Tag Archives: Julia Alvarez

Happy Independence Day, Dominican Republic!

The Dominican Republic declared its independence from Haiti on February 27, 1844. Part of the Carribbean, it’s the homeland of fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, actress Zoe Saldana and much of Major League Baseball – and some great writers.

Julia-AlvarezJulia Alvarez, who was raised as a child in the Dominican Republic, wrote about one family’s immigration from that country to the United States in How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. In the Time of Butterflies was a fictionalized depiction of the Mirabel sisters, a family who rebelled from the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. She’s also written the Tía Lola children’s series and other fiction and non-fiction books.

JunotDiazJunot Díaz, who was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to New Jersey as a child, drew on his heritage for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, in which the main character’s family is put under a fukú. His two collections of short stories, Drown and This is How You Lose Her, show Dominican immigrants coping with life and love in the United States.

SofiaQuinteroNew Yorker Sofia Quintero, who is of Puerto Rican-Dominican heritage, has written a variety of books, from the chick lit Divas Don’t Yield, the Black Armetis hip hop series and the young adult novel Efrain’s Secret. She talks about her background in this 2009 article with The UBS.com, which also features other Afro-Latino writers.

cepeda_raquelRaquel Cepeda, who grew up in New York City and briefly lived in the Dominican Republic as a child, delves into the history of that country and her family in her book Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina.

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Meet novelist Caridad Piñeiro, author of “Kissed by a Vampire”

Caridad Piñeiro has given Latino literature a supernatural edge.

Her latest novel is Kissed by a Vampire, featuring a paranormal romance. She’s written nearly three dozen books, including the Chicas romance series and the The Calling/Reborn series. She’s received numerous awards from romance writers associations.

Piñeiro was born in Havana, Cuba, and worked as an attorney. This post is part of a blog tour for Kissed by a Vampire.

Q: Tell us about your latest book, Kissed by a Vampire

Kissed by a Vampire is the story of a 2000-year-old vampire, Stacia, who has grown tired of her eternal life and has also grown lonely. She doesn’t believe it’s possible for her to find love or have any kind of lasting relationship, but then she meets DEA Agent Alex Garcia. Or should I say is reunited with him. She had saved his life many years earlier when Alex was shot during a raid that went wrong. Stacia had taken pity on Alex when she saw the love in his eyes for another agent who had been shot during the same raid. When Stacia runs into Alex again, she is unprepared for her attraction to him and for the emotions he rouses. Kissed by a Vampire is sexy and emotional. It’s also action-packed as Stacia decides to help Alex find a missing young woman and shut down a white slavery ring.

Q: Most of your novels deal with paranormal romance. What drew you to this genre? Why has it become so popular? 

I was in a dark mood and wanted to vent that in my writing. I also thought that stories with paranormal elements would let me play with different ideas that I could not include in more traditional romances. I think the ability to have such different stories, especially the edgier kinds of stories possible with paranormals, is what has made the genre so popular.

Q: How has your Cuban/Latino heritage inspired your work? Who are your favorite Latino authors? 

I try to include aspects of my culture and/or other Latino culture in as many works as I can.  For example, one of the main characters in The Calling/Reborn series is Cuban-American FBI Agent Diana Reyes. In her stories, I’ve brought in her family’s values and foods. In Kissed by a Vampire, the story is set in South Beach and I’ve tried to work in the flavor that Cuban-Americans have given to that area. As for my favorite Latino authors, there quite a few. Julia Amante, Sylvia Mendoza, Berta Platas, Tracey Montoya, Reyna Grande, Julia Alvarez and Aimee Thurlo just to name a few.

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The Hispanic Reader is one year old today!

It’s The Hispanic Reader’s one-year anniversary! Since my first post, I’ve talked to eight authors, marked 18 writers’ birthdays, reviewed 37 books and written 117 posts. To celebrate, I’m giving you a couple of presents.

First, I created a Features Index that includes links to those author interviews and profiles; lists of books for special occasions (from Christmas to quinceañeras); and features about Latino literature, such as a look at writers who have won the Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes. (I already have an index of book reviews.)

Second, I’ve created a trivia quiz about Latino literature from my posts and book reviews in the past year. (You can find more information about the answers below the quiz.) Good luck and have fun!

1. The answer is D. In the 2001 movie, the flighty Sara (Kate Beckinsale) writes her name and phone number in a copy of Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera and tells Jonathan (John Cusack), who she just met, that if their love is meant to be, he will find that copy in a bookstore. Appropriate book since Cholera is about a man who waits 50 years for the woman he loves.

2. The answer is A. Although he is considered one of the top storytellers in Latino literature, Borges never won the Nobel. Only 12 Latinos have, including Paz, Saramago and Vargas Llosa. But Borges did get a Google doodle on his birthday.

3. The answer is B. Luis Valdez began directing plays on a flatbed truck and union halls during the Delano Grape Strike of the 1960s. His theater company is aptly named El Teatro Campesino. Considered the father of Latino theater, he wrote the play Zoot Suit and the directed the movie version and La Bamba.

4. The answer is C. In Il Postino, Pablo Neruda helps an Italian postal carrier woo his love. The 1994 film, based on an Antonio Skarmeta book, earned a Best Picture nomination. The other answers were books – by Laura Esquivel, Isabel Allende and Carlos Fuentes – that also were made into movies.

5. The answer is B. Loving Pedro Infante by Denise Chávez takes place in the tiny fictional town of Cabritoville, near El Paso.

6. The answer is B. Malín Alegría dons the elaborate dress in honor of her book Estrelle’s Quinceañera, one of many books about the popular Hispanic tradition. Veronica Chambers wrote the Magdalena and Marisol books; Diana López penned Choke; and Lorraine López authored The Realm of Hungry Spirits.

7. The answer is D. Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig is considered one of the most famous works in Latino literature of the last 50 years.

8. The answer is A. Hanks read Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude in the classic comedy caper.

9. The answer is D. Quiara Alegría Hudes won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 2012 for her play, Water by the Spoonful. Hudes, who also wrote 26 Miles and co-wrote the Tony-winner In the Heights, is one of the few Latinos to win the American award for literary arts and journalism. Although they have not won the Pulitzer, Julia Alvarez, Sandra Cisneros and Cristina García have written novels that have received strong critical acclaim.

10. The answer is C. Pablo Neruda knew Gabriela Mistral when he was growing up in Temuco, Chile. Fuentes and Paz are from Mexico. Allende is from Chile, but a generation younger than Neruda. Her uncle, President Salvador Allende, was friends with Neruda, a relationship depicted in Roberto Ampuero’s The Neruda Case.

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When you’re fifteen …: A look at quinceañeras in literature

The recently released Quince Clash by Malín Alegría is the latest book in the Border Town series for young adults, and it’s latest book that has featured quinceañeras – the elaborate celebration for Latinas on their 15th birthday – as a major plot point. Here’s a look at some other books that cover the unique Hispanic tradition.

Alegría knows quinceañeras well. In her 2007 novel, Estrella’s Quinceañera, the title character is almost embarrassed to have the celebration, especially since she is  attending an elite private school. According to this NPR story, the book is considered a classic among Latino youth and Alegría shows up at book readings in a ruffled quinceañera dress and tiara.

Quinceañera Means Fifteen, by Veronica Chambers, is part of a series featuring Marisol and Magdalena, two Panamanian best friends who live in Brooklyn. In this 2001 book, Marisol and Magdalena find their friendship strained as they plan their parties. The celebration is also featured in Chambers’ Amigas series – in Fifteen Candles and Lights Cameras Quince.

Belinda Acosta provides an adult perspective in her Quinceanera Club series. The main characters in 2009’s Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz and 2010’s Sisters Strangers and Starting Over are organizing quinceañeras for reluctant teenagers. Acosta cited Fifteen Candles: 15 Tales of Taffeta, Hairspray, Drunk Uncles, and other Quinceanera Stories, a book of essays edited by Adriana V. Lopez, as a great resource.

For a non-fiction take on the big event, try Julia Alvarez’s 2007 Once Upon a Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA. She visited several quinceañeras as research for the book, which covers the tradition’s history and its financial costs. Ilan Stavans examines the religious, gender and class aspects in the 2010 anthology of essays he edited, Quinceañera (The Ilan Stavans Library of Latino Civilization).

Other books about quinceañeras include (with a hat tip to Louisville Free Public Library): the Pura Belpré Award-winning The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales; Sister Chicas by Lisa Alvarado, Ann Hagman Cardinal and Jane Alberdeston Coralin; and Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa. And check out Sweet Fifteen by Diane Gonzales Bertrand.

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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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Book review: Julia Alvarez’s “A Wedding in Haiti”

After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti took more than 300,000 lives, many people felt compelled to help that country. Julia Alvarez wanted to go there.

She describes her experiences in her book, A Wedding in Haiti (Algonquin Books).

Her journey first began in 2009, when Alvarez and her husband, Bill, attended the wedding of Piti, a Haitian boy they had seen flying a kite near their coffee farm in her native Dominican Republic and they later hired to work on the farm.

But even before the earthquake, going to Haiti proves to be an ardurous journey, as Haiti’s infrastructure seems to be stuck in 1909.

A year later, Alvarez feels compelled to visit the country again after the earthquake.

“I didn’t have any answers for Haiti or fix-it advice or even a high road to take a moral stance for others to emulate. I just wanted to be with Haiti, and the line that kept echoing in my heart was the one from stations of the cross on Good Friday: Walk with me as I walk with you and never leave my side.

She makes the journey again  – compounded by bureaucracy and the devastation from the earthquake.

Alvarez doesn’t waste any words or get too fancy, making her writing so enjoyable to read. She is great at describing things – from a child’s schoolbook to a time when they had to drive through a river with the help of some Haitians, who then demand money. But the trips are worth the trouble as Alvarez describes the joy of the celebration – such as a scene in which the party-goers start to dance spontaneously.

Despite the devastation, she leaves the country with hope.

“So what is it that the eye is seeking and the heart is aching for? A flicker of wings, a thing that whispers hope. From a sidewalk wall hangs a red evening gown for sale. Incredible to think: there will be partying again! A boy in his school uniform walks by, holding the straps of his backpack. The very ordinariness of the moment seems a blessing.”

A Wedding in Haiti is a great book that gives readers a personal look at its people.

More about Julia Alvarez:

Julia Alvarez grew up in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States at age 10. She’s written numerous poems and books, including How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of Butterflies.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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In the news: April showers new books, awards and other news

New releases:

• Several Latino-oriented books are coming out in the next few weeks. Gustavo Arellano explores Americans’ fascination with Mexican food in Taco USA, which will be available this Tuesday. Read an excerpt here.

• Four interweaving stories, from South America to Boston, form the plot of Differential Equations by Julian Iragorri and Lou Aronica, out April 16.

Dagoberto Gilb’s “Uncle Rock” will be featured in the The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2012 anthology, which will be published April 17.

Julia Alvarez’s new book, A Wedding in Haiti, out April 24, describes her experiences in that country before and after the 2010 earthquake. Also coming out that week is Roberto Bolaño’s The Secret of Evil, a collection of short stories, and Alisa Valdes’ The Temptation, the first in a supernatural trilogy.

Awards:

• Several Latinos were named as finalists in ForeWord Reviews’ Book of the Year contest, honoring books from independent publishers. Lyn DiIorio’s Outside the Bones made the Fiction-Literary list. Sergio Troncoso’s (left) Crossing Borders earned a spot in the Essays category and From This Wicked Patch of Dust made the Fiction-Multicultural list, as did Richard Yañez’s Cross Over Water and Rudolfo Anaya’s Randy Lopez Goes Home.

Troncoso’s From This Wicked Patch of Dust was also nominated in the Reading the West Book Awards in the Adult Fiction category. Emerita Romero-Anderson was nominated in the children’s category for Milagro of the Spanish Bean Pot.

Book festivals:

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, running April 20-21, will feature a plethora of authors, including Gustavo Arellano, Kami Garcia (left), José-Luis Orozco, Héctor Tobar and Luis Alberto Urrea. Rudolfo Anaya will be honored with a lifetime achievement award.

Writing workshops:

April 15 is the deadline to sign up for the National Latino Writers Conference May 16-19 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. Teachers include Jimmy Santiago Baca, Cristina García and Rigoberto González (right).

Body art by Mia Roman. Photographed by Johnny Ramos.

Other bits:

The New York Daily News profiled Aurora Anaya-Cerda’s (right) building of the Latino-oriented La Casa Azul bookstore in East Harlem, slated for a spring opening. Check out her progress on her Facebook page.

The Daily News also profiled poet Nuyorican poet Bonafide Rojas.

The Daily Show covered the Arizona ban on Latino-themed books and ethnic studies as only The Daily Show could.

Publishers Weekly had a nice write-up about Pat Mora’s Día: El día de los niños/El día de los libros, Children’s Day/Book.

Sergio Troncoso previews his panel, “Latino Literature, Then and Now,” to the Texas Library Association’s annual conference April 17-19 in Houston.

The Austin American-Statesman featured the Austin Latino New Play Festival.

 

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