Category Archives: Events

In person: Ayad Akhtar and Luis Alberto Urrea

Luis Alberto Urrea and Ayad Akhtar signed books after their presentation.

Ayad Akhtar and Luis Alberto Urrea give voices to people whose stories are not always told.

The authors spoke Friday night as part of the Arts & Letters Live series at the Dallas Museum of Art. Both writers have new books to promote – Urrea’s Queen of America, the sequel to The Hummingbird’s Daughter that depicts Saint Teresita’s journey from revolutionary Mexico to the United States, and Akhtar’s debut novel, American Dervish, about a pre-teen boy discovering his Muslim faith.

The two were a study in contrasts. Urrea was full of energy, speaking with a big voice and sprinkling his stories with punchlines. Akhtar was more subdued, but he did draw laughs from the audience when he read an excerpt from his book and used an accent and feminine voice to play the mother.

Akhtar, who grew up in Wisconsin, said he had a clear intention: to write a book about what it was like to be Muslim in the United States. Most books about Islam were distant, he said, but his book is a coming of age story with a dysfunctional family and different points of view.

“I wanted the audience not to experience anything foreign,” he said.

Akhtar earned degrees in theater and film programs from Brown and Columbia, has written several plays and acted in the movie Too Big to Fail. Those experiences inspired him to write a movie in the form of a book.

“I’m a dramatic storyteller,” he said. “I don’t want the language to be in the way of the experience.”

Urrea seems like a born storyteller. But he said he learned to tell his stories from his family.

His mother, who was American, read him Charles Dickens and Mark Twain books. He described her as someone who thought she was always in Vogue magazine, drinking from demitasse cups and calling him “dear boy” and “Louis.” His father was from Mexico and gave him The Iliad and The Odyssey in Spanish, but never found his place in the United States.

When a young Urrea was called a “greaser” and “wetback,” his father tried to convince him there were words of pride that Mexicans used to show off their prowess.

“I knew it was a lie,” Urrea said. But he knew his father had told a great story. “That may have the moment. It was so magical.”

Urrea became the first person in his family to attend college, but he did not know what he was going to do with his life. He soon became a translator for a preacher working in the slums of Tijuana. The preacher gave him some advice.

“You need to tell these stories for those who don’t have a voice,” his friend told him.

But, as Urrea noted earlier in his speech, his bi-cultural life served him well.

“We all have multiple personalities in a way,” he said. “I consider myself a theological writer. I write about the human spirit.”

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In the news

New releases: Maria Duenas’s The Time in Between comes out Tuesday. The suspense novel has received great reviews, including a blurb from Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa.  News for all the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media, by Juan Gonzalez and Joseph Torres, came out last month.

 • Book festivals: The Miami Book Fair International begins Nov. 13 and runs through Nov. 20, with the street fair running from Nov. 18-20. One session includes Francisco Goldman, Elizabeth Nunez, Esmeralda Santiago and Héctor Tobar – all in one room! Other writers include Ricardo Cravo Albin, Jose Alvarez, Sandra Rodriguez Barron, Jorge Casteñada, Maria Duenas, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Martha Medeiros, Ana Menendez, Javier Sierra, Justin Torres, Ian Vasquez and Luis Alberto Urrea. Awesome.

Sandra Cisneros announced this week that she plans to leave San Antonio to concentrate more on writing, according to this San Antonio Express-News article. She has put her home up for sale, and she is considering moving to New Mexico. The fate of the Macondo Foundation for writers remains unclear since Cisneros said she had difficulty balancing her writing with her charity.

 Writing contests: Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz will judge stories (no longer than 1,000 words) based on their narrative voice for the Figment writing website. Deadline is Nov. 30. For details, click here.

Feb. 1 is the deadline to submit noir fiction for the Valley Artistic Outreach’s “Border Noir: Hard-Boiled Fiction from the Southwest,” an anthology of short stories to be edited by Machete co-screenwriter Alvaro Rodriguez. The book will come out in May. Stories can be sent to noir@valartout.org. For more information, click here.

 

 

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In the news

Puerto Rican/Cuban-American poet Piri Thomas (pictured at left) passed away last week. His book, Down These Mean Streets, described his life growing up in Spanish Harlem and became a staple in classrooms, according to this New York Times obituary.

• Here’s the round-up in book festivals this coming weekend:

Luis Alberto Urrea will speak at the Louisiana Book Festival Saturday in Baton Rouge.

The Dallas International Book Festival, on Saturday, will feature novelist Esmeralda Santiago (pictured at right), children’s author Lucia Gonzalez, young adult author Ray Villareal and poet Joaquin Zihuatanejo.

The 31st Annual Book Fair of Santiago will run from Friday-Nov. 13 if you just so happen to be in Chile.

• Monday will be a big day for Arte Publico Press – it’s releasing several children’s and young adult books that day. The titles are: Don’t Call Me a Hero by Ray Villareal; The Lemon Tree Caper: A Mickey Rangel Mystery by René Saldana Jr.; ¡A Bailar! Let’s Dance! by Judith Ortiz Cofer and illustrated by Christina Ann Rodriguez; Clara and the Curandera by Monica Brown and illustrated by Thelma Muraida; and Adelita and the Veggie Cousins by Diane Gonzales Bertrand and illustrated by Christina Rodriguez.

Dagoberto Gilb, whose short story collection Before the End, After the Beginning comes out Tuesday, will tour several Texas cities with Aztec Muse magazine editor Tony Diaz. They’ll be in San Antonio Nov. 2; Dallas, Nov. 3-4; and Houston, Nov. 16-17. The Texas Observer covered his speech at last week’s Texas Book Festival, as well as Sergio Troncoso’s and Richard Yanez’s discussion about El Paso literature. (Scroll down the page for the articles.) Texas Monthly also excerpted a story in its latest issue. The Hispanic Reader will post a review of his book next week.

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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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In the news

Rigoberto González (pictured at left), who was born in California and raised in Mexico, releases his latest collection of poetry, Black Blossoms, today. The book centers on the struggles of women of color.

• The Brattleboro Literary Festival, which runs Oct. 14-15 in Vermont, will feature Julia Alvarez (pictured at right), Martín Espada and Luis Alberto Urrea. Alvarez’s latest children’s book, How Tía Lola Ended Up Starting Over (Knopf Books for Young Readers) was released last month. Alvarez is touring this month in support of the book. For more of her schedule, click here.

• 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 and Marisel Vera are on the schedule.

• Brazilian Paulo Coelho’s latest book, Aleph, reached number six on The New York Times bestsellers list for hardcover fiction. The Hispanic Reader will publish a review later this week.

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In the News

• Writer Sandra Cisneros (pictured at right) will be featured in HBO’s documentary, The Latino List, which premieres tonight. Other Hispanics profiled in the show include former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, actress Eva Longoria and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayer.

Cristina García, as well as dozens of other young adult novelists, will appear at the Austin Teen Book Festival Saturday. Garcia’s latest book, The Dreams of Siginificant Girls (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers), was released earlier this year.

Héctor Tobar’s critically acclaimed novel, The Barbarian Nurseries (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), comes out on Tuesday. The Hispanic Reader will post a review the same day.

• Also on Tuesday, Luis J. Rodriguez will release It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing (Touchstone), a sequel to his book, Always Running.

• Rodriguez will be one of several speakers during the 6th Annual San Diego City College Int’l Book Fair Monday-Oct. 8. The event will also include a discussion on “Chicano Poetics: the Enduring Experience and Perspective,” with poets Manuél J. Velez, Angel Sandoval and Manuel Paul López.

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News from Latino authors

Chilean Ariel Dorfman (pictured at right) and Brazilian Paolo Coelho will release new books on Tuesday. Dorfman’s book, Feeding on Dreams (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), discusses his exile from Chile after the Pinochet coup. He will make several appearances across the country, including at the New York Public Library tonight. Coelho’s book, Aleph (Knopf), is a novel similar to his megabestselling, The Alchemist. The New York Times has a great article on Coelho, who discusses how Jorge Luis Borges inspired his work and why he loves Twitter.

• Author Sergio Troncoso writes about his life – from growing up on the El Paso/Mexico border to studying at an Ivy League college –  in his new book, Crossing Borders: Personal Essays (Arte Público Press), out on Friday. He spoke with KUHF, the Houston NPR station, about the book.

Outside the Bones, a mystery with Afro-Carribbean elements written by Puerto Rican Lyn Di Iorio, will be published Friday by Arte Público Press.

• The West Hollywood Book Fair will take place Sunday. David A. Hernandez, Melinda Palacio, Felice Picano, Héctor Tobar, Justin Torres and Marcos M. Villatoro are scheduled to speak.

Kami Garcia (pictured at left), co-author of the Beautiful Chaos books, will speak at the Orange Country Children’s Book Festival on Sunday in Costa Mesa, Calif. Beautiful Darkness, written with Margaret Stohl, came out earlier this month in paperback.

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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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