Tag Archives: Arte Publico

In the news: Books from Valdes, Gonzales kick off the new year

Here’s what’s happening in the first month of 2013 (Note: I updated this article to include the Blanco and Valdes links.):

Feminist and the CowboyJust released: In The Feminist and the Cowboy: An Unlikely Love Story, Alisa Valdes recounts her relationship with a man with opposite views. In an intriguing article in Salon, Valdes said the relationship was abusive. In The Tragedy of Fidel Castro, Portuguese writer Joao Cerqueira imagines how Jesus Christ would settle the battle between Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

Ways of Going HomeJan. 8: Chilean Alejandro Zambra depicts life in the Pinochet-era Chile in the novel Ways of Going Home.

Jan. 10: The Miniature Wife and Other Stories is a quirky collection of 18 short stories from Tejano Manuel Gonzales, whose work has appeared in The Believer and Esquire.

JunotDiazEvents:

Junot Díaz (right) and Francisco Goldman will speak at “A Benefit Evening of Latin American Storytelling,” Feb. 5 in New York City, with proceeds going to Radio Ambulante. Radio Ambulante’s executive producer, Daniel Alarcon, will moderate.

Literary magazines:

• The literary magazine BorderSenses is taking submissions until March 31 for its next issue. The publication will take short stories, poetry and book reviews in English and Spanish, as well as artwork. Write to editor@bordersenses.com.

Other features:

• Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco will read a poem at President Obama’s inauguration later this month, becoming the first Latino to hold that honor, NPR reports. He was also profiled in The New York Times.

• In a much-discussed article, The New York Times wrote about the lack of Latino-oriented books for children. In a follow-up article, Aurora Anaya-Cerda of La Casa Azul Bookstore in East Harlem, N.Y., gave her reading recommendations. Many small publishers felt they were not represented in the article, and Publishers Weekly featured those presses, including Lee and Low Books and Arte Público.

•  Arte Público books, which recently moved into new headquarters, was recently profiled in The Houston Chronicle.

ABC News/Univision marked the 50th anniversary of the Latin American Boom in literature.

• Book editor Marcela Landres delivered her list of the best in Latino literature for 2012.

Junot Díaz talked with NBC Latino about how he found his literary voice. He also discussed his love for libraries, politics and the greatness of Star Wars on the TV show Moyers & Company.

Joy Castro talked to the Lincoln Journal-Star about the prospect of her 2012 book, Hell or High Water, being optioned by actress Zoe Saldana for a possible movie or TV show.

Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street and Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist are among the 30 selections for World Book Night, in which volunteers will give out books April 23. Sign up to be giver by Jan. 23.

• Cisneros remembered Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, who passed away last year, in The New York Times.

• Chilean Roberto Ampuero, author of The Neruda Case and his country’s ambassador to Mexico, was profiled in The Wall Street Journal.

• The film version of Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima is coming to the big screen, reports the Huffington Post.

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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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Best of 2011

At the end of the year, critics, bloggers and anyone else who wants to makes their own “best of” list, so I decided to make my own Latino literature favorites for 2011. Keep in mind that I started my blog in August, so I missed out on some books, such as Lorraine López’s The Realm of Hungry Spirits and Jon Michaud’s When Tito Loved Clara, and I’m keeping the list to just five books instead of the usual ten. Here are the books I loved the most from 2011:

• Francisco Goldman’s Say Her Name was a riveting love story – loosely based on his own marriage to writer Aura Estrada – that covered the beginning of their relationship to her death in a swimming accident. This book will break your heart.

• Héctor Tobar’s The Barbarian Nurseries was a fast-paced, unputdownable novel about an undocumented maid who is thrust in the middle of an immigration debate when she is left alone with her boss’s children. The book has great description, strong characters and terrific observations about politics. It’s a shame this book didn’t receive more attention.

• Although I consider myself an avid reader, how did I not discover the awesomeness that is Luis Alberto Urrea until this year? I absolutely loved his 2005 book The Hummingbird’s Daughter, a funny, beautiful novel about a woman who discovers her healing powers in revolutionary Mexico. Her father, Don Tomas, just may be one of the best literary characters ever. The 2011 sequel, Queen of America, shows Teresita coping with her success. The tone is more somber than Daughter and there’s not enough Don Tomas, but the book is still pretty terrific.

• Sergio Troncoso wrote two books this year – a book of essays, Crossing Borders, and a novel, From This Wicked Patch of Dust – both of which draw on his experiences of living on the Texas-Mexico border. I liked Borders for its riveting essays on family dynamics and relationships – and it’s unusual to see a male author talk about work-life balance. His works deserve a larger audience.

• Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa’s Becoming Dr. Q is a fascinating look at one man’s journey from an undocumented immigrant from Mexico to one of the top brain surgeons in the United States.

I also liked Justin Torres’s We the Animals, Dagoberto Gilb’s Before the End, After the Beginning and Lyn Di Iorio’s Outside the Bones. For my non-Latino books, I loved Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.

What were your favorite 2011 books? Post in the comments.

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Book Review: Rolando Hinojosa’s “Partners in Crime” and “A Voice of My Own”

Rolando Hinojosa may perhaps be one of the greatest storytellers from the Rio Grande Valley. Hinojosa, who grew up in Mercedes, Texas, a small town near the Mexican border, has written about the land’s quirks and contradictions in more than a dozen books. The Valley plays a big role in two books just released by Arte Publico Press, the detective story, Partners in Crime, and the collection A Voice of My Own: Essays and Stories.

Partners is part of the Klail City Death Trip series featuring Lieutenant Detective Rafe Buenrostro and taking place in Jones City, which appears to be modeled on Brownsville. In the novel, three men walk into a bar and start shooting up the place with their automatic rifles. The detectives must seek out the one clue about the murderers left by witnesses – a cream-colored Oldsmobile.

Partners was originally published in 1985 and the story takes place in 1972. It’s amusing to see how detectives worked without the Internet and cell phones, but the plot isn’t particularly captivating. The book’s strength comes from Hinojosa’s brisk writing. Like the detectives in the novel, he gives no bull but plenty of wit.

While Partners is an easy read, Hinojosa’s collections of short stories and essays are a little more frustrating. The 15 essays and four short stories – six of which are in Spanish – covers more than 25 years of writing about his life in the Valley and his thoughts on literature. Hinojosa, who is a creative writing professor at the University of Texas at Austin, can be wordy and unfocused in his pieces about literature. He uses the word “digression” often. He’s more interesting when he talks about his personal life, such as growing up in the Valley, describing his school days at the UT in the 1950s or showing how he wrote a poem.

The book ends with a few short stories. “Miami, Nice Climate” is a fast-paced  tale in the Rafe Buenrostro mode. “Es El Agua” is a beautiful and heartbreaking story about a migrant worker who recalls the travels in his life – from France, where he fought in the World War II and his brothers lost their lives, to the Midwest farms where he worked. But his home remains the Valley, the narrator says.

“It’s the water, the Rio Grande water,” the narrator says. “It claims you, you understand? It’s yours and you belong to it, too. No matter where we work, we always come back. To the border, to the Valley.”

 More about Rolando Hinojosa:

Hinojosa, who sometimes uses his mother’s name Smith, talked about his book of essays to the Austin Chronicle before his appearance at the Texas Book Festival earlier this year.

Source: I received advance copies of the books from Arte Público Press.

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Filed under 2011 Books, Book Reviews, Classic Books

In the news

Awards: Pam Muñoz Ryan picked up the PEN Center USA award in Children/YA Literature earlier this month for her children’s book about poet Pablo Neruda, The Dreamer. Francisco Goldman took the Prix Femina Étranger, a French literary award, for his novel, Say Her Name, the first American to win since 2005.

• This is cool: The prestigious University of Iowa creative writing program is adding a master’s degree in Spanish Creative Writing, officials announced last week.

• Here’s some interesting articles about young adult authors: The Dallas Morning News profiled Ray Villareal (pictured at right), whose Don’t Call Me a Hero is published by Arte Publico Press, and NPR did a story about the popularity of Malín Alegría’s 2006 book Estrella’s Quinceanera.

• Spanish poet Tomas Segovia died last week. Segovia, who later lived in Mexico, won numerous awards for his work.

New releases: Luis Alberto Urrea’s Queen of America, the sequel to the awesome The Hummingbird’s Daughter comes out Nov. 29. Arte Público is releasing two books from Rolando Hinojosa Nov. 30: Partners In Crime: A Rae Buenrostro Mystery and A Voice of My Own: Essays and Stories. The Third Reich, written by the late Chilean author Roberto Bolaño, will come out Dec. 1 by Farrar Straus Giroux.

• The Hispanic Reader will return with reviews of those books after a weeklong holiday break. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Filed under 2011 Books, Awards, Children's Books, Young Adult Books

Book review: Sergio Troncoso’s “Crossing Borders: Personal Essays” and “From This Wicked Patch of Dust”

“Without words I can’t return and easily remember and appreciate my life behind me,” Mexican-American Sergio Troncoso writes. “I can’t see the road I traveled and how much I changed. Without words, I feel as I have never existed.”

In his two recently released books, Crossing Borders: Personal Essays (Arte Publico Press) and the novel From This Wicked Patch of Dust (University of Arizona Press), Troncoso tries to bring more meaning to his life and the world.

The title of Crossing Borders comes from the fact that Troncoso’s life bridges two cultures – as a former resident of the border town of El Paso; as a husband in an interfaith marriage and as a writer who belongs to an almost all-white literary group. In the 16 essays, Troncoso tackles issues such as the drug wars, immigration and literature. But Troncoso is at his best when he gets personal.

In an unusually honest essay, he talks about an intense argument with his father. He describes how much he loathes some of his father’s characteristics, yet still loves him. He also discusses his own role as a father to two boys. He can be temperamental toward them, too, when he succumbs to the pressures of life. But he is a devoted work-at-home father who admits his career takes second place to his children. “To make a good home for my children, I have sacrificed the only thing that matters more than my family: I have novels in my head which I may or may never get a chance to write,” he says.

After reading Borders, you can find similar elements of Troncoso’s life in From This Wicked Patch of Dust, which follows an immigrant family living in El Paso through five decades. One of the characters, like Troncoso, goes to college at Harvard and becomes a writer, marries a Jewish woman who works in the finance industry and raises two sons in New York City.

The stories are told in vignettes that capture a moment in time. The book can move slowly at times and Troncoso dwells on describing things that don’t need description. (You can skip a paragraph devoted to calculating the average depth of terrain). But Troncoso avoids clichés, with one character going through an interesting and surprising transformation in the book. Troncoso is an elegant writer whose work will make readers grateful that he writes his life down.

More about Sergio Troncoso:

• Troncoso discusses his writings on his blog, Chico Lingo. You can also find him on Facebook and YouTube.

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In the news

Puerto Rican/Cuban-American poet Piri Thomas (pictured at left) passed away last week. His book, Down These Mean Streets, described his life growing up in Spanish Harlem and became a staple in classrooms, according to this New York Times obituary.

• Here’s the round-up in book festivals this coming weekend:

Luis Alberto Urrea will speak at the Louisiana Book Festival Saturday in Baton Rouge.

The Dallas International Book Festival, on Saturday, will feature novelist Esmeralda Santiago (pictured at right), children’s author Lucia Gonzalez, young adult author Ray Villareal and poet Joaquin Zihuatanejo.

The 31st Annual Book Fair of Santiago will run from Friday-Nov. 13 if you just so happen to be in Chile.

• Monday will be a big day for Arte Publico Press – it’s releasing several children’s and young adult books that day. The titles are: Don’t Call Me a Hero by Ray Villareal; The Lemon Tree Caper: A Mickey Rangel Mystery by René Saldana Jr.; ¡A Bailar! Let’s Dance! by Judith Ortiz Cofer and illustrated by Christina Ann Rodriguez; Clara and the Curandera by Monica Brown and illustrated by Thelma Muraida; and Adelita and the Veggie Cousins by Diane Gonzales Bertrand and illustrated by Christina Rodriguez.

Dagoberto Gilb, whose short story collection Before the End, After the Beginning comes out Tuesday, will tour several Texas cities with Aztec Muse magazine editor Tony Diaz. They’ll be in San Antonio Nov. 2; Dallas, Nov. 3-4; and Houston, Nov. 16-17. The Texas Observer covered his speech at last week’s Texas Book Festival, as well as Sergio Troncoso’s and Richard Yanez’s discussion about El Paso literature. (Scroll down the page for the articles.) Texas Monthly also excerpted a story in its latest issue. The Hispanic Reader will post a review of his book next week.

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Filed under 2011 Books, Author Profiles, Children's Books, Events, News, Young Adult Books