Tag Archives: Octavio Paz

Happy Independence Day, Mexico!

Mexico declared its independence from Spain on Sept. 16, 1810. The North American country is the largest Spanish-speaking nation and perhaps the most influential Latin American nation in the world. Its close proximity to the United States has given writers great fodder for literature. Here’s a look at its writers:

OctavioPazOctavio Paz (1914-1998), right, won the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Cervantes Prize for Spanish language writers for his collection of poems, including 1957’s Sun Stone, which revolves around the Aztec calendar and was adapted into a play, and 1950’s The Labyrinth of Solitude, which focuses on his homeland.

Juan Rulfo Juan Rulfo (1918-1986), left, had a tremendous influence on writers, including Colombian writer Gabriel Gárcia Márquez, despite releasing only two books, 1955’s El llano en llamas/The Burning Plain and 1955’s Pedro Páramo. Short story writer Juan José Arreola (1918-2001) is known for his humorous writings, which are collected in the book, Confabulario and Other Inventions.

carlos-fuentes• Novelist Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012), right, was part of the Latin American boom in literature of the 1960s. He is best known for 1962’s The Death of Artemio Cruz, about a dying man looking back on his life, and 1985’s The Old Gringo, the story of an American writer in the Mexican Revolution. He also won the Cervantes Prize.

• Other winners of the Cervantes Prize are Sergio Pitol, a diplomat who described his international experiences and his life in Mexico in his 1996 novel El arte de la fuga/The Art of Flight, and José Emilio Pacheco, a poet and short story writer. Winners of the Rómulo Gallegos Prize include Fernando del Paso for Palinuro de México; Ángeles Mastretta for Mal de amores and Elena Poniatowska for El tren pasa primero.

LikeWaterforChocolate• Contemporary Mexican writers include Laura Esquivel, author of the hugely popular Like Water for Chocolate, and Juan Pablo Villalobos, author of Down the Rabbit Hole. Mexican-American writers include (among many others) Rudolfo Anaya, Sandra Cisneros, Alex Espinoza, Reyna Grande, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Michele Serros, Luis Alberto Urrea and Victor Villasenor.

Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, Poets.org, Wikipedia

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In the news: March roars with new books by Cepeda, Espinoza, Brown, Engle and Medina

March is coming in like a lion, with lots of new releases:

TheyCallMeAHeroAlready out: Daniel Hernandez Jr. is known as the intern who helped save former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s life when she was shot at a public event in 2011. His book, They Call Me A Hero: A Memoir of My Youth, focuses on his growing up gay and Hispanic. He talked about the book on CNN and to Publishers Weekly.

TitoPuenteMamboKingMarch 5: Tito Puente Mambo King/Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo, written by Monica Brown and illustrated by Rafael López, introduces the musician to children. They talked about the book here. In Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina, journalist Raquel Cepeda investigates her Dominican family’s ancestry.

Diego LeonMarch 19: In Alex Espinoza’s The Five Acts of Diego León: A Novel, a Mexican peasant goes to Hollywood to pursue a career in the movies. The life of poet Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, who fought against slavery in Cuba as a teenager, is depicted in the children’s book The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle.

YaquiDelgadoMarch 26: In Meg Medina’s young adult novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, a teenager finds out she is being bullied by someone she doesn’t even know.

HotelJuarezMarch 31: Arte Publico is publishing several books:  Hotel Juarez: Stories, Room and Loops by Daniel Chacon, Desperado: A Mile High Noir by Manuel Ramos and Our Lost Border: Essays on Life Amid the Narco-Violence edited by Sergio Troncoso and Sarah Cortez.

Awards:

Guadalupe Garcia McCall was nominated for the Nebula Award’s Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy – given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America –for her novel Summer of the Mariposas.

Rigoberto González received the Barnes and Noble Writers for Writers Award for his work toward his peers.

Book Festivals:

• The Tucson Festival of Books takes place March 9-10 and will feature Diana Gabaldon, Guadalupe García McCall, Reyna Grande, Daniel Hernandez, Juan Felipe Herrera, Lizz Huerta, Ruben Martinez, Matt Mendez, Santino J. Rivera, Gloria Velasquez and Luis Alberto Urrea.

Other news:

The movie version of Bless Me Ultima is out in theaters. Author Rudolfo Anaya talked to NBC Latino about seeing his book hit the silver screen. Here’s a great review from noted film critic Roger Ebert.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz, who recently won three awards from the American Library Association Youth Media Awards for his 2012 book Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, talked to the School Library Journal.

• A memoir from singer Jenni Rivera, who died in a plane crash last year, is expected to be released in July, according to the Associated Press.

• The Omaha World-Herald profiled Joy Castro, author of Hell or High Water.

• Here’s an interesting New York Times article about Cuban-American playwright María Irene Fornés, the Obie-award winning author of 42 plays, who has Alzheimer’s disease and whose friends are campaigning to move her to New York City so they can visit her.

• The remains of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda will be exhumed to determine if he died of cancer or was poisoned by followers of dictator Augusto Pinochet, according to the BBC.

• NPR had a great story on the Oscar-nominated film, No, which covers the advertising campaign to vote out Pinochet. The movie, starring Gabriel Garcia Bernal, is based on a play by Antonio Skarmeta, author of Il Postino.

• Can’t get enough of Richard Blanco, the Cuban-American poet who read his poem, “One Today,” at President Obama’s inauguration? Here’s a story from NPR.

• PBS’ Need to Know presented a report on Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies.

Denise Chavez, author of Loving Pedro Infante, is using Kickstarter to raise money for an anthology on border literature and artwork.

• The Makers website profiled Sandra Cisneros.

• Fox News Latino reported on the rise of Latino comic book characters.

• Mexican-American artists Tony Preciado and Rhode Montijo have created a book, Super Grammar, to teach students grammar, according to NBC Latino.

Junot Díaz is scheduled to appear on The Colbert Report March 25.

Also this month:

• Three Nobel Prize winners – Gabriel Gárcia Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and the late Octavio Paz – celebrate birthdays in March.

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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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Latino poets, from the romantic to the contemporary

April marks National Poetry Month – a genre Latinos have excelled in. Here’s a look at some prominent Hispanic poets.

• When you think poetry, many people think of Pablo Neruda, right. Known for his beautiful love poems, they inspired Antonio Skarmeta’s novel Il Postino, in which Neruda appears as a character. The book was made into the 1994 Academy Award-nominated movie, Il Postino.

• Five of the 12 Latino Nobel Prize in Literature winners, including Neruda, were poets. The others are Chilean Gabriela Mistral, left, known for her poems about children and motherhood; Octavio Paz, who wrote about his homeland of Mexico; Juan Ramon Jimenez, who described village life in his native Spain; and Spainiard Vicente Aleixandre, known for his surreal poems. William Carlos Williams, whose mother was Puerto Rican, appears to be the only writer with Latino roots to win the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.

• Two prominent Latino poets recently earned the title of Poet Laureate from their places of residence. Juan Felipe Herrera was named California’s first Latino Poet Laureate. Carmen Tafolla, right, earned that same title from the city of San Antonio.

• Some prominent novelists have written books of poetry. Check out Loose Women by Sandra Cisneros, Vatos and other books by Luis Alberto Urrea and various collections by Gary Soto and Julia Alvarez. Other contemporary poets include Martín Espada, left, and Rigoberto González. For spoken word poetry, try Carlos Andrés Gómez.

• If you’re looking for a collection of poetry, check out The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry: An Anthology, edited by Ilan Stavans. Want current poetry? Read Huizache and other literary magazines and the Con Tinta: Chicano/Latino Writer’s Collective Facebook page. And peruse the websites of The Poetry Foundation and Poets.org from the Academy of American Poets for poems and biographies.

Anyone I miss? Let me know in the comments.

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Happy Birthday, Octavio Paz!

Octavio Paz was born on this day in 1914 in Mexico City and died in 1998. The poet is one of only a dozen Latinos – and the lone Mexican – to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, which he won in 1990.

Paz‘s writings were first published when he was just a teenager. He is known for his poems that “investigate the intersection of philosophy, religion, art, politics, and the role of the individual,” according to poets.org.

His most prominent works are 1957’s Sun Stone, which revolves around the Aztec calendar and was adapted into a play, and 1950’s The Labyrinth of Solitude, which focuses on Mexico.

Paz remains a beloved figure in his homeland, even in these high tech times. His poem, Blanco, is the basis for one of the most popular apps in Mexico.

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Book review: Francisco X. Stork’s “Irises”

In Francisco X. Stork’s young adult novel Irises (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic), the Romero sisters lived a life so strict that one of them had never been to the mall. Their father, a pastor, “literally thought the devil was going to sneak in the house through the Internet cable.” No wonder that Kate, 18, dreams of escaping her hometown of El Paso for Stanford University, and Mary, 16, paints to escape her world.

But life soon changes for the sisters. Their father dies suddenly, leaving the young women to take care of their mother, who has been in a vegetative state for two years after a car accident. The sisters must decide how to take care of themselves financially, with their own personal dreams at stake.

As Kate thinks, “What she wanted most of all was a more meaningful life, a life where she was useful to others, a life that in her mind could only be obtained someplace other than El Paso.”

Stork’s writing is easy to read, but the book is startlingly different from many of the edgy young adult books that deal with romance or have paranormal or dystopian scenarios. The book has one mention of sex, and a mild one at that. But Irises – named for the flowers Mary likes to paint – is deeper, digging into themes of faith and the purpose of life.

The characters go to church to seek peace, not just to attend service. Characters discuss their faith. One chapter is devoted to a pastor’s sermon. And Stork writes this in a matter-of-act manner, avoiding overtly religious language that may turn some readers off.

When the sisters have to make tough decisions, they discuss what they want from life. “God wants us to live,” Kate says. “He wants to give us abundant life. He wants to give us light and He wants us to be a light unto others.”

Irises is a thoughtful book that will appeal to teenage girls – and, hopefully, a few adults as well.

More about Francisco X. Stork:

Stork, who was born in Mexico and grew up in El Paso, is best known for his books Marcelo in the Real World and The Last Summer of the Death Warriors. He studied literature under Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz at Harvard and earned a law degree. He works as an attorney in Boston.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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Latinos and the Nobel Prize

Sometime this month, the Nobel Prize will be awarded for literature. Only a dozen of the 107 recipients – including 2010 recipient, Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa (right) – have Hispanic and/or Latino roots.

The Nobel Prize is considered the most prestigious literary award in the world, given for lifetime achievement. So, who are some possible Latino contenders for the Nobel? Chile’s Isabel Allende seems like a great candidate – she has accumulated a large amount of work with critical acclaim. Other possible contenders could include Oscar Hijuelos and Victor Villasenor (as Felix Sanchez noted in this Huffington Post article about the Kennedy Center honors).

But since Llosa won his award fairly recently, the committee may give the honor to a writer from another part of the world. The committee can be unpredictable, as The Guardian pointed out in a recent article: “Some of their choices are so leftfield as to barely register.” The Washington Post speculates that Canadian Margaret Atwood, Syrian Adonis or American Phillip Roth could win the literary prize. By the way, no American has won the award since Toni Morrison took the prize in1993.

Here’s a list at the past Latino Nobel Prize winners. Click on this link to learn more about them.

1904 – José Echegaray, Spain

1922 – Jacinto Benavente, Spain

1945 – Gabriela Mistral, Chile

1956 – Juan Ramón Jiménez, Spain

1967 – Miguel Ángel Asturias, Guatemala

1971 – Pablo Neruda, Chile

1977 – Vicente Aleixandre, Spain

1982 – Gabriel García Márquez, Colombia

1989 – Camilo José Cela, Spain

1990 – Octavio Paz, Mexico

1998 – José Saramago, Portugal

2010 – Mario Vargas Llosa, Peru/Spain

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