The Vine Leaf was written by Maria Cristina Mena, a widely recognized Latina figure in US literature. Mena was born in Mexico City, went to an English boarding school, learned Spanish, English, French, and Italian, and moved to New York when she was fourteen, and she was able to get her short stories, oftentimes set in Mexico, published in US magazines. Later, Mena also learned Braille and translated works into Braille as part of her work for the blind. She authored a total of eleven short stories, one nonfiction article, and five children’s books. However, she is most well known for her short stories, which renewed interest in Chicano literature then and still now.
The Vine Leaf is centered around questions of gender and representation in the protagonist Dr. Malsufrido’s life. Dr. Malsufrido is a physician who is based in Mexico City. He has a formidable and unique reputation because of his unorthodox technique, incorporating cures for the mind in addition to his work on his patients’ bodies. One of his patients in Madrid was a woman who was hidden under opaque veils who asked him to remove a leaf shaped birthmark from her back. This woman turns up again later in Dr. Malsufrido’s life because of a painting with her and her unique birthmark in a marquis' home.