Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Hispanic Reader’s 100th post!

Woo hoo! This is the 100th post of The Hispanic Reader! And after writing 100 posts, I can say it’s been a lot of fun – and a lot of work. I’ll be on hiatus for awhile to give myself a breather. While I’m gone, check out these posts from the blog:

• Features about Nobel and Pultizer Prize-winning authors, Afro-Latino authors, Latino poets, and a book club, a bookstore, literary magazines and writer’s groups devoted to Latino literature.

Interviews with Machete co-screenwriter Alvaro Rodriguez, journalist Edgar Sandoval, storyteller Joe Hayes, and novelists Julia Amante, Lyn DiIorio, Guadalupe Garcia McCall and Meg Medina.

Bios of some of great Latino authors, including many of the Nobel Prize winners, such as Gabriel García Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa, as well prominent authors such as Roberto Bolaño, Sandra Cisneros, Carlos Fuentes and Manuel Puig.

Book reviews from the past year and classic books written by Latinas. My favorite books were Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman (which was also The Hispanic Reader’s first full book review), The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea and Loving Pedro Infante by Denise Chávez.

Plays written by Latinos, including recent Pulitzer Prize winner Quiara Alegría Hudes.

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Happy Birthday, Camilo José Cela!

Camilo José Cela was born on this day in 1916 in Iria Flavia, Spain, and died in 2002. He is only one of a dozen Latinos to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, which he received in 1989.

Cela wrote in a variety of genres and styles, but he is best known for his 1942 novel La Familia de Pascual Duarte (The Family of Pascual Duarte), about a murderer who feels no remorse for his crimes, and the 1951 novel La Colmena (The Hive), which depicts the lives of hundreds of people in Madrid in the 1940s and was made into a movie in 1982. He also was known for his sometimes outrageous personality.

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Book review: Meg Medina’s “The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind”

The lead character in The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind (Candlewick Press), by Meg Medina, has an unique problem.

Sonia Ocampo was born during a terrible storm in the poor village of Tres Campos. Villagers considered it a miracle that they and Sonia all survived – and they began asking her to pray for their troubles. She wears a shawl that is weighed down – literally and figuratively – by the amulets they give her. As she tells her aunt:

“I can’t do what everyone wants. I can’t stop bad times from finding us. I can’t control things any more than they can. … Do you know what it’s like to live as I do? To be asked to make rain in the dry season? To cure coughs? … And why am I cursed this way? Because I was born on the wrong night, that’s all. It’s all been a silly lie.”

Her aunt offers to help her escape her situation by finding her a job as a maid for a rich family in the capital. But she has trouble learning new skills and adjusting to her unfriendly co-workers. And her troubles surmount when she finds out her brother Rafael has disappeared.

This novel had an old-fashioned quality to it that reminded me of a Latino version of Little House in the Prairie. The time period is never mentioned – although there are cars, there aren’t gadgets such as iPhones or TV. But the issues Sonia and the characters face – such as finding a place in society and searching for a better life – parallels issues people face today.

Medina writes in descriptive, beautiful prose that never drags the story. The ending is somewhat unexpected because it doesn’t end happily. But young girls will enjoy reading this story.

More about Meg Medina:

Meg Medina, who grew up in Queens, New York, and lives in Richmond, Virginia, is the author of  Milagros: Girl from Away and Aunt Isa Wants a New Car, which won the 2012 Ezra Jack Keats New Writers Award and earned a spot on the 2012 Amelia Bloomer List.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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Book review: Carolina De Robertis’ “Perla”

A naked man appears at Perla’s house in Buenos Aires. He doesn’t say a word to her. She allows him to stay in the home.

So begins Perla (Knopf), the new novel by Carolina De Robertis. Perla is a college student whose father was in the Argentine Navy during the Dirty War – leading to the vanishing of thousands of citizens, known as “the disappeared.” While her parents are away from the house, Perla begins to take care of the stranger and she discovers they may share a connection.

This book has won critical reviews – including a 4.33 ranking out of the highest score of “5” on the GoodReads website – but I just couldn’t get into it. When the book is told from the stranger’s viewpoint, De Robertis writes in abstract, overly descriptive passages that were hard for me to get through. Take this passage that borders on the silly:

“It is not her naked ankle that he wants to press against: it is the Who of her, the inside sound, the secret aural texture of her being. He wants to hear the chorus in the depths of her, where the past and all the unseen futures gather to sing.”

And that’s one of the shorter passages. This type of writing made a short book (236 pages) seem twice as long.

Perla has an intriguing premise about Argentina’s history, but I found it overwritten for my tastes.

More about Carolina De Robertis:

Carolina De Robertis, a Uruguayan native who now lives in California, is also the author of The Invisible Mountain.

Source: I purchased this book through

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In the News: New books from Alegría, Sheen and Estevez, Arte Público

It’s May! It’s time to celebrate one of the Latino community’s favorite holidays – Cinco de Mayo – and read some good books. Here’s what’s coming up on the bookshelves:

May 1: Border Town: Crossing the Line by Malín Alegría, author of the popular Estrella’s Quinceañera, focuses on two teenage girls who live in fictional Dos Rios, Texas. The novel is the first in a Sweet Valley High-like series, with more books, such as Quince Clash and Falling Too Fast coming out later this year.

May 8: Father-and-son actors Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez will release a joint memoir, Along the Way: The Journey of a Father and Son with Hope Edelman. The book focuses on their faith and includes their thoughts on the making the 2011 movie The Way, about a man’s pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

• May 31: Arte Público has several bilingual children’s books coming out, including A Day Without Sugar by Diane Deanda, Sofía and the Purple Dress by Diane Gonzales Bertrand and Alicia’s Fruity Drinks by Lupe Ruiz-Flores.

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