Tag Archives: Carolina de Robertis

Happy Independence Day, Argentina!

Argentina declared its independence from Spain on July 9, 1816. Pope Francis and soccer player Lionel Messi call the South American country home. The country boasts a romantic image (the tango) and a tumultuous history (the Dirty War, when thousands of young Argentines disappeared in the 1970s) that makes it perfect fodder for its writers. (Face palm. I somehow forgot about Julio Cortázar when I first wrote this. Here’s his profile.)

Jorge_Luis_BorgesJorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) has become one of the most beloved writers of all time thanks to his short stories, which are collected in the books The Aleph and Ficciones. He won the Cervantes Prize, one of the most prestigious awards given to Spanish-language writers. Another Cervantes winner, Adolfo Bioy Casares (1914-1999), wrote the science fiction novel, The Invention of Moral, which was called “perfect” by Borges, a frequent collaborator.

Ernesto_Sabato_circa_1972• Other Cervantes honorees include Ernesto Sábato (1911-2011), left, who tackled psychological issues in books such as The Tunnel, and poet Juan Gelman, whose relatives who went missing during the Dirty War, inspiring  his political activism. The Dirty War is the focus of Carolina DeRobertis’ novel Perla.

puigManuel Puig (1932-1990) wrote one of Latino literature’s most famous works – the 1976 novel Kiss of the Spider Woman, about a gay man and a revolutionary who are trapped in prison together. The novel became a play, a popular Oscar-winning 1985 movie and Broadway musical. He also wrote 1968’s Betrayed by Rita Hayworth and 1973’s The Buenos Aires Affair.

Mempo Giardinelli• Winners of the Rómulo Gallegos International Novel Prize, one of Latin America’s most prestigious literary awards, are Abel Posse for Los perros del paraíso; Mempo Giardinelli, left, for Santo oficio de la memoria; and Ricardo Piglia, for Blanco nocturno.

JuliaAmante• Other writers with Argentine roots include Julia Amante, right, author of Say You’ll Be Mine; Annamaria Alfari, whose latest novel, Blood Tango, features Argentina’s most famous political couple, Juan and Eva Peron; quirky novelist César Aira; and Sonia Nazario, Pulitzer Prize winner author of Enrique’s Journey.

Sources: Britannica.com, Wikipedia. Hat tip for Joy Castro for the Borges quote on Casares.

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Book review: Las Comadres Para Las Americas’ “Count on Me: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships”

Count On Me: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships (Atria) is the perfect gift to give to your best friend.

The book of essays was put together by the non-profit association Las Comadres Para Las Americas and edited by Adriana V. Lopez. In a dozen essays, 11 prominent Latinas – plus Luis Alberto Urrea – talk about the power of female friendship. Some of the friends make extraordinary gestures. Carolina de Robertis, author of Perla, edits a deceased friend’s book. A teacher offers shelter to Reyna Grande, in an excerpt from her memoir The Distance Between Us, after she faces a bad family situation. Lorraine López receives advice from writer Judith Ortiz Cofer to pursue her literary career – leading to such books as The Realm of Hungry Spirits.

But two of the best essays are those that acknowledge that a best friend can often be your worst enemy. In “Anarchy Chicks,” Michelle Herrera Mulligan describes how adolescent friends go weeks without talking to each other, then become best friends again with a single phone call. In “The Miranda Manual,” Sofia Quintero nails all the subtle gestures and actions that can destroy a relationship:

“There were no betrayals or putdowns, no angry emails or shouting matches, breaches of confidences or rehashing of past misdeeds. Neither of us committed a gross act of deliberate hurt against the other. Rather, we engaged in tiny yet relentless acts of thoughtless toward each other. The little digs, constant interruptions and the passive listening typical of mere acquaintances that’s easy to ignore. When the person is usually mindful and considerate best friend, it hurts like hell.”

Most of the essays are excellent. Dr. Ana Nogales’ essay is too general to make an emotional impact, but she describes the health benefits to friendships. But Teresa Rodríguez sums up the power of friendship in her essay about activist Esther Chávez Cano:

You see, a comadre is not necessarily a close friend, but a person whose example is etched in your heart. The one you’d like to emulate, that friend who gave so much of herself and asked for nothing in return.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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In the News: New releases, writer’s workshop and García Márquez

Hello August! Here are great selections to beat the heat:

• Already released: Gustavo Arellano and Luis Alberto Urrea are among the writers who contributed to Ban This! The BSP Anthology of Xican@ Literature, edited by S.J. Rivera. The book was published in response to the state of Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies earlier this year.

• Now in paperback: Esmeralda Santiago’s Conquistadora, which was selected as Ladies’ Home Journal’s August Book of the Month (here’s a discussion guide and letter from Santiago); Paulo Coelho’s Aleph; Maria Duenas The Time in Between and Javier Sierra’s The Lost Angel.

Alisa Valdes has a new erotic e-novel out called Puta. You can read the first two chapters for free on Amazon.

Aug. 28: Reyna Grande writes about immigrating from Mexico to California in her memoir, The Distance Between Us.

Sept. 4: Count on Me: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships features an all-star list of Latinas –Santiago, Grande, Sofia Quintero, Carolina De Robertis, Lórraine Lopez writing about the importance of female friendships. The book was produced by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club and edited by Adriana V. López.

Writer’s Workshop

Speaking of Las Comadres, the organization will host a writer’s workshop Oct. 6 in New York City. Speakers include Sesame Street actress and children’s book writer Sonia Manzano, left, as well as Lyn DiIorio, and Caridad Pineiro.

In other news:

• Sad News: It’s been confirmed that Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Márquez,  right, can no longer write due to dementia, according to The New York Times. The Daily Beast/Newsweek ran an interesting blog post about his writing process.

Bless Me Ultima author Rudolfo Anaya was honored by the city of El Paso as the movie version of the book is expected to premiere in September, reports the El Paso Times.

• Poets and Writers magazine profiled the Librotraficante movement. Its founder, Tony Díaz is planning a “50 for Freedom of Speech” teach-in in all 50 states Sept. 21.

Joy Castro talked about her novel, Hell or High Water, to Book Page.

Mexican-American poet Manuel Paul Lopez of El Centro, Calif., was featured in a KCET animated short about his chapbook, “1984,” which is his interpretation of the classic George Orwell novel.

Junot Díaz discussed his short story, “The Cheater’s Guide to Love,” to The New Yorker. The story is included in his book, This is How You Lose Her, out on Sept. 11.

Diana Gabaldon will see her Outlander books made into a TV series, according to the Word & Film website.

• A recent edition of the NPR radio program “Latino USA” took a look at Luis Alfaro’s new play, “Bruja,” and got reading recommendations from Aurora Anaya Cerda, owner of La Casa Azul Bookstore in East Harlem, N.Y.

• A new literary prize for works written in Spanish will be named after the late Carlos Fuentes, reports Publishing Perspectives.

• Celebrating birthdays this month: Jorge Luis Borges on Aug. 24.

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Book review: Robert Ampuero’s “The Neruda Case”

Roberto Ampuero’s The Neruda Case (Riverhead Books) is a fascinating book that combines a missing persons case, one of Chile’s most historic events and the life story of Latin America’s greatest poet.

Detective Cayetano Brulé is living in Valparaíso, Chile, in 1973 when he is asked by poet Pablo Neruda to find an old lover. The search takes Brulé to Mexico, Cuba and Germany – and he discovers some things about Neruda that lessens his deep admiration for the 70-year-old.

While the search is going on, Neruda is dying of cancer and remembering his past lovers from his life, including his time as a diplomat. He is feeling regret, including the abandonment of his wife when their child was born with a birth defect. Meanwhile, the country of Chile is under tumult as the government of Socialist President Salvador Allende – Neruda’s friend – is under siege from General Pinochet.

Ampuero, who used to live near Neruda when he was a child, kept most of the historical details but fictionalized the missing lover case. Ampuero writes at a fast pace so that even his descriptive passages don’t slow down the story. The book only becomes more intense as General Pinochet is preparing a coup. But, like Brulé, readers may have a different impression of Neruda as they read the book. He comes across as a selfish cad – or maybe just more human than his romantic poems.

The Neruda Case, which was translated by Perla author Carolina DeRobertis, is a great book that is not to be missed.

More about Roberto Ampeuro: Ampuero has written a dozen novels in Spanish, with The Neruda Case being his first published in English. He serves as Chile’s ambassador to Mexico and is a professor of creative writing at the University of Iowa. He wrote about his memories of the poet in this essay published in The Daily Beast/Newsweek.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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In the News: New books and short stories, and plenty of awards

Hello, summer! Here are some June book releases to keep you entertained:

Already in bookstores: Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Dream of the Celt depicts the life of Irish human rights activist Richard Casement.  La Roja: How Soccer Conquered Spain and How Spanish Soccer Conquered the World by Jimmy Burns covers the world’s most popular sport. Daniel Orozco’s critically acclaimed book of short stories, Orientation, is now in paperback.

June 14: The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero features a private eye solving a case for poet Pablo Neruda during his final days. Carolina DeRobertis, author of Perla, talked to Publishers Weekly about translating the book.

June 26: Spanish author Felix J. Palma’s The Map of Time explores time travel in Victorian London.

Awards:

Congratulations to the winners of Latino Literacy Now’s International Latino Book Awards, which were announced last week. Honorees included some of The Hispanic Reader’s favorites – such as Becoming Dr. Q: My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon by Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa and Crossing Borders: Personal Essays by Sergio Troncoso, which won first place and second place, respectively, in the Best Biography category; Outside the Bones by Lyn Di Iorio and Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman, which earned honorable mentions in the Best Popular Fiction – English category; and The Time in Between by Maria Dueñas which received first place for Best Novel – Historical.

• The Skipping Stones 2012 Honor Awards – given to books with multicultural themes – honored Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown.

When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love & Revolution by Jeanne Córdova and Gay Latino Studies: A Critical Reader, edited by Michael Hames-García and Ernesto Javier Martínez, won prizes at the 24th Annual Lambda Literary Awards, which honors lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgendered literature.

New short stories and other works:

Junot Díaz talks about the science fiction short story, “Monstro,” he wrote for The New Yorker. He also remembered science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, who passed away earlier this month, in an article for the magazine.

Luis Alberto Urrea will have a short story included in Esquire’s ebook aimed at men, You and Me and the Devil Makes Three, out June 12.

Carlos Andrés Gómez put up a new poem, How to Fight, in response to recent shootings.

Author profiles:

NBC Latino profiled Julia Alvarez and her new book, A Wedding in Haiti.

Pulitzer Prize winner Oscar Hijuelos talked about his memoir, Thoughts Without Cigarettes, to The Morning News.

Carmen Gimenez Smith, New Mexico State University assistant professor of English and editor of the literary magazine Puerto del Sol, was featured in the Las Cruces Sun-News about being NPR’s NewsPoet.

Body art by Mia Roman. Photographed by Johnny Ramos.

Other news:

La Casa Azul bookstore, which specializes in Latino literature, opened in June in East Harlem by Aurora Anaya-Cerda (right), and was featured in The New York Times.

Aztec Muse publisher Tony Diaz earned the Open Book Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors for his Librotraficante work.

• Here’s an interesting story, published in the The Daily Beast/Newsweek, about how Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude brought down a banana empire.
Note: This post was updated to correct that Sergio Troncoso won second place in the International Latino Book Awards and to add the Garcia Marquez link.

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Filed under 2012 Books, Awards, Children's Books, Fiction, News, Poetry

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 Amazon.com.

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In the News: New books, Librotraficantes, Rodriguez, Mora

Upcoming Releases:

Margarita Engle’s The Wild Book, for children ages 10 and younger, will be released Tuesday. The story focuses on a girl who struggles with reading.

Carolina de Robertis’ Perla, about an Argentine woman who discovers a painful secret about her parents’ past, will come out March 27.

Arizona:

The Librotraficante Caravan, led by Aztec Muse publisher Tony Diaz, made its way from Houston to Tucson – with stops in San Antonio, El Paso and Albuquerque – to distribute $20,000 worth of Latino-themed books that were banned by the Tucson school district. The journey received coverage from The New York Times, El Paso Times, San Antonio Express-News, Arizona Daily Star and The Texas Observer.

• Here’s a great New York Times article about how the state’s ban on ethnic studies has affected classroom studies, such as a visit by author Matt de La Peña.

Awards:

Pat Mora won the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award for her book, Gracias/Thanks.

Author profiles:

Bless Me Ultima author Rudolfo Anaya talks about his banned books in the Albuquerque alternative newspaper, Alibi.

The Los Angeles Times features a great profile of Luis J. Rodriguez.

Contests:

Luis Alberto Urrea provides the prompt for NPR’S Three-Minute Fiction contest. Deadline is March 25.

• The Hispanic Reader is taking the week off. When we come back, we’ll celebrate the birthdays of two Nobel Prize winners. Happy Spring Break!

Note: This post was updated to include The New York Times article.

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Filed under 2012 Books, Awards, Children's Books, News