In her debut novel, Nochita, Dia Felix tells the fierce story of a girl who runs away from an alcoholic father and an uncaring life, then takes to the streets with only her own desperation guiding her on. Written in visceral prose in a singular, surreal inner voice, Nochita casts an eye on the world that CAConrad claims will melt “clothes off bodies with a crème brûlée touch.”
The novel is the story of the title character’s journey from childhood through young adulthood and her relationships with a cast of characters from the weird underbellies of California. Its form is a series of short chapters that are all grounded in Felix’s irresistible voice. Mary Gaitskill said, “Nochita shimmers with humor and delight, she burns with stark raving intelligence.”
Here is an early chapter from Nochita titled “In the Pines”:
The sun is a blazing orange fist hovering, magnetized over the ocean. A circle of women is moving inside another circle of women, a slow dance where each woman looks into the other woman’s face and says, yes I see you, yes I love you, then steps over and says it to the next woman in the line until everyone has said it to everyone. One woman has braces even though she is old.
I don’t want to do it and I don’t have to, I can say no.
I walk into the woods instead, it’s instantly darker and cooler under the old tall pines. I don’t know anything about trees like the name of a tree but these are obviously pines. Dirt gets inside my jelly shoes, slowing me down. (When something is not going well, say Hello, and then ask, What are you trying to teach me? Soften to everything.) The dirt feels good in my shoes, actually.
I find a big smooth rock and sit on it like a million other people have. The ocean is softly crashing. Over and over it falls. The forest is sweet, perfumed, dusty. Dry doves collect and scatter peacefully in the sky, the scene relaxes my skeleton.
Recently I found his old driver’s license. My dad’s He did not look particularly handsome or ugly to me, just a macho guy with a thick crown of black hair and a cop-like mustache. But Kaia tells me that he was breathtaking, like a hush fell over a room when he entered. Kaia understood the thing tall dark and handsome when she saw my father.
That’s where you get your height, says Kaia.
I picture him in an orchard, on a ladder, picking oranges. I want to see his face. I move in, but all I can conjure is the hovering cutout of his thick inky black hair and moustache, paper cutouts composited onto an empty brown face. He offers an orange out to me, wobbly.
I see her before she sees me, her silky sleeves swimming around her knobby wrists as she appears between the trees, wearing the universe’s ugliest sandals. She sits beside me.
Found you, she says.
You give me such a full heart, she says. She squeezes my head into her neck, a clumsy hug. Don’t you? she says.
This is the latest novel from the City Lights / Sister Spit imprint, which spotlights radical literature that is queer-centric, feminist, and irreverent from writers and artists across the U.S. The series is edited by Michelle Tea.
Catch Dia Felix is on the road reading from Nochita in New York this coming June.