Tag Archives: Lorraine Lopez

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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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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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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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: Lorraine López’s “The Realm of Hungry Spirits”

Marina Lucero is having a stressful week.

In the first 50 pages of Lorraine López’s 2011 novel The Realm of Hungry Spirits, Marina has to comfort friends who lost their newborn baby; helps a neighbor being abused by her husband; puts up with two young adults crashing in her home; and ponders an offer to have her home cleansed in a Santeria practice.

“It’s like you’re host to a whole realm of hungry spirits,” one character tells her.

But Marina, a divorced teacher in the Los Angeles area, turns to Buddhism to practice compassion for others. It’s something she’s needed for a long time.

“(I wonder) why my life has to be this way: long stretches of mundane nothingness interrupted by a succession of tortuous days,” she says.

This book has plenty of drama, including one stunning twist at the end, but Hungry Spirits is actually a funny, fast-paced book that reminded me of Denise Chavez’s Loving Pedro Infante.

Take this line when an old man looks up her skirt.

“My palm tingles, so strong is the impulse to slap the lewd grin from his ancient face, but striking an old man is surely no way to attain Buddhahood.”

Or this:

“A small crucifix dangles from a slender gold chain around her neck, and I marvel anew at the way Christians blithely display artifacts commemorating the sadistic torture and murder of their founding leader. I know, I mean Christ is supposed to have died for their sins and all that, but still, adorning oneself with his crucified body, doesn’t that strike anyone but me as weird?”

My one complaint is that the book is stuffed with so many characters that I should have created a chart to keep up with everyone.

But López does a great job of showing the importance – and annoyance – of family in Latino life and, in a nice touch, she also mentions a few Hispanic authors.

A special nod should go to the book’s publisher, Grand Central Publishing, which has published several terrific novels by Latinas in the past few years – including Julia Amante’s Say You’ll Be Mine; Leila Cobo’s The Second Time We Met; and Gwendolyn Zepeda’s recently released Better With You Here.

Like Hungry Spirits, these are easy to read books that women will relate to and enjoy.

More about Lorraine López:

Lorraine López is the author of the short story collections Soy la Avon Lady and Other Stories and Homicide Survivor Picnic and Other Stories, the young adult novel Call Me Henri and the novel The Gifted Gabaldón Sisters. She teaches at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Source: I purchased this book through Amazon.com.

Note: This book is part of the series of classic books by Latina authors. Next up: Pamela Muñoz Ryan’s Esperanza Rising.

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In the news: New books, awards and news from Vargas Llosa, Díaz, Cisneros

It’s July! The month offers plenty of intriguing books to keep you cool during the hot summer days:

Just released: Choke by Diana López, editor of the Huizache literary magazine, features middle school students caught in a dangerous choking game so they can become “breath sisters.” The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir by Domingo Martinez examines the author’s childhood in the Rio Grande Valley. In the novel The Frost on His Shoulders by Spanish author Lorenzo Mediano, a teacher in 1930s looks back on a romance that ripped a small town in the Pyrenees Mountains.

July 10: Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Prisoner of Heaven, the third in his Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, follows a newlywed couple who must go back in time to 1940s Barcelona to uncover a terrible secret.

July 17: Joy Castro’s Hell or High Water features newspaper reporter Nola Céspedes investigating the world of violent predators in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. Gwedolyn Zepeda writes about single mother facing a family crisis in Better with You Here.

Awards:

Héctor Tobar’s The Barbarian Nurseries won the California Book Award in the Fiction category.

Winners in the ForeWord Book of the Year, which honor independently published books, include Sergio Troncoso’s From This Wicked Patch of Dust, honorable mention, Multicultural Adult Fiction category, and Crossing Borders: Personal Essays, bronze, Essays; Lyn DiIorio’s Outside the Bones, second place, Literary Fiction; Blas Falconer and Lorraine M. López, editors of The Other Latin@, honorable mention, Adult Non-Fiction Anthologies; and Emerita Romero-Anderson, Milagro of the Spanish Bean Pot, Bronze, Juvenile Fiction.

Other news:

The Guardian profiled Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, right, whose newest book is The Dream of the Celt.

Gabriel García Marquez, 85, is reportedly suffering from dementia, according to this Huffington Post article.

• A film version of the late Carlos Fuentes’ The Death of Artemio Cruz is in the works, reports the Word and Film website.

César Chávez’s The Words of César Chávez is the lone book by a Hispanic to make the Library of Congress exhibit, The Books That Shaped America.

• Here’s a video of Junot Díaz talking about his new book, This Is How You Lose Her, at last month’s Book Expo America. He also discussed the role of race in his writings to The Boston Review.

Luis Alberto Urrea talked about immigration to NPR’s Talk of the Nation.

 • Woo hoo! Sandra Cisneros has a new book - Have You Seen Marie? – coming out Oct. 2.

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Literary magazines for Latinos

Latino writers have found a home at Huizache magazine.

The recently released publication is one of the few literary magazines devoted to the works of Hispanic writers. Huizache features the works of nearly a dozen Latino authors. Sandra Cisneros has a terrific essay about meeting her idol, tango composer Astor Piazzolla. Lorraine López and Estella Gonzalez contribute short stories. Gary Soto, José Montoya and Benjamin Alire Sáenz wrote poems.

Huizache is a literary magazine produced by CentroVictoria, the Center for Mexican American Literature and Culture at the University of Houston-Victoria. Dagoberto Gilb serves as the center’s executive director, and Diana López is the magazine’s editor. The center also produces the Made in Texas teacher’s guide, which features lesson plans in Mexican American literature.

Huizache editors said they hope to produce it annually, according to this Victoria Advocate article. You can order the magazine for $10 here.

Here are some other literary magazines devoted to Latino literature:

The Acentos Review comes out online four times a year. Its upcoming issue is devoted to Hispanic elders.

• The online Aztlán Reads, which calls itself “a database of Xicana/o Studies fiction and non-fiction work,” features poems, short stories, author interviews, giveaways and news about literary events.

Palabra, which bills itself as “a magazine of Chicano & Latino literary art,” is a yearly print magazine that intends “to present an eclectic and adventurous array of thought and construct, alma y corazón, and a few carcajadas woven in for good measure.”

• The online Somos en escrito features a novel in progress, poetry and other works by Hispanics.

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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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In the news

New releases: Fantasy mega-bestseller Diana Gabaldon, who is of Mexican-American and English descent, released her latest book, The Scottish Prisoner, on Tuesday.  Entertainment Weekly has a great interview in which she lists her favorite and not-so-favorite books. Also new on the bookshelves is Something Urgent I Have to Say to You: The Life and Works of William Carlos Williams, a biography of the poet, who was half-Puerto Rican, by Herbert Leibowitz.

Year in Review: Two of The Hispanic Reader’s favorite books of the year, Héctor Tobar’s The Barbarian Nurseries and Francisco Goldman’s Say Her Name, were named to The New York Times’s 100 Notable Books of 2011. For its Best of 2011 list, Kirkus Reviews picked The Secret History of Costaguana by Columbian author Juan Gabriel Vásquez and We the Animals by Justin Torres. (Its teen list includes by If I Could Fly by Judith Ortiz Cofer and Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Martinez McCall.) Animals also made Amazon.com’s Best of 2011 Top Twenty list. Lorraine Lopez’s The Realm of Hungry Spirits was selected for Bookpage’s best list.

Law: Nobel Laurete Gabriel García Márquez won a lawsuit in which a Colombian man claimed that a character in Márquez’s 1984 book Chronicle of a Death Foretold was based on him, according to The Guardian.

Random: President Obama purchased Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, among other books, while holiday shopping, ABC News reported.

Awards: Julia Alvarez, pictured at right, recently wrote about her acceptance of the Vermont Governor’sAward for Excellence in the Arts, which she received in November. The Cervantes Prize, considered the most prestigious Spanish language literary award, was given to Chilean poet Nicanor Parra, 97.

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In the news

Rigoberto González (pictured at left), who was born in California and raised in Mexico, releases his latest collection of poetry, Black Blossoms, today. The book centers on the struggles of women of color.

• The Brattleboro Literary Festival, which runs Oct. 14-15 in Vermont, will feature Julia Alvarez (pictured at right), Martín Espada and Luis Alberto Urrea. Alvarez’s latest children’s book, How Tía Lola Ended Up Starting Over (Knopf Books for Young Readers) was released last month. Alvarez is touring this month in support of the book. For more of her schedule, click here.

• Alvarez and Carlos Eire are scheduled to speak at the Boston Book Festival Oct. 15.

• The Southern Festival of the Books will take place in Nashville Oct. 14-16. Lisa D. Chavez, Lorraine López, Helena Mesa, Justin Torres and Marisel Vera are on the schedule.

• Brazilian Paulo Coelho’s latest book, Aleph, reached number six on The New York Times bestsellers list for hardcover fiction. The Hispanic Reader will publish a review later this week.

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