Marytza K. Rubio has an MFA in creative writing/Latin America and was a Bread Loaf scholar. She is the founder of Makara Center for the Arts, a nonprofit library in her hometown of Santa Ana, California. Set against the tropics and megacities of the Americas, the short story collection Maria, Maria: & Other Stories (Liveright) takes inspiration from wild creatures, tarot, and the porous borders between life and death. Motivated by love and grief, the characters who inhabit these stories negotiate boldly with nature to cast their desired ends. As the enigmatic community college professor in “Brujería for Beginners” reminds us: “There’s always a price for conjuring in darkness. You won’t always know what it is until payment is due.” This commitment drives the disturbingly faithful widow in “Tijuca,” who promises to bury her husband’s head in the rich dirt of the jungle, and the sisters in “Moksha,” who are tempted by a sleek obsidian dagger once held by a vampiric idol. But magic isn’t limited to women. Animals are powerful magicians, too. There are stories starring subversive pigeons and hungry jaguars, resurrected saber-toothed tigers, and paranoid Peacocks. Maria, Maria: & Other Stories bristles with sharp wit and ferocious female intuition.