Tag Archives: Adriana V. Lopez

Book review: Las Comadres Para Las Americas’ “Count on Me: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships”

Count On Me: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships (Atria) is the perfect gift to give to your best friend.

The book of essays was put together by the non-profit association Las Comadres Para Las Americas and edited by Adriana V. Lopez. In a dozen essays, 11 prominent Latinas – plus Luis Alberto Urrea – talk about the power of female friendship. Some of the friends make extraordinary gestures. Carolina de Robertis, author of Perla, edits a deceased friend’s book. A teacher offers shelter to Reyna Grande, in an excerpt from her memoir The Distance Between Us, after she faces a bad family situation. Lorraine López receives advice from writer Judith Ortiz Cofer to pursue her literary career – leading to such books as The Realm of Hungry Spirits.

But two of the best essays are those that acknowledge that a best friend can often be your worst enemy. In “Anarchy Chicks,” Michelle Herrera Mulligan describes how adolescent friends go weeks without talking to each other, then become best friends again with a single phone call. In “The Miranda Manual,” Sofia Quintero nails all the subtle gestures and actions that can destroy a relationship:

“There were no betrayals or putdowns, no angry emails or shouting matches, breaches of confidences or rehashing of past misdeeds. Neither of us committed a gross act of deliberate hurt against the other. Rather, we engaged in tiny yet relentless acts of thoughtless toward each other. The little digs, constant interruptions and the passive listening typical of mere acquaintances that’s easy to ignore. When the person is usually mindful and considerate best friend, it hurts like hell.”

Most of the essays are excellent. Dr. Ana Nogales’ essay is too general to make an emotional impact, but she describes the health benefits to friendships. But Teresa Rodríguez sums up the power of friendship in her essay about activist Esther Chávez Cano:

You see, a comadre is not necessarily a close friend, but a person whose example is etched in your heart. The one you’d like to emulate, that friend who gave so much of herself and asked for nothing in return.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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Filed under 2012 Books, Book Reviews, Non-Fiction

When you’re fifteen …: A look at quinceañeras in literature

The recently released Quince Clash by Malín Alegría is the latest book in the Border Town series for young adults, and it’s latest book that has featured quinceañeras – the elaborate celebration for Latinas on their 15th birthday – as a major plot point. Here’s a look at some other books that cover the unique Hispanic tradition.

Alegría knows quinceañeras well. In her 2007 novel, Estrella’s Quinceañera, the title character is almost embarrassed to have the celebration, especially since she is  attending an elite private school. According to this NPR story, the book is considered a classic among Latino youth and Alegría shows up at book readings in a ruffled quinceañera dress and tiara.

Quinceañera Means Fifteen, by Veronica Chambers, is part of a series featuring Marisol and Magdalena, two Panamanian best friends who live in Brooklyn. In this 2001 book, Marisol and Magdalena find their friendship strained as they plan their parties. The celebration is also featured in Chambers’ Amigas series – in Fifteen Candles and Lights Cameras Quince.

Belinda Acosta provides an adult perspective in her Quinceanera Club series. The main characters in 2009’s Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz and 2010’s Sisters Strangers and Starting Over are organizing quinceañeras for reluctant teenagers. Acosta cited Fifteen Candles: 15 Tales of Taffeta, Hairspray, Drunk Uncles, and other Quinceanera Stories, a book of essays edited by Adriana V. Lopez, as a great resource.

For a non-fiction take on the big event, try Julia Alvarez’s 2007 Once Upon a Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA. She visited several quinceañeras as research for the book, which covers the tradition’s history and its financial costs. Ilan Stavans examines the religious, gender and class aspects in the 2010 anthology of essays he edited, Quinceañera (The Ilan Stavans Library of Latino Civilization).

Other books about quinceañeras include (with a hat tip to Louisville Free Public Library): the Pura Belpré Award-winning The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales; Sister Chicas by Lisa Alvarado, Ann Hagman Cardinal and Jane Alberdeston Coralin; and Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa. And check out Sweet Fifteen by Diane Gonzales Bertrand.

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In the News: New releases, writer’s workshop and García Márquez

Hello August! Here are great selections to beat the heat:

• Already released: Gustavo Arellano and Luis Alberto Urrea are among the writers who contributed to Ban This! The BSP Anthology of Xican@ Literature, edited by S.J. Rivera. The book was published in response to the state of Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies earlier this year.

• Now in paperback: Esmeralda Santiago’s Conquistadora, which was selected as Ladies’ Home Journal’s August Book of the Month (here’s a discussion guide and letter from Santiago); Paulo Coelho’s Aleph; Maria Duenas The Time in Between and Javier Sierra’s The Lost Angel.

Alisa Valdes has a new erotic e-novel out called Puta. You can read the first two chapters for free on Amazon.

Aug. 28: Reyna Grande writes about immigrating from Mexico to California in her memoir, The Distance Between Us.

Sept. 4: Count on Me: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships features an all-star list of Latinas –Santiago, Grande, Sofia Quintero, Carolina De Robertis, Lórraine Lopez writing about the importance of female friendships. The book was produced by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club and edited by Adriana V. López.

Writer’s Workshop

Speaking of Las Comadres, the organization will host a writer’s workshop Oct. 6 in New York City. Speakers include Sesame Street actress and children’s book writer Sonia Manzano, left, as well as Lyn DiIorio, and Caridad Pineiro.

In other news:

• Sad News: It’s been confirmed that Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Márquez,  right, can no longer write due to dementia, according to The New York Times. The Daily Beast/Newsweek ran an interesting blog post about his writing process.

Bless Me Ultima author Rudolfo Anaya was honored by the city of El Paso as the movie version of the book is expected to premiere in September, reports the El Paso Times.

• Poets and Writers magazine profiled the Librotraficante movement. Its founder, Tony Díaz is planning a “50 for Freedom of Speech” teach-in in all 50 states Sept. 21.

Joy Castro talked about her novel, Hell or High Water, to Book Page.

Mexican-American poet Manuel Paul Lopez of El Centro, Calif., was featured in a KCET animated short about his chapbook, “1984,” which is his interpretation of the classic George Orwell novel.

Junot Díaz discussed his short story, “The Cheater’s Guide to Love,” to The New Yorker. The story is included in his book, This is How You Lose Her, out on Sept. 11.

Diana Gabaldon will see her Outlander books made into a TV series, according to the Word & Film website.

• A recent edition of the NPR radio program “Latino USA” took a look at Luis Alfaro’s new play, “Bruja,” and got reading recommendations from Aurora Anaya Cerda, owner of La Casa Azul Bookstore in East Harlem, N.Y.

• A new literary prize for works written in Spanish will be named after the late Carlos Fuentes, reports Publishing Perspectives.

• Celebrating birthdays this month: Jorge Luis Borges on Aug. 24.

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