Promenade of Desire

María Isidra is a proper Catholic girl raised in 1960s Spain by a strong matriarch during a repressive dictatorship. Early sexual trauma and a hefty dose of fear keep her in line for much of her childhood, but also lead her to live a double life. In her home, there is no discussing the needs of her growing body. In the street, kissing in public is forbidden.


Upon the dictator’s death in 1975, Spain bursts wide open, giving way to democracy and a cultural revolution. Barcelona’s vibrant downtown and its new freedoms seduce María Isidra. She dives into a world of activism, communal living, literature, counterculture, open sexuality, and alcohol.


And yet she knows something is missing. Longing to reconnect with her body—from which she has felt estranged since childhood—she finds a surprising home in a rundown salsa club, where the lush rhythm sparks a deep wave of healing. Transformed, she sets off on a series of sexual and romantic misadventures, in search for what she has always found painfully elusive: true intimacy.


Promenade of Desire is a rich journey into the life of a woman once contained, who finds a way to set herself free.

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“What Isidra Mencos offers up, in Promenade of Desire, is a brave and unblinkingly honest portrait of a young woman’s sensual and sexual awakening in the face of censure and repression, and her refusal to be held back by the constraints of her family, culture and religion. The same joyful spirit that expresses itself in Mencos’ love of dancing shines through in her story of her own personal dance into a brave new world beyond the one her mother prescribed for her. Her story is shameless, in the very best sense of the word.”


— Joyce Maynard, NY Times bestselling author of Count The Ways.

“Desire drives both art and life, and Isidra Mencos’s memoir pulses and glows with it. Her prismatic exploration of desire reveals everything desire can be, from natural, alive, and free to shamed, broken, and destructive to tenderly and determinedly reclaimed. Mencos excavates her most intimate experiences of becoming whole with the unflinching scrutiny of a scientist, the boundless curiosity of a child, and the astute devotion of an artist.”


— Jeannine Ouellette, award-winning author of The Part That Burns.

“Promenade of Desire is many things at once: a page-turning coming-of-age tale, a gutsy examination of family, a vivid portrait of a vanished time and a place, and a profound meditation on the nature of desire. Mencos is a sure-handed, open-hearted storyteller whose yearnings reflect our own.”


— Aaron Shulman, author of The Age of Disenchantments: The Epic Story of Spain’s Most Notorious Literary Family and the Long Shadow of the Spanish Civil War.

“Promenade of Desire sets the author’s sexual coming-of-age story against Spain’s sexual and political awakening in a unique and intriguing pairing.”


— Julia Scheeres, NY Times bestselling author of Jesus Land.

“Mencos makes Spain come alive with vivid descriptions of the tastes of food and the salsa music that enabled her to move freely in dance clubs and eventually to let loose in other ways. She draws deft parallels between her experiences and the opening of Spanish society post-Franco as attitudes toward sex and culture changed. … Her immersive approach makes it easy to imagine the author moving through history, navigating its mores and milestones. A lush memoir and richly detailed exploration of a pivotal era in Spain.”


— Kirkus Reviews (

“Mencos examines how the muzzling of her desires affected her childhood and coming of age… In short, powerful scenes, she skillfully balances the limited understanding of her younger self with the compassion of the adult, who is all too aware of the high price of shame…The parallels Mencos draws between her own transformation and that of her beloved country are one of the memoir’s many strengths and are described in rich and sensual language… Through every detour on her journey, Mencos grows. In Promenade of Desire, she takes a bumpy road and turns it into art. Unapologetic and unflinching in her language, her words are also lyrical, engaging, and quite lovely. Spoiler alert: Mencos does find her way. To discover where and how she finally befriends her desire, you will have to read the book. I wholeheartedly recommend that you do.”


— Diane Gottlieb for Hippocampus Magazine.

“A fascinating story of a woman determined to live her life the way she wants, not dictated by society … Her refusal to be chained to her culture’s limitations provides the story’s conflict, and it is all-encompassing. This book is a must-read for women who are still tied to these chains. The writing style is descriptive and is very effective in creating a clear picture in the mind of the readers. A captivating and exciting memoir … I highly recommend it!”


— Review by Victoria Beltrán, for Reader’s Favorite.

“Mencos takes readers on her compelling, personal journey of rebellion against the backdrop of her country’s evolution to democracy. Fighting against family, tradition, and society’s expectations of women, she ultimately triumphs.”


— Andrea Jarrell, author of I’m the One Who Got Away.

“An honest, empowering, and raw account of one woman’s journey to freedom and awakening following a repressed upbringing … This engaging exploration of the heart and soul is told through the lens of the author’s experience coming of age in post-Franco Spain. The writing is vivid, and I felt at times that I was involved in this family’s life. I devoured this memoir!”


— Catherine Drake, author of The Treehouse on Dog River Road.

“… Fascinating. The protagonist’s struggle to be loved, accepted, and simply seen creates unintended consequences that many readers will relate to.”


— Elisa Stancil Levine, author of This or Something Better.

“Raw, honest, brave, and captivating. I couldn’t put it down!”


— Lindsey Salatka, author of Fish Heads and Duck Skin.

“In addition to unadulterated, melodic, beautiful storytelling that takes place in her native Barcelona, Mencos’s memoir is a bold coming-of-age story about a young woman who reclaims her sexuality and political power in the face of familial and societal stigma. Mencos shows how a woman’s sexual desire, exploration, and independence are all tied to her political standing in a society.”


— Elisa Batista, journalist and activist.