Liliana’s Invincible Summer: A Sister’s Search for Justice

Finalist, National Book Awards 2023 for Nonfiction

ISBN 9780593244098
Hogarth / Penguin Random House
Author photo of Cristina Rivera Garza. (Photo Credit: Marta Calvo)
Cristina Rivera Garza

Cristina Rivera Garza is the award-winning author of The Taiga Syndrome and The Iliac Crest, among many other books. More about this author >

Award Years

Award Status

Award Categories

From the publisher:

In the early hours of July 16, 1990, Liliana Rivera Garza was murdered by her abusive ex-boyfriend. A life full of promise and hope, cut tragically short, Liliana’s story instead became subsumed into Mexico’s dark and relentless history of domestic violence. With Liliana’s case file abandoned by a corrupt criminal justice system, her family, including her older sister Cristina, was forced to process their grief and guilt in private, without any hope for justice.

In luminous, poetic prose, Rivera Garza tells a singular yet universally resonant story: that of a spirited, wondrously hopeful young woman who tried to survive in a world of increasingly normalized gendered violence. It traces the story of her childhood, her early romance with a handsome—but possessive and short-tempered—man, through the exhilarating weeks leading up to that fateful July morning, a summer when Liliana loved, thought, and traveled more widely and freely than she ever had before.

Using her remarkable talents as a scholar, novelist, and poet, Cristina Rivera Garza returns to Mexico after decades of living in the United States to collect and curate evidence—handwritten letters, police reports, school notebooks, architectural blueprints—in order to render and understand a life beyond the crime itself. Tracing the full arc of their childhood and adolescence in central Mexico, through the painful and confusing years after Liliana’s death, Rivera Garza confronts the trauma of losing her sister, and examines from multiple angles how this tragedy continues to shape who she is—and what she fights for—today.

Judges Citation

A stirring work of memoir and reportage that tells the story of the author’s sister, Liliana, who was murdered by an ex-boyfriend at the age of 20. In exquisite prose and an imaginative structure, the book is at once a fearless look at violence against women, a plea for justice instead of shame, and, above all, a beautiful and heart-wrenching tribute to a beloved sister who comes to life in its pages. This is an unforgettable work.


Cristina Rivera Garza at the 2023 National Book Awards Finalist Reading