Gringa in a Strange Land by Linda Dahl

Gringa in a Strange Land brings back the exhilarating and confusing time of the “counterculture” in the early 1970’s.

Erica Mason, an American woman living in Mexico, is torn between working to become an artist and the lure of the drug culture.

Set mostly in the colonial city of Merida in the Yucatan peninsula, the story also moves among Mayan ruins, laid-back beaches and the cities of Belize and Oaxaca.

A host of bohemian expats and Mexicans, and the complex character of Mexico itself, infuse this portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-young-American, culminating in an unexpected resolution.

About Linda Dahl

I have always loved to write about characters, usually edgy, little-known folks with wonderful stories and talents. I love places too and music, above all jazz. As a girl, I dreamed of traveling around the world and as soon as I could, I took to the road. I was fortunate to live and work in a number of Latin American countries. After college (Latin American Studies, University of Wisconsin), I moved to the Yucatan in Mexico, and then made the pilgrimage to another foreign country called New York with a suitcase and several hundred dollars. This was in the mid-l970’s.

Finding the requisite cheap, shabby apartment (you could still do so in those days), I started writing in earnest. I had a number of ridiculous jobs to pay the rent, such as writing reviews of C- movies I never actually saw (no one else seemed to be watching them either), driving an ice-cream truck in Central park for just one day until I had a fender-bender, and writing a history of all the world’s cheese with a two-week deadline for a manic food editor. I managed also to produce novels, biographies and essays about women in jazz, and quirky travel articles about such topics as the Carmen Miranda Museum in Rio, a priestess of Candomble, a.k.a. voodoo (interview in rudimentary Portuguese), and a Mayan folk healer.

I am happy to say that most of my writing efforts have been published, well-reviewed and are still in print. My latest novel, a love-child, is “Gringa in a Strange Land,” available in January 2010.

You can visit Linda Dahl’s website at

Read an Excerpt

Night came as it did every evening to Merida, lazily, gracefully. The final light through the spires and towers of the cathedral, which dominated one side of the plaza, melted into the old stones and briefly glowed on the arcades ringing the rest of the square. The plaza, smelling of old things, rustled with the dry sighs of the grey old trees mixed with the whooshing sounds of Mayan and plangent Spanish of the families resting on its benches. It spoke of an ancient harmony, and sitting to one end on “her” bench, Erica could not imagine it would ever end.

People streamed continuously through the plaza with their henequen bags or the more “modern” plaid plastic bags used now for shopping. Children played, but many instead worked, as shoeshine boys, vendors of Chiclets and one-cigarette-at-a-time; round-eyed Indian girls helped their mothers sell the last of the produce. Taxi drivers stood with rounded shoulders like horses waiting for a fare. And Alonso came slowly along, in immaculate whites, absentmindedly stroking his guitar case. He sat down heavily beside Erica, looking around him with the mildest of interest—this was, after all, the city of his birth, everything was perfectly routine—and then rolled his eyes to the evening sky, a deep cobalt blue.

“You are really en la onda tonight,” Erica commented. Riding the wave. In the groove. But then, he so often looked stoned, even when he wasn’t.


About Nyx

Podcaster, baker, zine reviewer and maker.

Posted on January 7, 2010, in Contemporary, Fiction. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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