Tag Archives: Lyn Di Iorio

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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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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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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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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A book club for Latino literature

One organization has a unique mission — combining Latino literature and fellowship.

Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club, a partnership between Las Comadres Para Las Americas and the Association of American Publishers, meets once a month to discuss a recently published book by a Hispanic author. It boosts more than a dozen chapters in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Texas.

Members read mostly novels, although they have discussed non-fiction and children’s books. (Its book archive is here.)

The club is scheduled to discuss The Madness of Mamá Carlota by Graciela Limón in April. The complete list for 2012, which includes Carolina de Robertis Perla and Joy Castro’s Hell or High Water, is here.

The book club also features Conversations with Authors, a teleconference in which members can talk with the writer. They’ve talked to Julia Amante, author of Say You’ll Be Mine; Lyn Di Iorio, Outside the Bones; Marisel Vera, If I Bring You Roses and Lelia Cobo, The Second Time We Met.

The book club began in 2008 as an offshoot of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, a national organization founded by Dr. Nora de Hoyos Comstock that connects and empowers Latinas through community building/networking, culture, learning and technology. The group features a monthly potluck called a comadrazo, as well as other activities.

But the book club remains one of its prominent activities. Many of the books have brought out interesting discussions, said Amanda Arizola, who serves as the National Project Manager for the book club.

“Book clubs are supposed to spark interest and debate,” she said. “All of our books have given us that.”

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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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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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In the News

Year in Review: Junot Díaz and Justin Torres recommended their favorite books of 2011 to New York magazine, while Héctor Tobar and Torres gave their choices for the year’s best in Salon and Julia Alvarez revealed her picks to the Algonquin Books blog. Book editor Marcela Landres made her own best of 2011 list, including Outside the Bones by Lyn Di Iorio and Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. The Washington Post cited Esmeralda Santiago’s Conquistadora and Justin Torres’s We the Animals as some of its favorite 2011 novels. But why stop at 2011? Dagoberto Gilb named his favorite books of all time in The Week magazine.

New releases: A paperback of Purgatory by the late Tómas Eloy Martinez, who was born in Argentina and lived in Venezuala, was released last month.

• A library in honor of Mexican writer Juan Jose Arreola is being constructed in Mexico City, with the opening expected for spring 2012. The library organization Reforma posted some pictures of the building on their Facebook page.

• According to this BBC article, the remains of legendary Nobel winning poet Pablo Neruda, pictured at left, have been asked to be exhumed to see if he was poisoned.

• Luis Alberto Urrea appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered to talk about his latest novel, Queen of America, which he describes as his “Lady Gaga book.”

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Book Review: Lyn Di Iorio’s “Outside the Bones”

If Kinsey Millhone or Stephanie Plum were Puerto Rican brujas, they’d be just like Fina, the lead character of Lyn Di Iorio’s first novel Outside the Bones (Arte Publico Press).

Like those smartass, crime-solving creations of Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich, Fina uses her wits and attitude when she finds herself entangled in a murder mystery. But unlike many mysteries, Bones features mostly Hispanic characters and uses Afro-Carribean rituals as a mystery-solving device.

Fina is a New York City clerk who has a crush on her neighbor, musician Chico de León (another character with that great last name!). She puts a fufú, or curse, on him that goes badly – and leads to Fina to investigate Chico’s mysterious past in Puerto Rico, where his infant daughter and wife died while he was having an affair. Then his mistress and a woman claiming to be Chico’s daughter show up. So Fina enlists her “badass Godfather in the magic arts,” Tata Victor Tumba Fuego, to help conjure up spirits that may help solve the mystery. And then things start getting crazy.

The book gets its strength from Fina’s voice. If you don’t like attitude, bad grammar and foul language, you won’t like her. But then you would be deprived of such great lines as this, when Fina is taking a rooster to be sacrificed by Tata Victor: “Animal blood is the offering favored by the nkisis and nfuiris. And I understand the primitive principle behind it all. Blood is the most sacred form of energy, and when the spirits drink they become enlivened to help us in this world. But shit, we ain’t on the island no more, we don’t sacrifice in the mountains of Africa or Cuba; we do it in our apartments. Can’t we substitute and modernize a little with the other aspects of the religion? Streamline and make it more up to date?”

Even if you’re skeptical of the supernatural or the plot, Fina may make a believer out of you.

More about Lyn Di Iorio:

• Di Iorio talked to The Hispanic Reader about the inspiration for her book and how to encourage more people to get into Latino literature.

• Di Iorio will make several appearances for her book, including tonight at the Barnes and Noble at New York City’s Upper West Side.

• Di Iorio talked to the New York Daily News about Afro-Caribbean religions.

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Meet novelist Lyn Di Iorio

Some people fear Afro-Caribbean religions. But Lyn Di Iorio is intrigued by them – so much so that her first book, Outside the Bones, focuses on the mysterious practices. Her novel was released last month by Arte Público Press.

Di Iorio, who was raised in Puerto Rico, teaches English with a focus on Caribbean and U.S. Latino literature at The City College of New York and The Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

She received her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, her master’s degree from Stanford University and her Ph.D. from The University of California at Berkeley. 

Q: Tell me about your book, Outside the Bones.

Outside the Bones is a provocative tale of love, murder and mystery steeped in the Afro-Caribbean religio-magical practice of Palo Monte. When the irrepressible, street-toughened, but ultimately tender-hearted main character, Fina, falls in love with her upstairs neighbor, Chico the hot trumpet player, she does what any ghetto bruja would do–takes his picture intending to put a spell on him.  Her spell misfires and two strange women competing for Chico’s favors show up. Fina then ups the ante by asking the powerful Spanish Harlem Palero, Tata Victor Tumba Fuego, for help. All too soon Fina finds herself involved with a spirit whose quest for revenge can’t be stopped. Mixing humor, eroticism and Afro-Latino/a spiritual history, Outside the Bones takes readers on a rollicking, hair-raising, and ultimately redemptive journey through New York City’s Upper West Side, Central Park and Puerto Rico. Fina finds answers that uncover the mystery behind a murder but, more importantly, reveal things about her past she had never suspected.

Q: What inspired you to become a writer?

For one, reading so many great writers. As a child, I loved classic works such as the novels of Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling and so many other writers from all over the world, but I also loved mysteries by Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Dick Francis, and others. When I was a teenager, I started reading work by Puerto Rican and Caribbean women writers that really woke up my eyes to the magical and mysterious world that is the Caribbean. I was also always really fascinated by the fact that the Afro-Caribbean religions were regarded with fear by most of the people I knew growing up. Or, on the other hand, people negated their existence altogether.  But the more I discovered about them, the more they fascinated me. I think, in general and this applies beyond my interest in Afro-Caribbean religio-magical practices, I am really intrigued by surfaces that seem commonplace with little cracks or flaws and, the more you explore the cracks, the more you see that the apparently commonplace surfaces are just facades behind which lie completely different realities.

Q: You’re a professor specializing in Latino literature. What can we do to encourage more people to read Hispanic literature?

Well, I think the publishing world needs to recognize that there is a large population of Latino readers with diverse tastes and interests and that they may not be tapping that diversity. Some Latino readers don’t want to read books that are about growing up Latino because they feel they know that, they lived it; they want to read mysteries, for example, not coming of age stories, and would like to read mysteries with Latino characters or that have strong Latino ambiences. I also think that works by Latino writers should be taught not just in Latino and Caribbean literature classes, but in all kinds of literature classes ranging from American literature to classes with more thematic focuses.

Di Iorio is making several appearances in support of her book, including Oct. 24 at the Barnes and Noble in New York City’s Upper West Side. Click here for more information.

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