Monthly Archives: October 2011

In the news

Sergio Troncoso (pictured at right) will read from his new novel, From This Wicked Patch of Dust, 10:30 a.m. today (Thursday) as part of the Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum. Go to

Wordstock, a book festival in Portland, Org., will begin today and run through Sunday. The event will include sessions with Troncoso, Eduardo Halfon and Los Porteños, a Portland-based Latino writers group.

• Benjamin Alire Sáenz and Daniel Chacón (pictured at left) have begun hosting a new radio program about literature, Words on a Wire, that airs Sundays on El Paso’s NPR station, KTEP. You can hear the show online. They’ll read a poem by Luis J. Rodriguez on Sunday’s episode.

The Californian covered Rodriguez’s speech about gang activity in Salinas, Calif. His new book is It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing.

• Mexican poet Javier Sicilia is profiled in this New York Times article about his movement to stop drug violence in this country.




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Creating a bookstore, with a little help from friends and strangers

Body art by Mia Roman. Photographed by Johnny Ramos.

Update: La Casa Azul Bookstore opened in June 2012. Here’s a New York Times article about its opening.

Aurora Anaya-Cerda (pictured above) wants to bring a Latino-oriented bookstore to East Harlem – and she’s asking you to help out.

Anaya-Cerda has created the “40K in 40 days” campaign to raise money to build La Casa Azul Bookstore in the Hispanic neighborhood in New York City. If she raises $40,000 by Oct. 24, an anonymous donor will match the amount. So far, the campaign has raised $10,000 so far and attracted attention from the Shelf Awareness newsletter and the Huffiington Post. Donors can receive a wide array of incentives, from books to T-shirts.

“I had to get creative, so I read about crowd funding and knew that was the way to go,” she said. “So far, over 100 people from New York to Australia have given to the ‘40K in 40 days’ because they recognize how important it is for an independent bookstore to exist.”

She knew it was important for Latinos to be exposed to their culture’s literature since she was young.

“Chicana/o literature was critical in my own education and identity,” Anaya-Cerda said. “Growing up, I was an avid reader, but it wasn’t until I discovered Chicana/o writers that I connected to the stories and then began seeking out more books that reflected my identity and experience. By then, I was already in high school and I wished I had read about them earlier! La Casa Azul Bookstore will be that place for adults and, especially for youth, because reading about your history and your culture should not have to be something that you read about in high school or during college courses.”

Anaya-Cerda has been planning the bookstore for years. She has worked and volunteered in five bookstores, taken countless business classes, attended book-selling school twice, travelled the country meeting with booksellers and built relationships with publishers and authors nationwide.

La Casa Azul has been running online for three years and has played host to author signings with Junot Díaz and Esmeralda Santiago. It has also established the annual East Harlem Children’s Book Festival.

Once the bookstore opens next year, she plans to host book clubs, author signings and storytime for children, as well as serve as a community meeting space. The store will sell pastries, art, clothing and locally-made cards and gifts. It will also continue to work with area schools and nonprofits to advance literacy in the community.

“La Casa Azul Bookstore aims to create a business that is much more than your average retail store by being the literature hub in East Harlem,” she said.

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Book review: Héctor Tobar’s “The Barbarian Nurseries”

Héctor Tobar’s novel, The Barbarian Nurseries (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) covers everything from the immigration debate to suburban angst – and he does it brilliantly.

His novel centers on Scott and Maureen Torres-Thompson, an Orange County couple who have it all – a beautiful home with an ocean view, two bright sons who go to private school and loads of debt. They’ve laid off their gardener and nanny, but have retained their housekeeper, Araceli, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico City who works for them for $250 a week and housing.

After the couple has an intense argument, Araceli is left alone with the two boys, Brandon, 11, and Keenan, 8. Through a series of circumstances, she finds herself lost in the labyrinth that is Los Angeles – and facing serious consequences that she barely understands.

Scott and Maureen also question their lifestyles. As Maureen, a stay-at-home mom, says of Araceli, “I have allowed this person to live in my home for four years without once having a substantial conversation about where she is from, about her brothers and sisters, or about how she got here.”

The book starts off slowly, but once it gets going, you don’t want to stop reading. Tobar, a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter for The Los Angeles Times, keeps the plot tight while zinging ambitious lawyers and politicians, angry white conservatives, do-gooder liberals, and the sensational media along the way. He writes the female characters well, making Araceli a complex character with ambitions beyond cleaning homes. Tobar even nails a romantic scene. Can we give this man another Pulitzer Prize?

More about Héctor Tobar:

• Tobar, the son of Guatemalan immigrants, writes a weekly column for The Los Angeles Times.

• Tobar is scheduled to make about a dozen appearances across the country in support of his book.

In this NPR profile, Tobar discusses the inspiration for the book.

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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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