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The 411: In her most sexually adventurous and romantically bold novel yet, “The Gods of Tango,” Carolina De Robertis explores what it means to blur the lines of gender and find love in a way that transcends societal boundaries.
Growing up in an Argentinian and Uruguayan household and with a grandfather who was a composer of tango, Carolina De Robertis was always drawn to the dance.
“It was always in my life, and then I started to become fascinated with the history of the tango as an expression of not only passion and sexiness and dance as we come to think of it here in the United States, it certainly is all of those things, but also it’s so much more in terms of Argentinian and Uruguayan history,” she said.
“Tango is about the way mixing of cultures brought forth a musical phenomenon and so much historical richness. It expresses such deeper strains of longing and the human soul than I first understood,” she continued.
De Robertis delves deeper into this subject with her third novel “The Gods of Tango,” which follows a young woman as she discovers her true passion and, in turn, her real self through the tango.
After immigrating from a small Italian village to start a new life in Buenos Aires, 17-year-old Leda finds nothing goes as planned, and in a desperate effort to survive, she dresses as a man and starts following her passion for music by becoming a violinist in the macho underworld of the tango.
“Her life becomes an adventurous exploration of what the tango was like in the early 20th century when it was first forming, before it was glamorous, and when it was still seen as the dance of the underclass,” De Robertis said. “It’s also a book about passion and discovering what your real passion is and finding the courage to follow it against the odds.”
The inspiration for “The Gods of Tango” came from historical challenges women have often faced that limit their access to the same opportunities as men, and one of the ways women have resolved this issue is to dress as a man. This especially rings true in the gendered atmosphere of the early tango.
“I’m really fascinated by that because I think it’s an opportunity to look at the things that makes us human that are beyond gender,” she said. “At the time in the 1910s, men were the only ones who played instruments, so only men played in tango clubs. The women there were seen as women of disrepute, and so for a woman to be able to enter that world and be an active part of making that music and be something other than a prostitute, that was her [Leda’s] entry point.”
And as a woman who’s been in an interracial and intercultural lesbian marriage for 13 happy years, you can also see pieces of De Robertis’ life scattered throughout this book, as well as her other books.
“I think that is one of the things that has inspired me with this book — to write a story that I don’t feel is only about the experience of a gay or lesbian person but rather about finding love in a manner that transcends boundaries,” she said.
While she’s learned from her first two novels that it’s hard to predict the impact a new book will have on readers, De Robertis hopes “The Gods of Tango” will not only get people thinking more deeply about gender roles, but that it will also encourage people to pursue their passions in ways that go beyond the boxes society has created.
“No matter what our demographic, our sexual orientation or our life’s path is, I think all of us can resonate with and deserve stories that transcend the limitations we can see from mainstream society about what our passions should look like,” she said. “The thing that we’re most authentically meant to be in this world, whether on a romantic level, professional level or personal level, can surprise us and those around us, and that’s one of the beautiful things about life.”
De Robertis is currently working on her fourth novel, which is set in Uruguay and will continue telling the story of the region’s rich cultural history.
“I hope to just continue to write as many novels as I can while health and circumstances permit, and I hope that they can be novels that entertain and stimulate and also captivate and move people,” she said.
“The Gods of Tango” will be released in July, but it is available for pre-order on Amazon. You can learn more about Carolina De Robertis and her groundbreaking work at www.carolinaderobertis.com/books/.