Tag Archives: Rolando Hinojosa-Smith

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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Thrillers and chillers: Spooky books for adults

Halloween is a holiday for children, but adults can get in the act, too. (Why turn down the candy?) There’s no better way to get into the mood than with a creepy or suspenseful book. As part of book blogger Jenn Lawrence’s meme, Murder, Monsters & Mayhem, here’s a list of Latino-themed thrillers. And check out our list of Halloween books for children posted earlier this week.

Let’s start with the monsters – specifically, vampires. The Strain is a trilogy of novels by Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro, written with Chuck Hogan, about a virus that vampires inflict on the world. (If you want a creepy movie to watch on Halloween, his 2006 film Pan’s Labyrinth is an excellent choice.)

For a humorous touch, Marta Acosta’s Casa Dracula series, including Happy Hour at Casa Dracula, features a romance between the main character, Milagro de Los Santos, and a vampire. Caridad Piñeiro’s new book, Kissed by a Vampire, also features a paranormal romance – all part of her The Calling/Reborn series featuring the undead beasts.

Now let’s get to murder and mayhem, with several book series featuring Latino crime solvers. The Henry Rios series by Michael Nava, which has a gay lawyer in San Francisco as its lead character, began with The Little Death and ended with Rag and Bone. Rudolfo Anaya’s Sonny Baca series, which includes Zia Summer and Jemez Spring, features a detective solving crimes in New Mexico. The Rio Grande Valley is home to several thrillers, including Partners in Crime, by Rolando Hinojosa.

For books with a strong female protagonist, Lucha Corpi’s mysteries – including Eulogy for a Brown Angel, Cactus Blood and Black Widow’s Wardrobefeatures a clairvoyant detective solving crimes in Los Angeles. Or try these recent thrillers: Lyn DiIorio’s Outside the Bones, about a bruja who gets caught up in an old mystery; Joy Castro’s Hell or High Water , which has a newspaper reporter investigating sexual predators in New Orleans; and Linda Rodriguez’s  Every Last Secretabout a college police chief who solves a murder on campus.

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Book Review: Rolando Hinojosa’s “Partners in Crime” and “A Voice of My Own”

Rolando Hinojosa may perhaps be one of the greatest storytellers from the Rio Grande Valley. Hinojosa, who grew up in Mercedes, Texas, a small town near the Mexican border, has written about the land’s quirks and contradictions in more than a dozen books. The Valley plays a big role in two books just released by Arte Publico Press, the detective story, Partners in Crime, and the collection A Voice of My Own: Essays and Stories.

Partners is part of the Klail City Death Trip series featuring Lieutenant Detective Rafe Buenrostro and taking place in Jones City, which appears to be modeled on Brownsville. In the novel, three men walk into a bar and start shooting up the place with their automatic rifles. The detectives must seek out the one clue about the murderers left by witnesses – a cream-colored Oldsmobile.

Partners was originally published in 1985 and the story takes place in 1972. It’s amusing to see how detectives worked without the Internet and cell phones, but the plot isn’t particularly captivating. The book’s strength comes from Hinojosa’s brisk writing. Like the detectives in the novel, he gives no bull but plenty of wit.

While Partners is an easy read, Hinojosa’s collections of short stories and essays are a little more frustrating. The 15 essays and four short stories – six of which are in Spanish – covers more than 25 years of writing about his life in the Valley and his thoughts on literature. Hinojosa, who is a creative writing professor at the University of Texas at Austin, can be wordy and unfocused in his pieces about literature. He uses the word “digression” often. He’s more interesting when he talks about his personal life, such as growing up in the Valley, describing his school days at the UT in the 1950s or showing how he wrote a poem.

The book ends with a few short stories. “Miami, Nice Climate” is a fast-paced  tale in the Rafe Buenrostro mode. “Es El Agua” is a beautiful and heartbreaking story about a migrant worker who recalls the travels in his life – from France, where he fought in the World War II and his brothers lost their lives, to the Midwest farms where he worked. But his home remains the Valley, the narrator says.

“It’s the water, the Rio Grande water,” the narrator says. “It claims you, you understand? It’s yours and you belong to it, too. No matter where we work, we always come back. To the border, to the Valley.”

 More about Rolando Hinojosa:

Hinojosa, who sometimes uses his mother’s name Smith, talked about his book of essays to the Austin Chronicle before his appearance at the Texas Book Festival earlier this year.

Source: I received advance copies of the books from Arte Público Press.

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Filed under 2011 Books, Book Reviews, Classic Books

In the news

Awards: Pam Muñoz Ryan picked up the PEN Center USA award in Children/YA Literature earlier this month for her children’s book about poet Pablo Neruda, The Dreamer. Francisco Goldman took the Prix Femina Étranger, a French literary award, for his novel, Say Her Name, the first American to win since 2005.

• This is cool: The prestigious University of Iowa creative writing program is adding a master’s degree in Spanish Creative Writing, officials announced last week.

• Here’s some interesting articles about young adult authors: The Dallas Morning News profiled Ray Villareal (pictured at right), whose Don’t Call Me a Hero is published by Arte Publico Press, and NPR did a story about the popularity of Malín Alegría’s 2006 book Estrella’s Quinceanera.

• Spanish poet Tomas Segovia died last week. Segovia, who later lived in Mexico, won numerous awards for his work.

New releases: Luis Alberto Urrea’s Queen of America, the sequel to the awesome The Hummingbird’s Daughter comes out Nov. 29. Arte Público is releasing two books from Rolando Hinojosa Nov. 30: Partners In Crime: A Rae Buenrostro Mystery and A Voice of My Own: Essays and Stories. The Third Reich, written by the late Chilean author Roberto Bolaño, will come out Dec. 1 by Farrar Straus Giroux.

• The Hispanic Reader will return with reviews of those books after a weeklong holiday break. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Filed under 2011 Books, Awards, Children's Books, Young Adult Books

In the news

• New on the bookshelves: Kami Garcia’s latest book, Beautiful Chaos, part of her Beautiful Creatures series written with Margaret Stohl, comes out Tuesday. Cain, a retelling of the Biblical story from the late, Nobel Prize-winning novelist José Saramago, was released earlier this month.

• The Texas Book Festival, which runs from Saturday-Sunday in Austin, will feature 250 authors, and it features some great programs with Latino authors:

Dagoberto Gilb (pictured at right) will discuss his latest book, Before the End, After the Beginning.

Mary Romero, author of the non-fiction The Maid’s Daughter: Living Inside and Outside the American Dream, and Héctor Tobar, author of The Barbarian Nurseries, will discuss Mexican women working as maids in the United States.

Sarah Cortez, René Saldaña, Jr., Sergio Troncoso and Gwendolyn Zepeda will talk about the mysteries they contributed to the Arte Publico Press book for young adults, You Don’t Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens.

Alex Sanchez (pictured at left), author of Bait, will receive the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award.

Troncoso and Richard Yanez will discuss stories from their hometown of El Paso. Kami Garcia, Rolando Hinojosa-Smith and Justin Torres will speak at other sessions.

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Festival time!

Hispanic authors will be making their mark at book festivals this fall.

The Brooklyn Book Festival begins this weekend, and other festivals across the country will follow in the coming months. The festivals feature readings, question-and-answer panels, and autograph sessions by the writers. Here’s a list (not definitive) of some of the major festivals:

• The Brooklyn Book Festival, which starts Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 15-18, will include Juan Gonzalez, Sigrid Nunez, Esmeralda Santiago (pictured at left) and Justin Torres.

• Esmeralda Santiago will speak at the National Book Festival Sept. 24-25 in Washington, D.C.

• The West Hollywood Book Fair, which takes place Oct. 2, will feature David A. Hernandez, Melinda Palacio, Felice Picano, Héctor Tobar, Justin Torres and Marcos M. Villatoro.

• Julia 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 (pictured at right) and Marisel Vera are on the schedule.

• The Texas Book Festival, which runs from Oct. 22-23 in Austin, will feature Sarah Cortez, Kami Garcia, Dagoberto Gilb, Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, Artemio Rodriguez, Mary Romero, René Saldaña, Jr., Alex Sanchez, Hector Tobar, Justin Torres, Sergio Troncoso, and Richard Yañez – not to mention 250 other writers. Wow! Just goes to show, everything is bigger and better in Texas.

• Sadly, the Los Angeles Latino Book & Family Festival, which was scheduled for Oct. 8-9, has been canceled due to budget issues.

• Luis Urrea (pictured at left) will speak at the Louisiana Book Festival Oct. 29 in Baton Rouge.

• The Miami Book Fair Festival International takes place Nov. 13-20. A list of authors had not been posted on its website yet.

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