For "Tinisima" (New Mexico paperback, $17.95), a fictionalized account of the life of Tina Modotti (1896-1942), author Elena Poniatowska devoted 10 years of research to fully understand the woman who was so caught up in the social and political turbulence in Mexico during the pre-World War II decades.
At different times in her life, Modotti was a silent screen actress, a model for Diego Rivera's murals and a lover of photographer Edward Weston. She was also a champion for the Mexican people, who lovingly referred to her as Tinisima.
In 1929, Modotti was accused of the murder of Julio Antonio Mella, her Cuban lover. She fled to the U.S.S.R. to escape the Mexican press and then to Europe, where she became a Soviet secret agent and a nurse under an assumed name, returning to Mexico to meet an early death at the age of 45.