Tag Archives: Alex Espinoza

Happy Independence Day, Mexico!

Mexico declared its independence from Spain on Sept. 16, 1810. The North American country is the largest Spanish-speaking nation and perhaps the most influential Latin American nation in the world. Its close proximity to the United States has given writers great fodder for literature. Here’s a look at its writers:

OctavioPazOctavio Paz (1914-1998), right, won the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Cervantes Prize for Spanish language writers for his collection of poems, including 1957’s Sun Stone, which revolves around the Aztec calendar and was adapted into a play, and 1950’s The Labyrinth of Solitude, which focuses on his homeland.

Juan Rulfo Juan Rulfo (1918-1986), left, had a tremendous influence on writers, including Colombian writer Gabriel Gárcia Márquez, despite releasing only two books, 1955’s El llano en llamas/The Burning Plain and 1955’s Pedro Páramo. Short story writer Juan José Arreola (1918-2001) is known for his humorous writings, which are collected in the book, Confabulario and Other Inventions.

carlos-fuentes• Novelist Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012), right, was part of the Latin American boom in literature of the 1960s. He is best known for 1962’s The Death of Artemio Cruz, about a dying man looking back on his life, and 1985’s The Old Gringo, the story of an American writer in the Mexican Revolution. He also won the Cervantes Prize.

• Other winners of the Cervantes Prize are Sergio Pitol, a diplomat who described his international experiences and his life in Mexico in his 1996 novel El arte de la fuga/The Art of Flight, and José Emilio Pacheco, a poet and short story writer. Winners of the Rómulo Gallegos Prize include Fernando del Paso for Palinuro de México; Ángeles Mastretta for Mal de amores and Elena Poniatowska for El tren pasa primero.

LikeWaterforChocolate• Contemporary Mexican writers include Laura Esquivel, author of the hugely popular Like Water for Chocolate, and Juan Pablo Villalobos, author of Down the Rabbit Hole. Mexican-American writers include (among many others) Rudolfo Anaya, Sandra Cisneros, Alex Espinoza, Reyna Grande, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Michele Serros, Luis Alberto Urrea and Victor Villasenor.

Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, Poets.org, Wikipedia

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Happy Independence Day, United States of America!

On July 4, 1776, the United States of America declared themselves free from Great Britain. Thanks to its diverse population, the United States is one of the world’s great superpowers. And, by 2050, some scholars project it will boast the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. Here’s a look, by region, at some of America’s great Latino writers.

LuisValdezCalifornia: Luiz Valdez, right, the father of Latino theater and playwright of “Zoot Suit,” began presenting plays during the Delano farmworkers strike. The plight of farmworkers in California have been the subject of books by Helena María Viramontes and Pam Muñoz Ryan. Other Californians include Gustavo Arellano, Margarita Engle, Alex Espinoza, Reyna Grande, Gilbert Hernandez, Lorraine López, Luis J. Rodriguez, Michele Serros, Gary Soto, Héctor Tobar and Victor Villaseñor.

Rudulfo AnayaNew Mexico: Native son Rudolfo Anaya, left, considered the father of Chicano literature, has set his novels, including his beloved Bless Me Ultima and Sonny Baca mysteries, in this state. The state also served as the setting for novels by Ana Castillo, Denise Chávez and Alisa Valdes.

esmeralda_santiago_163x179_1Puerto Rico: The Caribbean island joined the United States in 1898. Esmeralda Santiago, right, wrote about her personal history in When I Was Puerto Rican and the island’s history in the novel Conquistadora. Other authors of Puerto Rican heritage include Lyn DiIorio, Sarah McCoy, Piri Thomas, Justin Torres and Willliam Carlos Williams.

Rolando HinojosaTexas: Life on the border has served as fodder for books by Rolando Hinojosa,  left, of the Rio Grande Valley, and Sergio Troncoso of El Paso. Sandra Cisneros, originally from Chicago, set her books Woman Hollering Creek and Have You Seen Marie? in this state. Other Tejanos include Dagoberto Gilb, Manuel Gonzales, Diana López and Gwendolyn Zepeda.

JunotDiazThe country’s most prestigious literary award, the Pulitzer Prize, has been given to Cuban-American Oscar Hijuelos and Dominican-American Junot Díaz, right, in the fiction category; Cuban-American Nilo Cruz and Quiara Alegría Hudes, who is of Puerto Rican descent, in drama; and numerous journalists. Eduardo Lalo won the 2013 International Rómulo Gallegos Prize for Fiction, becoming the first American to win one of Latin America’s most prestigious literary awards. The Pura Belpré Award, given by the American Library Association, honors books written for young readers.

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In the news: July brings books from López, Alfieri and Castro

It’s July and it’s getting hot out there! Here’s a look at new releases and other news to keep you cool:

AskMyMoodRingHowIFeel• Already out: Diana López, author of Choke, has a new book for young readers, Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel, about a young girl coping with her mother’s cancer.

• In Blood Tango by Annamaria Alfieri, the Argentine police is looking for a killer who may have wanted to murder Eva Peron.

House of Impossible Loves• A Spanish family faces a curse in which the women suffer doomed loved affairs in Cristina Lopez Barrio’s The House of Impossible Loves.

• Marta Acosta, author of the Casa Dracula books, has written the novel The She-Hulk Diaries, about the female Incredible Hulk.

Crossing-Over• Rubén Martínez’s Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail, which follows a family that immigrates from Mexico to America, has been reissued with a new afterword. His book Desert America: A Journey Through Our Most Divided Landscape, which explores the changes in the American West, is now out in paperback.

LoteriaJuly 9: In Lotería: A Novel, Mario Alberto Zambrano uses a piece of Mexican culture to convey the story of one family’s tragedy.

July 16: Reporter Nola Céspedes, who first appeared in Joy Castro’s Hell or High Water, is back in Nearer Home, investigating the murder of her former journalism professor.


• The 2013 International Latino Book Award winners include Carmen Tafolla’s Rebozos, Leila Cobo’s The Second Time We Met, Pat Mora’s The Beautiful Lady: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Malin Alegria’s Border Town #1: Crossing the Line, Joy Castro’s Island of Bones, the Las Comadres Para Las Americas anthology Count on Me: Tales of Sisterhood and Fierce Friendships and Reyna Grande’s The Distance Between Us.

AristotleDante• Winners of the 25th annual Lambda Literary Awards, according to The Wall Street Journal, include Cherrie Moraga, who received the Pioneer Award, and Benjamin Alire Saenz, who won awards for his books, Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

• Puerto Rican Eduardo Lalo won the 2013 International Rómulo Gallegos Prize for Fiction, one of Latin America’s most prestigious literary awards.

Writing conferences:

• The Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference will take place Oct. 5 at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, N.Y. The event will include panelists and one-on-one sessions with agents and editors.

Writing contests:

Lee & Low Books has opened submissions for its New Voices Award, given to an unpublished children’s book written by a writer of color. Deadline is Sept. 1.

Other features:

The new website Latinas for Latino Literature have created a summer reading program for children. NPR focused on the issue of diversity in children’s literature, and Publishers Weekly noted the First Book organization is trying to expand the market with The Stories for All Project.

La Casa Azul Bookstore, the East Harlem, N.Y., bookstore run by Aurora Anaya Cerda that specializes in Latino literature, has had a busy summer. It celebrated its first anniversary in June, was honored by The White House for its crowdfunding efforts and was featured in Fox News Latino.

The latest investigation into the death of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda may have found a potential killer, says ABC News.

Alisa Valdes has started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the movie version of her novel The Dirty Girls Social Club.

• Publishing Perspectives profiled El Paso-based Cinco Puntos Press, which publishes books by Benjamin Alire Saenz and Joe Hayes.

• The San Antonio Express-News covered a celebration by Tony Diaz’s Librotraficantes that stopped an anti-ethnic studies bill in the Texas Legislature this spring.

• Some news about Carlos FuentesThe FBI had a dossier on the Mexican novelist, reports the Los Angeles Times, and his books are now available on e-readers, according to Publishers Weekly.

Sandra Cisneros discussed Latinos in entertainment and other topics on NBC Latino’s Cafecito.

Alex Espinoza, author of The Five Acts of Diego Leon, talked to the LA Review of Books.

• NPR profiled children’s singer and author Jose Luis Orozco.

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In the news: New releases by Arana, Rodriguez, García

May brings out plenty of books, ranging from historical biographies and fiction to new novels from Linda Rodriguez and Cristina García.

Bolivar-1003Already out: Bolivar: American Liberator by Marie Arana, author of American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood, explores the life of one of South America’s most iconic figures. Arana talked about the book to NPR and The Huffington Post.

• In the novel The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico Garcia Lorca Ascends to Hell, Carlos Rojas imagines the Spanish poet in hell.

AutobiographyofmyHungersMay 6: Rigoberto González explores his life in a series of essays in Autobiography of My Hungers.

May 7: Pura Belpré Award-winning author Duncan Tonatiuh uses immigration as an allegory for his children’s picture book, Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale. The book was featured in US News and World Report.

every+broken+trust• Linda Rodriguez is back with detective Skeet Bannion, who is solving a series of murders and her own personal problems in Every Broken Trust.

• In Amy Tintera’s young adult novel Reboot, Texas teenagers are forced to be slaves. Here’s the trailer, which was posted on Entertainment Weekly, and an interview in Latina magazine.

IAmVenusMay 16: Spanish painter Diego Velázquez becomes intrigued with one of his subjects in Barbara Mujica‘s novel I Am Venus.

May 21: In the Cristina García novel King of Cuba, a Cuban exile living in Florida is determined to get rid of a Fidel Castro-like figure.

MidnightinMexicoMay 30: Journalist Alfredo Corchado describes life in his native country in Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent into Darkness.

June 4: Three pre-teens go back to the time of the Mayans in the Matt de la Pena book Infinity Ring: Curse of the Ancients, part of the Infinity Ring series.


The nominees for the 2013 International Latino Book Awards have been announced. Nominated authors include Joy Castro, Leila Cobo, Reyna Grande, Linda Rodriguez and Gwendolyn Zepeda, as well as the anthology Count On Me: Tales of Sisterhood and Fierce Friendships.

Junot Díazs This Is How You Lose Her is up for the American Library Association’s Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. The winner will be announced in June.


• The Spanish language LeaLA book fair will take place May 17-20, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Other features:

The remains of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda are being examined to see if he was poisoned, according to The Daily Beast.

Rosemary Catacalos has been named the first Latina Texas State Poet Laureate, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Gwendolyn Zepeda was named the city of Houston’s first poet laureate.

Isabel Allende, author of the newly released Maya’s Notebook, shared her reading habits with The New York Times and the five books that most influenced her to The Daily Beast.

Alex Espinoza, author of The Five Acts of Diego León, talked to NPR about how Tomas Rivera’s book … And The Earth Did Not Devour Him influenced him. He also discussed his book to the Los Angeles Times.

• Also in the Times, Dagoberto Gilb talked to Héctor Tobar about his literary magazine, Huizache, and the Latino Lit scene.

Manuel Ramos discussed his novel, Desperado: A Mile High Noir, to the Denver newspaper Westword.

Alisa Valdes is releasing a chapter a day of her book Puta.

• Eight Latino poets shared their favorite poems to NBC Latino.

• NPR covered the popularity of Venezuelan novels and visited the Ciudad Juarez club that inspired Benjamin Alire Saenz’s award-winning book, Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club.

The New Yorker published a short story by the late Roberto Bolaño.

• Here’s a few interesting podcasts: Junot Díaz and Francisco Goldman at a Radio Ambulante podcast in February and a few events from the Lorca in New York festivities.

• California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera gave his playlist to alt.latino website on NPR.

• Got an ereader? Now you can download Sandra Cisneros’ books on there, according to Publishers Weekly.

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In the news: April showers books from Coelho, Anaya and Allende

April is the month notorious for rain. Fortunately, there are plenty of books to keep you entertained:

RitaMoreno:AMemoirAlready out: In Rita Moreno: A Memoir, the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony-winning actress looks back on her life. Rigoberto González explores his influences on his writing in Red-Inked Retablos. The late Cuban poet Severo Sarduy’s novel Firefly examines the effects of surgery on two transvestites.

FidelPerezIn Elizabeth Huergo’s The Death of Fidel Pérez, townspeople in Cuba believe dictator Fidel Castro – not their  neighbor – has died.

April 2: Paulo Coehlo, author of The Alchemist and Aleph, explores mysterious documents in his new book Manuscript Found in Accra. The Guardian profiled the Brazilian author.

OldMan'sLoveStoryApril 19: Rudolfo Anaya writes about a widower coping with grief in The Old Man’s Love Story. Peruvian author Santiago Roncagliolo releases Hi, This is Conchita, a series of stories ranging from the sexy to the serious.

April 23: In Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende, a teenager returns to her home in Chile to cope with her past.


• After sweeping numerous awards for Dante and Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Sáenz won the PEN/Faulkner Award for his book of short stories, Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club. His publishers at Cinco Puntos Press talked about the book to The Washington Post.

• Saenz, poets Richard Blanco and Eduardo Corral and academic Ramón H. Rivera-Servera are among the Latinos nominated for prizes at the 25th Annual Lambda Literary Awards, which goes to books about the LGBT experience. The winners will be announced in June.

The Guardian reports that Junot Díaz won the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank award for his short story “Miss Lora,” which appeared in his book, This is How You Lose Her. Díaz also appeared on The Colbert Report last week, promoting Freedom University, a college for undocumented immigrants.

• The Westchester Fiction Award, which honors literature for young adults, nominated Saenz’s Dante and Aristotle and Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s Summer of the Mariposas.


Now-June 9: The Amherst, Mass.-based The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is presenting the exhibit “Latino Folk Tales,” about children’s literature aimed at young Hispanics, according to the Amherst Gazette. The exhibit will later show in University Center, Mich.; Phoenix; and Marshall, Texas.

April 5-July 21: A three-month celebration in New York City will honor of Spanish playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. His book about his experiences living in the city, Poet in New York, will be reissued.

April 6-7: Latino Literacy Now will play host to the 14th Annual Chicago Latino Book & Family Festival in Cicero, Ill.

April 18-21: Raquel Cepeda, author of Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina; Domingo Martinez, author of The Boy Kings of Texas; and children’s writers Pat Mora and Duncan Tonatiuh will be among the writers at the Arkansas Literary Festival in Little Rock.

April 19-21: The Border Book Festival in New Mexico explores the Camino Real de La Tierra Adentro.

April 20-21: The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books features Luis Alfaro, Gustavo Arellano, Alex Espinoza, Manuel Gonzales, Reyna Grande, Luis J. Rodriguez, Héctor Tobar and Luis Alberto Urrea.

April 30: Día de los niños, El día de los libros/Children’s Day, Book Day
– created by children’s author Pat Mora – celebrates its 17th anniversary this year. Find out about activities going on in your area.


The Los Angeles Times wrote about the making of the movie version of Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima, which got help from an heiress of the Wal-Mart fortune.

• Tony Díaz, leader of the Librotraficantes movement that brought banned books to Arizona, is now fighting a similar attempt in his home state of Texas, where legislators have introduced a bill in which ethnic studies courses would not count toward college graduation, according to the Texas Observer. The Los Angeles Times has noted an increase in interest in ethnic studies since the ban in Arizona took place.

CBS Morning News featured Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco, who presented the poem at President Obama’s inauguration earlier this year.

Publishing Perspectives profiled Dolores Redondo, a Basque writer who specializes in mysteries.

Also this month:

• April is National Poetry Month. Read about some great Latino poets.

• The Pulitzer Prizes will be announced April 15. Find out about Latino writers who have won the prestigious American award for journalism and literary arts.

• Celebrating birthdays this month: Nobel Prize winners Gabriela Mistral, José Echegaray and Vicente Aleixandre, as well as the late Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño.

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Book review: Alex Espinoza’s “The Five Acts of Diego León”

Diego LeonHollywood is made of illusions. But real life can be the greatest illusion of all. And that’s the premise of Alex Espinoza’s The Five Acts of Diego León (Random House).

León begins with Diego as a child, when his father is gone from their small village to fight in the Mexican Revolutionary Ward. Diego eventually moves to a larger town to live with his wealthier maternal grandparents. Now an adult, he would have a well-off, if dull, life if he stayed there. But Diego – who found joy in performing folk dances and theater in his youth – yearns for something more.

While the war rages on in Mexico, Diego moves to Hollywood. And, of course, nothing is what it seems. Diego has to struggle to find work as the Great Depression hits, and he begins to struggle with who he is, both personally – when he has to betray some friendships – and romantically – when he falls in love with someone unexpectedly.

Little wonder he feels most comfortable on the movie set.

 “Diego wanted to stay there, in that magnificent studio lot where French cancan dancers walked alongside nurses, where police officers mingled with criminals, where barons in fancy top hats and tuxedos shared cigarettes with homeless men in rags. It was all absurb and funny and dizzying. And yet he felt at home there, among the costumes and extravagance, among the chaos and commotion. This was where he wanted to be, where he needed to be.”

Espinoza writes in simple language, with a fast-moving plot and frequent dialogue, so the book is easy to zip through. He smoothly weaves in historical details with the plot, and the book never feels like a textbook.

But Diego still seems a mystery to the readers – I enjoyed the book, but I never seemed to make an emotional connection with him – and maybe to himself. A twist at the end didn’t hit me as much I thought it would, but it may surprise others.

Deigo León shows how Hollywood and humans are such a mystery.

AlexEspinozaMore about Alex Espinoza:

Espinoza’s first novel was the 2007 Still Water Saints. He was born in Tijerina, Mexico, grew up near Los Angeles and now teaches creative writing and literature at California State University, Fresno.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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In the news: March roars with new books by Cepeda, Espinoza, Brown, Engle and Medina

March is coming in like a lion, with lots of new releases:

TheyCallMeAHeroAlready out: Daniel Hernandez Jr. is known as the intern who helped save former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s life when she was shot at a public event in 2011. His book, They Call Me A Hero: A Memoir of My Youth, focuses on his growing up gay and Hispanic. He talked about the book on CNN and to Publishers Weekly.

TitoPuenteMamboKingMarch 5: Tito Puente Mambo King/Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo, written by Monica Brown and illustrated by Rafael López, introduces the musician to children. They talked about the book here. In Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina, journalist Raquel Cepeda investigates her Dominican family’s ancestry.

Diego LeonMarch 19: In Alex Espinoza’s The Five Acts of Diego León: A Novel, a Mexican peasant goes to Hollywood to pursue a career in the movies. The life of poet Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, who fought against slavery in Cuba as a teenager, is depicted in the children’s book The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle.

YaquiDelgadoMarch 26: In Meg Medina’s young adult novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, a teenager finds out she is being bullied by someone she doesn’t even know.

HotelJuarezMarch 31: Arte Publico is publishing several books:  Hotel Juarez: Stories, Room and Loops by Daniel Chacon, Desperado: A Mile High Noir by Manuel Ramos and Our Lost Border: Essays on Life Amid the Narco-Violence edited by Sergio Troncoso and Sarah Cortez.


Guadalupe Garcia McCall was nominated for the Nebula Award’s Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy – given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America –for her novel Summer of the Mariposas.

Rigoberto González received the Barnes and Noble Writers for Writers Award for his work toward his peers.

Book Festivals:

• The Tucson Festival of Books takes place March 9-10 and will feature Diana Gabaldon, Guadalupe García McCall, Reyna Grande, Daniel Hernandez, Juan Felipe Herrera, Lizz Huerta, Ruben Martinez, Matt Mendez, Santino J. Rivera, Gloria Velasquez and Luis Alberto Urrea.

Other news:

The movie version of Bless Me Ultima is out in theaters. Author Rudolfo Anaya talked to NBC Latino about seeing his book hit the silver screen. Here’s a great review from noted film critic Roger Ebert.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz, who recently won three awards from the American Library Association Youth Media Awards for his 2012 book Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, talked to the School Library Journal.

• A memoir from singer Jenni Rivera, who died in a plane crash last year, is expected to be released in July, according to the Associated Press.

• The Omaha World-Herald profiled Joy Castro, author of Hell or High Water.

• Here’s an interesting New York Times article about Cuban-American playwright María Irene Fornés, the Obie-award winning author of 42 plays, who has Alzheimer’s disease and whose friends are campaigning to move her to New York City so they can visit her.

• The remains of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda will be exhumed to determine if he died of cancer or was poisoned by followers of dictator Augusto Pinochet, according to the BBC.

• NPR had a great story on the Oscar-nominated film, No, which covers the advertising campaign to vote out Pinochet. The movie, starring Gabriel Garcia Bernal, is based on a play by Antonio Skarmeta, author of Il Postino.

• Can’t get enough of Richard Blanco, the Cuban-American poet who read his poem, “One Today,” at President Obama’s inauguration? Here’s a story from NPR.

• PBS’ Need to Know presented a report on Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies.

Denise Chavez, author of Loving Pedro Infante, is using Kickstarter to raise money for an anthology on border literature and artwork.

• The Makers website profiled Sandra Cisneros.

• Fox News Latino reported on the rise of Latino comic book characters.

• Mexican-American artists Tony Preciado and Rhode Montijo have created a book, Super Grammar, to teach students grammar, according to NBC Latino.

Junot Díaz is scheduled to appear on The Colbert Report March 25.

Also this month:

• Three Nobel Prize winners – Gabriel Gárcia Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and the late Octavio Paz – celebrate birthdays in March.

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