Monthly Archives: April 2012

Latinos and the Pulitzer Prize

Update: Quiara Alegría Hudes won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play, Water by the Spoonful. I also included information on Sonia Nazario, which I forgot about when I first wrote this post until I saw her book in my co-worker’s office and thought, “I can’t believe I forgot Enrique’s Journey!”

The Pulitzer Prizes, which award the best in journalism and literary arts, will be announced on Monday. While the Nobel Prize in Literature is an international award that honors a lifetime achievement of work, the Pulitzers are an American award that recognizes the previous year’s work in a variety of categories. Here’s a look at some of the past Latino winners:

Fiction:

• Only two Hispanics have won this prize: Oscar Hijuelos for 1990’s The Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love and Junot Díaz, right, for 2008’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Hopefully, the committee will consider Francisco Goldman’s Say Her Name, Justin Torres’s We the Animals and Hector Tobar’s The Barbarian Nurseries this year.

Drama:

• Nilo Cruz, left, is the lone Latino playwright to win this honor, for 2003’s Anna in the Tropics. Some writers have come close in recent years – Quiara Alegría Hudes was a finalist for 2007’s Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue in 2007 and, with Lin-Manuel Miranda, 2009’s In the Heights, as was Kristoffer Diaz for 2010’s The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.

Poetry:

• William Carlos Williams, right, whose mother was Puerto Rican, appears to be the lone poet with Latino roots to win in the category.

Sadly, no Latinos appear to have won in the autobiography, general non-fiction or history categories. Luis Alberto Urrea came close in 2005, when he was a finalist for general non-fiction category for The Devil’s Highway.

Journalism:

Latinos have won in various categories throughout the years – as part of teams covering the Los Angeles riots for The Los Angeles Times in 1992 and the Elian Gonzalez case for The Miami Herald in 2001. Here’s a look at some interesting winners of the past:

Ruben Vives, left, who came to the United States from Guatemala as an undocumented immigrant and worked his way to become a reporter for The Los Angeles Times, won the award last year for Public Service at age 32.

Liz Balmaseda of The Miami Herald was the first (and still only) Latino to win in the Commentary category in 1993.

SoniaNazarioSonia Nazario, who was raised in the United States and Argentina, wrote a series of articles for The Los Angeles Times about one boy’s travels from Honduras to the United States that won the 2003 Feature Writing prize and became the book Enrique’s Journey.

• Photographer José Galvez, right, was part of the first team of Latinos to win a Pulitzer when  The Los Angeles Times took the 1984 Public Service Prize for its series on Latino life in Southern California. His work can also be seen in Urrea’s book of poems Vatos and other books.

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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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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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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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Happy Birthday, Gabriela Mistral!

Poet Gabriela Mistral was born on this day in 1889 in Vicuña, Chile, and died in 1956. She is the only Latina – and one of a dozen Latinos – to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Her first books covered mourning the loss of loved ones – Sonetos de la muerte, released in 1914 and inspired by the death of her lover, and Desolación (Despair), published in 1922. But the former schoolteacher is best known for her poems that touch on the subjects of children and motherhood, such as in the book Ternura (Tenderness).

Her legacy lives on in the Gabriela Mistral Foundation, which funds grants to Chilean children in need. Mistral is even the subject of her own children’s book, My Name Is Gabriela: The Life of Gabriela Mistral, written by Monica Brown.

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Book review: Robert Andrew Powell’s “This Love is Not for Cowards”

Robert Andrew Powell’s This Love is Not for Cowards: Salvation and Soccer in Ciudad Juárez revolves around two of Mexico’s most prominent subjects – its love for soccer and its dangerous drug trade.

Los Indios are the minor league soccer team near El Paso that scored a huge coup in 2009 – they have been accepted into the major leagues. This provides the people of Juárez a glimmer of hope as murders and violence become an everyday occurrence.

Powell describes the moment the team won the game that led to the promotion: “Players climbed onto the roof of their bus as young women danced in blue jeans and form-fitting red Indios jerseys tied at the waist. La gente, the people, proved to be bigger than the cartels. The city showed it was more than just violence.”

The book features several characters – Marco Vidal, the American who comes to Mexico so he can play the sport he loves; Francisco Ibarra, the team’s owner who lives in El Paso and has applied for American citizenship; and the cheekily named Ken-tokey, the student who belongs to the cheekily named El Kartel, the  booster club that supports and travels with the club.

Los Indios soon finds that playing in the major leagues isn’t so easy. But as Powell notes, “It’s been nice, for a while, to be in the fold, to be a city all of Mexico has to acknowledge is indeed in Mexico. However fleeing the coverage on ESPN Deportes, Juárez was still on ESPN Deportes.”

Powell is great at detailing the violence the surrounds the city and describing its land and its people. He also has an interesting chapter about the deaths of the women in Juárez that has drawn much media attention.

But the book’s strength is also its greatest weakness. Powell overdescribes things – even revealing the toppings of the pizza he eats at a restaurant. (Who cares?) The book starts to drag in the last 100 pages and, at times, I thought the story would have been better as a long article in Rolling Stone or The New Yorker than as a 256-page book.

Still, the book is an intriguing look at Juárez, providing a human face to a city that has been forsaken by so many.

More about Robert Andrew Powell:

Powell has written for The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and other magazines, as well the book We Own This Game. Read an excerpt from Love here.

Source: I purchased this book through Amazon.com.

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In the news: Honors for Herrera, Tafolla, Brown, Sanchez

• April events:

Happy April! It’s a busy month for literary events. April marks National Poetry Month and two prominent Latino poets have earned the title of Poet Laureate for their places of residence. Juan Felipe Herrera, right, was named California’s first Latino Poet Laureate. Carmen Tafolla earned that same title from the city of San Antonio.

April is also the month Pat Mora is celebrating Díapalooza, leading up to the April 30 Día: El día de los niños/El día de los libros, Children’s Day/Book. The website includes tons of ideas to celebrate the day, as well as list of author and illustrator ambassadors. The event also inspired the book Book Fiesta!

Awards:

Monica Brown won a Christopher Award, which is given to artists “whose work affirms the highest values of the human spirit,” for her book, Waiting for the Biblioburro.

Alex Sanchez’s (right) young adult novel Boyfriends With Girlfriends and Jeanne Córdova’s When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love & Revolution received nominations from the Lambda Literary Awards, which honors gay-lesbian-bisexual-trangendered works. Other nominated books include Gay Latino Studies: A Critical Reader, edited by Michael Hames-García and Ernesto Javier Martínez, and ¡Venceremos?: The Erotics of Black Self-making in Cuba, by Jafari S. Allen. Winners will be announced in June.

Caridad Piñeiro’s The Lost was nominated for a RITA Award from the Romance Writers of America in the Paranormal Category. Winners will be announced in July.

Author Notes:

Charles Rice-Gonzalez was profiled in The New York Daily News.

Dagoberto Gilb read his works at a recent PEN Faulkner Foundation event.

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