“What was the turning point when I decided to follow this dream of turf, two goals, and a single, checkered white and black ball? That moment. The goal changed everything. It was the moment I decided I wanted to be like that guy – the hero.”
This was an extremely good weekend. Yesterday I went to go see Coco at the theaters and on Friday I read Kulti by Mariana Zapata. Both of these mediums offered me a chance to see myself represented in the things I love: film and books.
I’ve been frusterated with the lack of diversity, especially in publishing. I have never read a book where the heroine shares the same culture as I do…until I read Kulti. It was emotional seeing my language and culture represented in a novel that I ABSOLUTELY loved. I could finally 100% relate to the heroine on every level. When her parents, or the neighborhood kids, spoke spanish I had this huge beaming smile on my face. When Sal talked about her close-knit family, their problems and issues, I was reminded of my own family.
Dad kept laughing. “Yeah, I want to hear about it,” he said before pausing. “Pero Salomé, acuérdate de lo que te he dicho. Kill them with kindness, si?”
Or in the case of having your name mispronounced all the time and worse, when people continue to mispronounce your name.
I was used to having someone butcher it. It happened all the time. Suh-lome. Saah-lome. Sah-lowmee. Salami. Salamander. Salmon. Sal-men. Saul. Sally. Samantha. Regardless, when someone continuously messes up your name even after you correct them…it’s a sign.
Of course, I can always relate to a character besides culture. It’s mainly about who that character is, is she smart? Kind? Funny? But I’ll be honest, it’s just a completely new level when I can share my culture with the character too. For the time I was reading this, I was Sal. Her family was almost a replica of my own. The langauge switch from spanish to english were like the conversations I have with my family and friends. I could picture those nights when I was younger, playing soccer with the local neighborhood kids, speaking spanish while having the time of our lives. This story was like home for me, it was so real.
“Amiga! Es Kulti?”
“Si es,” I admitted. “Pero no le digen a nadie.” The group erupted.
The next thing I knew they were on their feet, hands on their heads, losing their minds. The guys went up to the German, speaking quick Spanish and watching him like they had never seen anything like him before.
It wasn’t until I heard the first one who had spoken, say, “No me digas!” that I heard Kulti reply in perfect Spanish, explaining that he was real and not a ghost, “No soy fantasma.”
The guys lost it again. “You speak spanish!” one of them exclaimed in the same language.
And the soccer? It was all so incredibly authentic. I’ve been playing soccer since I could walk. Soccer is huge in my family, it’s a right of passage for us to wear a soccer jersey at least once in our lives. I played select with three different clubs and also had dreams of going professional (until two acl tears in the same knee took me out). So Sal’s love for soccer and her family’s love of soccer was all so real. (I’m going to be using the word ‘real’ a lot because this book was so true to life that I am in awe of the author and her incredible writing). Every aspect of soccer she got perfectly, the hard work, dedication, competitiveness with your own team, the aggression. That’s what I loved about soccer when I played. Nothing was guaranteed, you had to compete for a spot on the field against your teammates. Which is why I sympathized with Sal when she was torn between being a sole player versus trying to be the best teammate she could be. Soccer is hard, it *is* a team sport but you also have people vying for your spot on the field. Zapata captures all of this so perfectly, it was like I was transported back to my time as a soccer player.
And I loved her description of the games. The thrill of playing in a game, fighting your opponent for the ball. I loved it.
The ball was right by my feet after I’d taken it away from one of the defenders I was playing against. Said defender was now on the ground. I held my hand out to the girl and helped pull her to her feet. She knew there were no hard feelings. She’d gone for the ball at the same time I had, and obviously only one of us was going to get it. Needless to say, we both really wanted it.
At one point, I had been the one knocked to the ground, I mouthed to Jenny ‘There can be only one.’
I really got to become Sal while reading this. Zapata’s writing just captures you and doesn’t let you go until the last word on the last page. Every obstacle Sal conquered I was legitimately happy for her and every upset she faced I was genuinely heartbroken for her because Zapata wrote this story in a way that everything that happens, every detail, we as the reader get to witness it. We know how hard Sal has worked for what she has, we know she is innately a good person so when others knocked her down it was genuinely frustrating. Which is why, when shit really hit the fan, I’m so happy that it was Kulti who had her back.
Reiner freaking Kulti. The badass soccer player from Germany who seemingly has no feelings. I absolutely positively loved Kulti. Why? Because he doesn’t care about things that don’t matter. He doesn’t give you the time of day if you’re not someone he cares about. It may seem mean, but it’s real. You can’t say he’s not authentic. But here’s the thing, if he does care about you, he’s all in. Winning? He gives it his all. Sal? He gives her everything. I’m one of the believers who believe that love can help you grow, and that’s what Kulti did with Sal. He taught her to stop putting the weight of what others think on her shoulders. He showed her how to take control of her talent, ignore the people who were out to hurt her, and make her dreams come true. Sal stumbled sometimes but he made sure she never fell. He was always there for her. At first from a distance, and then as a friend, and then…well you get the gist.
“Fight me for this. Fight anyone that tries to take this away from you,” he urged.
And that is what really made this love story so beautiful. Kulti never wavered, despite whatever was thrown their way, he never wavered from Sal. He was secure in himself, in Sal, and in his feelings for her. Sal was incredibly strong but even the strongest need someone to lean on, to hurt and be vulnerable with, and Kulti was her strength when she needed it. And it was equal. Kulti was infamous for not being bothered by things yet with Sal, he could trust her. He could confide in her and lean on her when he needed to. I loved that they had seen each other at their most vulnerable yet they still thought the other was the strongest person they had ever met. Kulti’s faith in Sal was beautiful and Sal’s support of Kulti incredible.
“You’re you, and I will go to my grave before I let anyone change any part of you. I know that without a doubt in my mind.”
Every detail in this story mattered. Every nickname, every glance, every conversation. As the reader, we know that something is happening. When Kulti would say things that Sal would miss, the glances she couldn’t see…it was all there. The man was gone for her and part of the fun was waiting for Sal to realize it. And I would laugh at the parts when Kulti was being so obvious and Sal still missed it, I could feel Kulti’s exasperation. She was stubborn in her attempt to shield herself from him.
“I missed the horrified look on Kulti’s face before he came inside and shut the door behind him. I didn’t see him drop to his knees or put his hands on my own, lowering his head so that his forehead pressed to mine.
“Schneke,” he said in the softest, most affectionate tone I’d ever heard. “What is it?”
Kulti will always have a special place in my heart for so many reasons, but especially for the incredible love story. Mariana Zapata is now an auto-buy author for me. Her writing is incredibly beautiful. The pace is perfect. I never once wanted to put this book down, so much was happening and I didn’t want to miss one single moment. I stayed up two nights in a row until 4am to keep reading. Being a zombie the next day was worth it.
Now onto my next read: Wait for It. I’m going to *try* to savor it and read slow but I’m probably going to read through Zapata’s books in record time.
If you read this long ramble thanks! I’m off to read!
Oh yeah, 10 million stars for Kulti! This broke the 1-5 scale. Can’t wait to dig into her other works!
Amazon link: Kulti by Mariana Zapata