Readers interested in understanding characters and how those characters develop will also enjoy this read.

Final Say
Zambrano sprinkles Spanish phrases throughout Lotería. If you don’t speak at any Spanish, grab a Spanish-English dictionary or use an online Spanish English Dictionary like this:


You don’t have to understand the Spanish terms to understand the story, but understanding them will enhance your reading experience. And remember the rose on the cover? This book explores love in many forms, some of them darker than others. Be prepared for this story to draw blood.

Pick up Lotería, gently, at the Bellingham Public Library today.

— Suzanne


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