Tag Archives: Esmeralda Santiago

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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Classic book review: Esmeralda Santiago’s “When I Was Puerto Rican”

Esmeralda Santiago’s When I Was Puerto Rican (De Capo Press) is a beautiful book – one whose beauty often comes from deep pain.

The book is a memoir of Santiago’s early childhood in Puerto Rico, where the country dwellers are called jibaros. She grew up poor, describing her home as “a rectangle of rippled metal sheets on stilts hovering in the middle of a circle of red dirt.”

Through the years, young Esmeralda – called Negi by her parents because she was so dark as a baby – moves from the country to the city and, eventually, to Brooklyn – as her unmarried parents separate and reunite repeatedly. Negi takes care of her seven younger siblings as she experiences school, impending womanhood and, in one amusing chapter, the food program from the United States.

The book’s strength comes from Santiago’s style of writing – so simple that the book is a fast read, yet so elegant in its gorgeous and inventive descriptions.

Take this passage when Santiago’s family flies to New York City:

“Several times I bumped into Mami as I walked backwards, unwilling to face the metal bird that would whisk us to our new life … Neither one of us could have known what lay ahead. For her it began as an adventure and turned out to have more twists and turns than she expected or knew how to handle. For me, the person I was becoming when we left was erased and another one was created. The Puerto Rican jibara who longed for the green quiet of a tropical afternoon was to become a hybrid who would never forgive the uprooting.”

Although Santiago never feels sorry for herself, my heart broke for her all that she had to through in her young life. Fortunately, the great ending makes you grateful you went on the tough journey with her.

More about Esmeralda Santiago:

When I Was Puerto Rican was Santiago’s first book. She wrote two sequels, Almost a Woman and The Turkish Lover, as well as several novels, including America’s Dream and Conquistadora.

Source: I purchased this book at Barnes and Noble.

Note: This review is part of a series of classic books by Latinas. (I’m running a bit behind.) Next up: Chicana Falsa by Michelle Serros.

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In the news: New books by Cisneros; book festivals; and tons of links about Junot Díaz

(Note: This post was updated to include the Junot Díaz award from the MacArthur Foundation.)

It’s October, and that means news books, book festival season and Dias de los Muertos. Find out more below:

Already out: Sesame Street actress Sonia Manzano’s young adult novel The Revolution of Everlyn Serrano depicts a Puerto Rican teen growing up in Spanish Harlem in the turbulent 1960s. Manzano talked to the TBD website about the book.

• Oct. 1: Guadalupe García McCall, author of the Pura Belpre winning book Under the Mesquite, releases Summer of the Mariposas, a retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey through the eyes of five sisters.

Oct. 2: Sandra Cisneros writes about her missing cat in the illustrated book, Have You Seen Marie?

Oct. 9: In the young adult novel A Thunderous Whisper by Christina Díaz Gonzalez, a 12-year-old girl is caught up in spying during the Spanish Civil War.

Oct. 16: Benjamin Alire Saenz releases a collection of short stories, Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club. In The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira by Cesar Aira, a doctor discovers he has superhuman powers.

Junot Díaz alert:

Junot Díaz was awarded the prestigious MacArthur “Genius Award” on Oct. 1. The honor is given by the MacArthur Foundation to outstanding individuals in the arts, humanities and sciences.

Need a Junot Díaz fix? Lots of people do since his collection of short stories, This Is How You Lose Her, was released last month. Nearly a thousand fans crammed into a New York City Barnes and Noble, causing a near riot, according to the ColorLines website. He chatted with The New York Times Magazine’s recent “Inspiration” issue about what has influenced his writing, and a nice slideshow is included. He talked about the main character’s game to NPR; his Dominican background to NBC Latino; genre fiction to Capital New York; and the perceived sexism in his book to The Atlantic. He also went bar-hopping with Grantland. But wait, here’s more articles from Latina magazine, the NPR radio show Latino USA, Huffington Post, the Good Reads website and CNN. Here’s some podcasts from The New York Timesand the Brooklyn Vol. 1 website, where Díaz discusses his passion for comic books. He talked about his love for the Hernandez brothers (of Love and Rockets fame) to the NPR radio program Latino USA. Still can’t get enough of Díaz? Check out his Facebook feed or the new fan website, Junot Díaz Daily.

Book Festivals:

Oct. 1-6: The San Diego City College Int’l Book Fair will include Reyna Grande (left), Gustavo Arellano, Rudy Acuña, Matt de la Peña and Herbert Sigüenza.

Oct. 13 – The Los Angeles Latino Book & Family Festival will feature Victor Villaseñor and Luis J. Rodriguez.

Oct. 27: The Boston Book Festival will feature Junot Díaz and Justin Torres, right.

Oct. 27-28: The Texas Book Festival in Austin will feature Gustavo Arellano, Nora de Hoyos Comstock, Junot Díaz, Reyna Grande, Diana López, Domingo Martinez, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, René Saldaña Jr., Esmeralda Santiago, Ilan Stavans, Duncan Tonatiuh, Juan Pablo Villalobos, Ray Villareal and Gwendolyn Zepeda.

Literary magazines:

Aztlan Libre Press has released the book Nahualliandoing Dos: An Anthology of Poetry, which was influenced by Cecilio Garcia-Camarillo, Caracol and Nahualliandoing.

• Here’s an interesting article from Ploughshares literary magazine from Jennifer De Leon (no relation) about whether to italicize foreign phrases in literary works, with a mention of Junot Díaz (him again!).

Events:

• Las Comadres Para Las Americas will host a writer’s workshop Oct. 6 in New York City. Speakers include  Sonia Manzano, Lyn DiIorio, and Caridad Pineiro.

• The Festival de la Palabra, which includes discussions and readings from from Rosa Beltrán, Ángel Antonio Ruiz Laboy and Charlie Vásquez, takes place Oct. 9-11 in New York City.

Other news:

• The Southern California public radio station KPCC covered a reading of Ban This! The BSP Anthology of Chicano Literature, written in response to the state of Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies.

• Poet Lupe Mendez was named one of the Houston Press’s top 100 creative people.

Héctor Tobar’s 2011 novel The Barbarian Nurseries may be adapted into a movie, according to ComingSoon.net.

• The film version of Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima premiered in El Paso, according to the El Paso Times.

• A new film based on Juan Gonzalez’s Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America is being released.

Justin Torres, author of 2011′s We the Animals, was named to the National Book Founationa’s 5 under 35 list of emerging authors.

Also this month:

• Celebrating birthdays this month: Nobel Prize winner Miguel Angel Asturias, right, on Oct. 19.

• The Nobel Prizes will be announced this month, and Book Riot has its predictions. (It’s not likely a Latino or an American will win this year.) Here’s a look at Latinos who’ve won the award.

• Looking for some books for Dias de los Muertos? Here’s The Hispanic Reader’s round-up from last year.

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Filed under 2012 Books, Events, Fiction, Movies, News, Non-Fiction, Young Adult Books

In the news: New releases from González and Díaz, book festivals and more

September means new books and book festivals. Here’s a look at what’s going on:

Already released: Rigoberto González’s Mariposa Gown – a sequel to The Mariposa Club –depicts the friendship between three teenage boys who want to make a splash at their high school prom with the titular outfit.

Brazilian writer Jorge Amado‘s The Double Death of Quincas Water-Bray and The Discovery of America by the Turks have received new translations from Gregory Rabassa. To mark Amado’s 100th birthday, Rabassa and writer Rivka Glachen will discuss Amado’s work Sept. 17 at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute, reports the Shelf Awareness newsletter. The Millions website also wrote about the two new releases.

• Sept. 11: Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz will release a collection of short stories, This is How You Lose Her. Here’s a cool Pinterest board by blogger Poornima Apte that shows the town and other details from the book. (She did the same for Roberto Ampuero’s The Neruda Case and other books.) Díaz has been all over the media: dressing up in Edith Wharton-era clothes for a Vogue fashion spread; discussing his love life in New York magazine; sharing his reading habits with The New York Times; and compiling a playlist to NPR’s alt. Latino website.

Sept. 25: In the novel The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo, Mexican writer F.G. Haghenbeck writes about the life of the iconic Mexican artist.

Sept. 27: Spoken word poet Carlos Andrés Gómez discusses how masculinity is evolving in Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood.

Book festivals:

Here’s a look at some upcoming book festivals:

• Sept. 15: Houston Librofest will play host to Gwendolyn Zepeda (right), Javier O. Huerta and Sarah Cortez.

• Sept. 22-23: The National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. will feature Sandra Cisneros, Junot Díaz, Mario Vargas Llosa, Justin Torres and Maria Dueñas. Mexican-born, California-based Rafael Lopez is the festival artist.

Sept. 23: The Brooklyn Book Festival will include Carlos Andrés Gómez, Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Reyna Grande, Esmeralda Santiago, Luis Alberto Urrea, and graphic artists Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez.

• Sept. 28-30: The Baltimore Book Festival will feature Caridad Pineiro and Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban.

Literary Magazines:

• Several Latino-oriented literary magazines are out with new issues. Acentos Review, edited by Bonafide Rojas, focuses on music on its August 2012 edition. The bilingual BorderSenses published its 18th volume. Lorna Dee Cervantes, Rigoberto Gonzales and Andrea J. Serrano are featured in the latest issue of the Mas Tequila Review.

• The fall issue of Zyzzyva magazine, which is devoted to West Coast writers, features works by Dagoberto Gilb and Luis Alberto Urrea.

Librotraficante:

Sept. 21: Librotraficante, which was founded earlier this year to protest the state of Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies, will host a 50 States of Freedom of Speech event in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins Sept. 15.

Writer’s Workshop

Las Comadres Para Las Americas will host a writer’s workshop Oct. 6 in New York City. Speakers include Sesame Street actress and children’s book writer Sonia Manzano, author of the just released The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, as well asLyn DiIorio, and Caridad Pineiro.

Other features:

• NPR featured the latest work of graphic comic book artist Jaime Hernandez, creator of the Love and Rockets series.

• The El Paso Times has marked the 40th anniversary of the Rudolfo Anaya novel Bless Me Ultima with essays from Rigoberto González, Denise Chávez and other writers.

• Argentine writers will now receive a pension, according to The New York Times.

Reyna Grande, author of The Distance Between Us, talked to the Zyzzyva website.

• Junot Díaz was among the writers at the Edinburgh World Writer’s Conference who condemned Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies.

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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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Classic Book Review: Isabel Allende’s “The House of the Spirits”

Isabel Allende’s 1982 The House of the Spirits is considered one of Latino literature’s best-known and greatest pieces of work. When you read it, you can the sense the influence the book has had on the books you read today.

Spirits tells the tale of Esteban Trueba, a poor but temperamental miner who rebuilds an abandoned ranch in South America and becomes a powerful patrón and politician. He is surrounded by three generations of headstrong women– his wife, clairvoyant Clara; his daughter, Blanca, who falls in love with a young revolutionary that Esteban disdains; and his granddaughter, Alba, who disagrees with him politically – and faces violent consequences.

The book mirrors political events in Chile and parts of Allende’s life. Her uncle, Salvador Allende, was that country’s socialist president in 1973 when he attacked in a 1973 military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet.

Allende writes in beautiful sentences, such as this: “Outside, the fields were shaking off their sleep and the first rays of sunlight were cutting the peaks of the cordillera like the thrusts of a saber, warming the earth and evaporating the dew into a fine white foam that blurred the edges of thing and turned the landscape into an enchanted dream.”

But those long descriptive paragraphs can make the book slow at times. I prefer fast-paced books with lots of dialogue, although the last 100 pages of Spirits was more gripping.

I can see the influence of Allende’s book in two epic tales of life on the ranchero and have characters with magical powers – Luis Alberto Urrea’s 2005 The Hummingbird’s Daughter, which has a more light-hearted tone, and Esmeralda Santiago’s 2011 Conquistadora, which has a feminist take.

Spirits – which was made into movie in 1993 starring Meryl Streep – is a fascinating story that earns the title of  “classic.”

More about Isabel Allende:

• Allende worked as a reporter before writing novels. This fascinating timeline shows her family’s history and reveals the inspiration for Spirits. Her other books include the novels 1985’s Eva Luna and 1999’s Daugher of Fortune, as well as 1995’s Paula, a memoir to her daughter, who died at age 28.

This is the first in a monthly series of classic books by Latina authors. Next month: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez.

Source: I purchased this book at Books-A-Million.

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Resolutions for the New Year

Hey, happy new year! Today is the day set aside to recover from last night, watch football and make resolutions. I’ve got a few of my own for my blog. 2011 was a great year for Latino literature but, with just a few exceptions, most of the books I reviewed were by male authors. So I’m declaring 2012 year of the Latina writer. Each month, I’ll review a classic book from a woman author. Here’s my schedule:

• January – Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits

February – Julia Alvarez, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

• March – Ana Castillo, So Far From God

• April – Denise Chavez, Loving Pedro Infante

May – Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate

• June – Cristina García, Dreaming in Cuban

• July – Lorraine López, The Realm of Hungry Spirits

• August – Pam Muñoz Ryan, Esperanza Rising

• September – Esmeralda Santiago, When I Was Puerto Rican

• October – Michele Serros, Chicana Falsa

• November – Alisa Valdes, The Dirty Girls Social Club

• December – Helena Maria Viramontes, Under the Feet of Jesus

As you’ve probably noticed, I didn’t include some prominent writers. I’ve read most of Sandra Cisneros’s books, and I hope she will have a new book out soon that I can review. I also decided not to include academic Gloria Anzaldúa or poet Gabriela Minstral because I wanted to focus on novels or memoirs. I do plan to profile them on their birthdays, as I did for Cisneros.

Besides reading these books, I also hope to attend more plays for my “At the Theater” feature (which I kicked off last month with 26 Miles) and cover lectures by authors (I have tickets to a Luis Alberto Urrea talk in January). Of course, with all resolutions, things don’t always they turn out as planned, so all items are subject to change. I’ve also decided to scale back on my postings from three times a week to twice a week to make things a little easier on myself (and get to work on my own novel). I’m also in the midst of moving the headquarters of The Hispanic Reader, so I’m giving myself a break for a couple of weeks. See you in 2012!

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