Category Archives: Author Profiles

Happy birthday, Julio Cortázar!

Julio CortázarJulio Cortázar was born Aug. 26, 1916 in Belgium and died in 1984 in Paris. But he was raised in Argentina and, with his inventive novels and short stories, he’s considered one of Latino literature’s finest writers.

Cortázar was one of the leaders of the Latin American boom in literature of the 1960s, along with Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa. His best known novel, Hopscotch, celebrates is 50th anniversary this year. The novel may be as well known for its structure — readers can choose to read the chapters in whatever order they want — as much for its plot — about a man dealing with the strange turn of events in his life. (Here’s a great article about the book from the LA Review of Books and here’s an interesting look from The New York Times at the cover design process for the newly designed book jacket.)

Cortázar also wrote the short story “Las babas del diablo” (“The Devil’s Drivel”), which inspired the 1966 movie Blowup and is part of the collection Blow-Up: And Other Stories.

Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, Wikipedia, Amazon.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Profiles, Fiction

Happy birthday, Jorge Amado!

Jorge AmadoJorge Amado was born on Aug. 10, 1912 in Brazil and died Aug. 6, 2001. His 32 books won international acclaim for reflecting his homeland’s culture and people, including blacks and working people.

His best known novels are 1958’s Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, about a migrant worker who changes life in a village with the help of a beautiful cook, and 1966’s Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, about a widow who finds a new love — and then her first husband shows up. Actress Sonia Braga appeared in the TV version of Gabriela and the 1976 movie of Dona Flor.

His politics were controversial. He was a Communist, and lived in exile in Europe when the Brazilian government banned the party, although he eventually left the party.

But his books were well-loved and were translated in 49 languages. His 100th birthday last year was celebrated with many events, including the reissuing of two novels and other celebrations. The BBC ran this great story about his life and work last year. Here is his obituary from 2001 from The Guardian. And check out the website for the Jorge Amado Foundation.

Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, BBC, Amazon.com, Jorge Amado Foundation

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Profiles, Fiction

Happy birthday, Gary Soto!

gary_sotoGary Soto was born April 12, 1952 in Fresno, Calif. The California-based novelist and poet is best known for his gritty portrayal of the lives of Mexican-Americans.

Soto grew up working the fields and living in the barrio, and he used those experiences in his poems – including his first book of poetry, 1977’s The Elements of San Joaquin and his collection New and Selected Poems, which was a finalist for the 1995 National Book Award.

His young adult books depict teenagers in tough situations. The  1996 novel Jesse takes place during the Vietnam War and the 2006 novel Buried Onions shows life in a gang.

He also has a more whimsical side, as seen in his picture books, chapter books, short stories and poetry for children.

Read his poems on the Academy of American Poets and Poetry Foundation websites. You also can find out more about him by visiting the Gary Soto Literary Museum in Fresno, Calif.

Sources: Gary Soto website, Wikipedia, Amazon.com, Poetry Foundation

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Profiles, Fiction, Poetry, Young Adult Books

Happy Birthday, Gloria Anzaldúa!

Gloria Anzaldúa was born Sept. 26, 1942, in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, and died Oct. 4, 2004. Her 1987 book, Borderlands/La Frontera, is considered a landmark book in Chicano and feminist studies.

Anzaldúa worked the fields with her family as a child growing up in South Texas. She received her bachelor’s degree at Pan American University and her master’s and doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin.

She co-edited the book This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color with Cherríe Moraga. But it was Borderlands that has drawn the most acclaim. In an article for The Week magazine, writer Dagoberto Gilb said, “Anzaldúa transmuted scholarly writing into a kind of poetic prose that was fiercely political,” adding that she “treated the border not only as the physical presence that it is but as a metaphor of both gender and sexual identity.”

A collection of her essays, poetry and other works is compiled into The Gloria Anzaldúa Reader. Here’s a terrific profile of her from Ms. Magazine.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Profiles, Non-Fiction

Happy Birthday, Américo Parades!

Américo Parades was born Sept. 3, 1915 and died May 5, 1999. The scholar is best known for his 1970 book, With His Pistol in His Hand.

Parades grew up in Brownsville, Texas, and, inspired by the corridos he heard, he wrote poetry and other stories. He taught folklore and creative writing at the University of Texas at Austin, where he wrote his dissertation on Gregorio Cortez.

With His Pistol in His Hand tells the story of Cortez, a ranchhand who kills a Texas sheriff after a case of mistaken identity and then spends his life running from the law. The book was made into the 1982 movie, The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, starring Edward James Olmos.

Texas singer-songwriter Tish Hinojosa wrote the song, Con Su Pluma en Su Mano (With His Pen in His Hand), in honor of Parades. His name appears on schools in Austin and Brownsville, Texas. He was awarded the Charles Frankel Prize from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1989.

The University of Texas has a great website devoted to his life and work.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Profiles

Happy birthday, Oscar Hijuelos!

 

(Update: Oscar Hijuelos passed away in October 2013. Here is his obituary from The New York Times.)

Oscar Hijuelos was born August 24, 1951 in New York City. His 1989 book The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love became the first novel by a Latino author to win the prestigious Pulitzer Prize.

Hijuelos was raised by his Cuban parents in New York City – a childhood reflected in his first novel, 1983’s Our House in the Last World.

His next novel was Mambo Kings. The book, which depicts the lives of two Cuban brothers who pursue their musical dreams in New York City, was made into a 1996 movie staring Antonio Banderas.

Mr. Ives’ Christmas, published in 1996, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Here’s a great review of the book from NPR’s Ray Suarez. He also wrote 2000’s Empress of the Splendid Season and 2008’s Dark Dude. His most recent book is his 2011 memoir, Thoughts Without Cigarettes.

It’s a great day for Latino writers: Jorge Luis Borges and Paulo Coelho also celebrate birthdays today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Profiles, Fiction

Happy birthday, Jacinto Benavente y Martinez!

Jacinto Benavente y Martinez was born Aug. 12, 1866 in Madrid, Spain, and died July 14, 1954. The playwright won the 1922 Nobel Prize in Literature – one of only 12 Latinos to win the award – for his comedic works that poked fun at society. He had written 170 plays in his life. His most famous play was 1907’s Los intereses creados (The Bonds of Interest), which focuses on a man who manipulates others.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Profiles, Theater