Category Archives: 2013 Books

In the News: Fall brings new releases from Piñeiro, Suarez and Brown

September is here. Here’s a look at the latest books and news in Latino lit:

a-crack-in-the-wall• Already out: In A Crack in the Wall by Claudia Piñeiro, a young woman asks about the whereabouts for a missing person. Piñeiro talked to Publishers Weekly, who called her “Argentina’s top crime writer.”

• A penguin starts school in the children’s book Tony Baloney School Rules by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

Latino Americans • Sept. 3 – Latino Americans: The 500-Year Legacy That Shaped a Nation by Ray Suarez is the companion book to the PBS series that will air this month.

Sept. 15: In Monica Brown’s children’s book, Marisol Mcdonald and the Clash Bash/Marisol Mcdonald Y La Fiesta Sin Igual, the sequel to the award-winning Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match / Marisol McDonald no combina, the 8-year-old Peruvian-Scottish-American title character throws a birthday party.

41kDAwynZ3L._SY300_Sept 17: Musician Linda Ronstadt writes about her life in Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir. She talked to The New York Times about the book and her recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, which has prevented her from singing.

Sept. 24: The family of baseball great Roberto Clemente remember him in  Clemente: The True Legacy of an Undying Hero.

NakedSingularityAwards:

Sergio de la Pava won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for debut writers for his novel, A Naked Singularity. Publishers Weekly profiled the author who is a public defender, like the character in his book, and self-published the book.

CristinaGarciaBook Festivals:

Sept. 21-22: The National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. will include Marie Arana, Monica Brown, Alfredo Corchado, Cristina García (right), Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez and Linda Ronstadt.

• Sept. 22: The Brooklyn Book Festival will feature Cristina García, Manuel Gonzales, Tim Z. Hernandez, Patricio Pron, Linda Rodriguez, Justin Torres and Juan Gabriel Vásquez.

ReynaGrandeWriter’s workshops:

Oct. 5: Reyna Grande (left) will be the keynote speaker at the Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference in Brooklyn, N.Y. The event will include panelists , such as Raquel Cepeda and Carlos Andrés Gómez, and one-on-one sessions with agents and editors.

Other features:

carmen_tafollaThe Texas Observer had a great article about three Latina poet laureates – Gwendolyn Zepeda of Houston, Olga Valle-Herr of McAllen and Carmen Tafolla (right) of San Antonio. The state of Arizona named Alberto Álvaro Ríos as its first Poet Laureate. NBC Latino profiled Ríos.

JunotDiazJunot Díaz (left) revealed his writing process to The Daily Beast. He also was profiled in Playboy, an article that received this response from The Atlantic Wire, which compared him to Hugh Hefner but “with less hair and more imagination.” This Is How You Lose Her will come out in paperback Sept. 3, with a deluxe edition featuring illustrations by Jaime Hernandez Oct. 31.

juan-gabriel-vasquezJuan Gabriel Vásquez (right), author of The Sound of Things Falling, picked his favorite Latino literature picks for The Daily Beast. He also talked to NPR about his book. The Atlantic Wire featured him in an article about contemporary Latin American literature.

ZambranoMario Alberto Zambrano (left) talked about the inspiration of his book Lotería to Kirkus Reviews. Zambrano also appeared on “The Diane Rehm Show” on NPR.

• Fans of Jorge Luis Borges can listen to him discuss his books thanks to some audio recordings he left behind, reports Héctor Tobar of The Los Angeles Times.

• PBS profiled Rueben Martinez, who turned his San Diego barbershop into a bookstore.

• NBC Latino talked to David Tomas Martinez about his transformation from gang member to poet.

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Filed under 2013 Books, Children's Books, Events, Fiction, News, Non-Fiction

Book review: Javier Marías’ “The Infatuations”

The Infatuations Javier Marías’ The Infatuations (Knopf) begins with an intriguing premise.

A young woman, María Dolz, eats breakfast every morning at a café in Madrid that is frequented by an attractive couple, Luisa and Miguel.

“The nicest thing about them was seeing how much they enjoyed each other’s company. At an hour when almost no one is in the mood for anything, still less for fun and games, they talked non-stop laughing and joking, as if they had only just met or met for the every first time.”

One day, she discovers Miguel is murdered. She becomes friends with Luisa as well as with Javier, a friend of the couple who helps the widow out after her husband’s death. María becomes entranced by the mystery of Miguel’s death — and Javier may have played a role in the part.

The Infatuations sounds like a great thriller, but it’s more intellectual. Whether you’ll like it depends on your tastes in literature.

The characters often talk in long monologues than can go on for paragraphs or even pages. Who talks like that? At times, I wanted the story to hurry up and get to some action. The book — which ran about 50 pages too long — is best read in small doses.

But those long pages of conversations also had elegant writing (translated by the great Margaret Jull Costa, who also translated José Saramago’s Cain and Paulo Coelho’s Aleph). Marías has some great observations about the human condition.

On memory:

“We gradually learn that what seems really important now will one day seem a mere fact, a neutral piece of information. We learn that there will come a time when we don’t even give a thought to the person we once couldn’t live without and over whom we spent sleepless nights, without whom life seemed impossible, on whose words and presence we depended day after day, and if we ever do, very occasionally give that person a thought, it will merely be to shrug and think at most: ‘I wonder what became of her?’ without a flicker of concern or curiosity.”

On fate:

“The bad thing about terrible misfortunes, the kind that tear us apart and appears to be unendurable, is that those who suffer them believe or almost demand that the world should end right there, and yet the world pays no heed and carries on regardless and even tugs at the sleeve of the person who suffered the misfortune, I mean, it won’t just let them depart this world the way a disgruntled spectator might leave the theatre, unless the unfortunate person kills him or herself.”

On relationships:

“We think men will change their mind or their beliefs, that they will gradually discover that they can’t do without us, that we will be the exception in their lives or the visitors who end up staying, that they will eventually grow tired of those other invisible women whose existence we begin to doubt or whom we prefer to think do not exist, the more we see of the men and the more we love them despite ourselves; that we will be the chosen ones if only we have the necessary staying power to remain by their side, uncomplaining and uninsistent.”

Patient readers will be rewarded with an interesting twist about the murder. The ending also makes you think about the significance of the title and how people can get caught up in each other’s lives. Think of The Infatuations as literary fiction with a wicked side.

Javier_MaríasMore about Javier Marías:

Marías, who was born in Madrid, is considered one of Spain’s top contemporary novelists. He has written thirteen novels, including the award-winning The Man of Feeling, All Souls and A Heart So White.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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Book review: Patricia Engel’s “It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris”

Engle-ItsNotLoveThe title of Patricia Engel’s It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris (Grove Press) suggests a fun, quirky romance in the world’s most glamorous city. But it’s a thoughtful look at the tough choices and emotions humans go through to attain love.

Lita del Cielo is a college student from New Jersey who spends a year living in a house run by a 90-year-old socialite and filled with other young adults. Even though Lita comes from a family that runs a huge Latin American food company, she feels out of place compared to her more sophisticated housemates. Then she meets Cato, a Frenchman. Of course, not everything is perfect — Cato is in fragile health. Lita must decide whether to stay in Paris with the love of her life or return to the United States and be with her family.

Although the book was more serious than I expected, it was an easy read. Engel has some great observations about love, and she shows how Lita’s heritage — her family is from Colombia — affects her in different ways, from racist remarks from her housemates to her emotions as she goes through tough moments:

“Of course I cried. Until my eyes swelled and my face ached. In English the world for crying feels trite, empty. The Spanish llorando is so much better. To say it feels like a cry, the way you have to open up your mouth and throat, concluding on the tip of the tongue, the back of the teeth. The French pleurer sounds too pretty, restrained, a costume of sadness. I wanted to invent a new word for crying without tears. The broken feeling. The disillusion.”

It’s Not Love is a mature, unique take on love — and how wonderful and awful it can be at the same time.

PatriciaEngel-Photo1More about Patricia Engel:

Engel, like her character Lita, is the daughter of Colombian parents who grew up in New Jersey. Her first book, Vida, won numerous literary prizes and her short stories have appeared in numerous publications. She lives in Florida.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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In the news: August brings new releases from Vásquez, Engel and Marias

It’s August and it’s still hot. Here are some books to help keep your cool:

Sound of Things Falling Aug. 1: In the novel The Sound of Things Falling, Colombian author Juan Gabriel Vásquez explores the effects of the drug war in his native country.

Aug. 6: A Colombian-American college student finds romance in the world’s most romantic city in Patricia Engel’s It’s Not Love It’s Just Paris.

The Infatuations Aug. 13: In Spanish novelist Javier MariasThe Infatuations, a woman is intrigued by a couple she sees at her local café – and then the man is murdered.

Aug. 29: Tim Z. Hernandez imagines the life of Bea Franco, the farmworker who inspired a character in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, in Mañana Means Heaven.

Events:

• The Latino Comics Expo , featuring Lalo Alcaraz and Mario Hernandez, will take place Aug. 17-18 in Long Beach, Calif.

Writing conferences:

Reyna Grande will be the keynote speaker at the Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference Oct. 5 at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, N.Y. The event will include panelists and one-on-one sessions with agents and editors.

Writing contests:

• Sept. 1 is the deadline for Lee & Low Books’ New Voices Award, given to an unpublished children’s book written by a writer of color.

Other features:

LoteriaMario Alberto Zambrano talked about his novel, Lotería, to NPR.

Alfredo Corchado discussed his book Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent into Darkness, to NPR’s Fresh Air and PBS NewsHour.

Nearer HomeJoy Castro talked about her newest book, Nearer Home, to “Words on a Wire.”

• The life of The Alchemist author Paulo Coehlo is being made into a movie, according to the Huffington Post.

Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 is now available on e-readers, according to the Los Angeles Times. Francisco Goldman read Bolaño’s 2008 short story, “Clara,” on The New Yorker magazine’s fiction podcast.

Junot Díaz made annotations on portions of his award-winning book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao for the Poetry Genius website, according to MediaBistro.

• The federal courts have ordered the Tucson, Ariz., school district to make Mexican-American Studies available in its classrooms, reports NPR.

• Each major publishing house now has a Latino author on its roster, reports Latinzine.

• Graphic novels are becoming more popular in Colombia thanks to a lift in tax restrictions, according to Publishing Perspectives. One of the titles is a biography of Gabriel Gárcia Márquez.

Also this month:

• Nobel Prize winner Jacinto Benavente y Martinez was born Aug. 12. The Hispanic Reader turns two years old on Aug. 16.  Jorge Luis Borges, Paulo Coelho and Oscar Hijuelos celebrate birthdays on Aug. 24.

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Meet novelist Marta Acosta, author of “The She-Hulk Diaries”

Marta Acosta Marta Acosta brings otherworldly creatures to reality.

The California native is the author of the recently released The She-Hulk Diaries, about the cousin of the Incredible Hulk. Her young adult gothic novel Dark Companion, a homage to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre with a multiracial narrator, is now out in paperback. She also is the author of the Casa Dracula series of books featuring a female vampire.

she-hulk-diariesQ: Tell me about your latest book, The She-Hulk Diaries. How did you become involved in the project?

Hi, Jessica, thanks for having me at The Hispanic Reader! My agent heard about the project for a contemporary romantic comedy featuring Jennifer Walters, a top attorney, and her superhuman alter-ego, She-Hulk, and pitched me to Hyperion, which partnered with Marvel. She knew that I love writing first-person romantic comedy with supernatural elements. I was thrilled to be able to write this character from a woman’s perspective.

Q: Your books, including the Casa Dracula books and the novel Dark Companion, feature plots in which the characters deal with otherworldly characters or themes. What appealed to you about that type of genre?

I wrote Happy Hour at Casa Dracula on impulse, because I’d been watching some science fiction movie and I was ranting, “Why don’t we ever see Latinos in outer space? Why don’t we see Latinos in speculative fiction?” I spoofed the genre stereotypes and used vampires as a metaphor for “other” in society, and my protagonist, the bright irrepressible Milagro De Los Santos, is “other.” She describes herself as a square peg in a round world. When she’s infected with “vampirism,” she must hide out with a pack of high-achieving vampires at their country estate. They think she’s a tacky gold-digger; she thinks they’re terrible snobs. I used the humorous situation to address issues of class, race/ethnicity and gender.

My editor asked me for a series. I added in the supernatural element to Dark Companion, a homage to Jane Eyre and classic gothics, because the supernatural is a gothic trope. I’ve always enjoyed placing characters in a situation where the ordinary rules don’t apply.

Q. What inspired you to become a writer? What Latino/a authors influenced your work?

I just wrote as soon as I learned how. I wrote compulsively and to entertain myself. As a native English speaker, I was influenced by British and American writers, including humorists like Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh, Kurt Vonnegut. I love the absurdist comedy in Mario Vargas Llosa’s brilliant Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, a book I’ve bought at least a dozen times because I’m always giving it away to friends. While I’ve only published silly poetry in my novels, I’ve written more serious poetry, inspired by Pablo Neruda’s beautiful poetry.

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Book review: Mario Alberto Zambrano’s “Lotería”

LoteriaIn Lotería: A Novel (Harper), Mario Alberto Zambrano uses a piece of Mexican culture to tell a story of human tragedy.

The book’s narrator, 11-year-old Luz Maria Castillo, remembers playing the popular Mexican folk game – similar to bingo – with her friends and family after Mass. After a lifetime of abuse that leads to one dramatic incident, her older sister ends up in the hospital and her father is arrested.

Luz writes in her journal from a youth detention center. For each chapter, Luz uses the image on the lotería card to tell a story from the past. That premise seems like a gimmick, but Zambrano makes it work with his simple prose and a compelling storyline that alternates between the present and the past.

The book is both easy and tough to read. I had to take breaks from it when the situation got too intense. But the writing is easy to understand and it’s written in short chapters, and Zambrano can express raw human emotions that make you ache for Luz.

For example, in the chapter called La Dama, Luz tells God about the mixed feelings she had about her mother, who suffered terrible abuse from her husband – and fought back.

“Sometimes I wondered if she were praying because of something she’d done to Papi. Or something he’d done to her. Or maybe she felt bad for calling him names for hitting him with something she grabbed from the kitchen drawer. I wanted to let her know that I was okay and that You’d understand. I pulled on her dress but she reached out and pinched me without even looking. I didn’t even know what happened, but I remember my skin burning and thinking how much I hated her. I called her names and stuck my tongue when she wasn’t looking even though You were right there between us. But I only hated her for a little while, for as long as I could feel the sting on my arm.”

In El Cantarito, Luz feels guilty when she sees her sister in the intensive care unit.

“Standing there, all of a sudden, I was like a jug of water trying to be taken from one place to another, and little by little, I was spilling.”

In that same chapter, a social worker tries to get Luz to talk:

“It’s like in Lotería, instead of playing the four corners we play the center squares. But midway through the game you find out that you have the corners and you’re missing the center squares. And if you would’ve played the corners you would’ve won already. But that’s how it is, isn’t it?”

Each chapter begins with a gorgeous, full color illustration, done by Jarrod Taylor. The drawings differ from the traditional lotería game, but carry the same spirit.

Lotería turns an ugly subject into a beautiful book.

ZambranoMore about Mario Alberto Zambrano:

Lotería is the first novel for Zambrano, who grew up in Texas and is a former professional ballet dancer. He currently attends the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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In the news: July brings books from López, Alfieri and Castro

It’s July and it’s getting hot out there! Here’s a look at new releases and other news to keep you cool:

AskMyMoodRingHowIFeel• Already out: Diana López, author of Choke, has a new book for young readers, Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel, about a young girl coping with her mother’s cancer.

• In Blood Tango by Annamaria Alfieri, the Argentine police is looking for a killer who may have wanted to murder Eva Peron.

House of Impossible Loves• A Spanish family faces a curse in which the women suffer doomed loved affairs in Cristina Lopez Barrio’s The House of Impossible Loves.

• Marta Acosta, author of the Casa Dracula books, has written the novel The She-Hulk Diaries, about the female Incredible Hulk.

Crossing-Over• Rubén Martínez’s Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail, which follows a family that immigrates from Mexico to America, has been reissued with a new afterword. His book Desert America: A Journey Through Our Most Divided Landscape, which explores the changes in the American West, is now out in paperback.

LoteriaJuly 9: In Lotería: A Novel, Mario Alberto Zambrano uses a piece of Mexican culture to convey the story of one family’s tragedy.

July 16: Reporter Nola Céspedes, who first appeared in Joy Castro’s Hell or High Water, is back in Nearer Home, investigating the murder of her former journalism professor.

Rebozos_jacket-webAwards:

• The 2013 International Latino Book Award winners include Carmen Tafolla’s Rebozos, Leila Cobo’s The Second Time We Met, Pat Mora’s The Beautiful Lady: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Malin Alegria’s Border Town #1: Crossing the Line, Joy Castro’s Island of Bones, the Las Comadres Para Las Americas anthology Count on Me: Tales of Sisterhood and Fierce Friendships and Reyna Grande’s The Distance Between Us.

AristotleDante• Winners of the 25th annual Lambda Literary Awards, according to The Wall Street Journal, include Cherrie Moraga, who received the Pioneer Award, and Benjamin Alire Saenz, who won awards for his books, Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

• Puerto Rican Eduardo Lalo won the 2013 International Rómulo Gallegos Prize for Fiction, one of Latin America’s most prestigious literary awards.

Writing conferences:

• The Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference will take place Oct. 5 at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, N.Y. The event will include panelists and one-on-one sessions with agents and editors.

Writing contests:

Lee & Low Books has opened submissions for its New Voices Award, given to an unpublished children’s book written by a writer of color. Deadline is Sept. 1.

Other features:

The new website Latinas for Latino Literature have created a summer reading program for children. NPR focused on the issue of diversity in children’s literature, and Publishers Weekly noted the First Book organization is trying to expand the market with The Stories for All Project.

La Casa Azul Bookstore, the East Harlem, N.Y., bookstore run by Aurora Anaya Cerda that specializes in Latino literature, has had a busy summer. It celebrated its first anniversary in June, was honored by The White House for its crowdfunding efforts and was featured in Fox News Latino.

The latest investigation into the death of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda may have found a potential killer, says ABC News.

Alisa Valdes has started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the movie version of her novel The Dirty Girls Social Club.

• Publishing Perspectives profiled El Paso-based Cinco Puntos Press, which publishes books by Benjamin Alire Saenz and Joe Hayes.

• The San Antonio Express-News covered a celebration by Tony Diaz’s Librotraficantes that stopped an anti-ethnic studies bill in the Texas Legislature this spring.

• Some news about Carlos FuentesThe FBI had a dossier on the Mexican novelist, reports the Los Angeles Times, and his books are now available on e-readers, according to Publishers Weekly.

Sandra Cisneros discussed Latinos in entertainment and other topics on NBC Latino’s Cafecito.

Alex Espinoza, author of The Five Acts of Diego Leon, talked to the LA Review of Books.

• NPR profiled children’s singer and author Jose Luis Orozco.

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