Tag Archives: F.G. Haghenbeck

Book review: F.G. Haghenbeck’s “The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo”

Frida Kahlo loved food, elaborate skirts and Diego Rivera. But the iconic Mexican painter was haunted by death every day of her life. Mexican novelist F. G. Haghenbeck uncovers her inner life in the novel The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo (Atria).

The “secret book” refers to one of the journals found in La Casa Azul, her home in Mexico, and Haghenbeck imagines its content. Each chapter depicts a phase in her life – her childhood, her love affair with Mexican painter Diego Rivera, meetings with Ernest Hemingway and other writers in Paris – and ends with Kahlo’s thoughts and recipes.

Food plays a big role in reflecting her moods. When she lives in San Francisco and Detroit, she calls the food bland – just like the sad times she had there compared to the spicy flavors and life in her homeland. When Diego’s wife Lupe confronts her after their affair, it’s in the kitchen. As Lupe tells her, “A woman should know how to move in the kitchen so her man won’t want to eat anywhere else.” The chapter ends up becoming one of the most amusing in the book.

But the major motif of the book is death. Kahlo nearly died in a bus accident, and she made a deal with Death to sacrifice one thing each year she lives – compromises that include the loss of a child and Rivera’s constant infidelity.

Readers can feel her heartbreak thanks to Haghenbeck’s beautiful writing style, which includes great descriptions and inventive metaphors. (The book was translated by Achy Obejas.) Take this scene in which Rivera eyes Kahlo at one of their first meetings:

“He studied his interlocutor with his amphibian eyes. She smelled of fresh meat to be deliciously and vigorously devoured. She had a beautiful face, with deep eyes and charcoal hair. He noticed that her thick eyebrows met in the middle and crowned her delicate nose. He imagined them as wings of a blackbird struggling to fly.”

My only complaint: some chapters are stronger than others. But, overall, it’s a intriguing look into the mind of one of the most legendary figures in the Latino community.

More about F. G. Haghenbeck:

F. G. Haghenbeck, who was born and lives in Mexico, is known for his crime novels, such as the award-winning Trago amargo (Bitter Drink). He also has written for Superman and other graphic novels.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.


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Filed under 2012 Books, Book Reviews, Fiction

In the news: New releases from González and Díaz, book festivals and more

September means new books and book festivals. Here’s a look at what’s going on:

Already released: Rigoberto González’s Mariposa Gown – a sequel to The Mariposa Club –depicts the friendship between three teenage boys who want to make a splash at their high school prom with the titular outfit.

Brazilian writer Jorge Amado‘s The Double Death of Quincas Water-Bray and The Discovery of America by the Turks have received new translations from Gregory Rabassa. To mark Amado’s 100th birthday, Rabassa and writer Rivka Glachen will discuss Amado’s work Sept. 17 at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute, reports the Shelf Awareness newsletter. The Millions website also wrote about the two new releases.

• Sept. 11: Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz will release a collection of short stories, This is How You Lose Her. Here’s a cool Pinterest board by blogger Poornima Apte that shows the town and other details from the book. (She did the same for Roberto Ampuero’s The Neruda Case and other books.) Díaz has been all over the media: dressing up in Edith Wharton-era clothes for a Vogue fashion spread; discussing his love life in New York magazine; sharing his reading habits with The New York Times; and compiling a playlist to NPR’s alt. Latino website.

Sept. 25: In the novel The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo, Mexican writer F.G. Haghenbeck writes about the life of the iconic Mexican artist.

Sept. 27: Spoken word poet Carlos Andrés Gómez discusses how masculinity is evolving in Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood.

Book festivals:

Here’s a look at some upcoming book festivals:

• Sept. 15: Houston Librofest will play host to Gwendolyn Zepeda (right), Javier O. Huerta and Sarah Cortez.

• Sept. 22-23: The National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. will feature Sandra Cisneros, Junot Díaz, Mario Vargas Llosa, Justin Torres and Maria Dueñas. Mexican-born, California-based Rafael Lopez is the festival artist.

Sept. 23: The Brooklyn Book Festival will include Carlos Andrés Gómez, Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Reyna Grande, Esmeralda Santiago, Luis Alberto Urrea, and graphic artists Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez.

• Sept. 28-30: The Baltimore Book Festival will feature Caridad Pineiro and Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban.

Literary Magazines:

• Several Latino-oriented literary magazines are out with new issues. Acentos Review, edited by Bonafide Rojas, focuses on music on its August 2012 edition. The bilingual BorderSenses published its 18th volume. Lorna Dee Cervantes, Rigoberto Gonzales and Andrea J. Serrano are featured in the latest issue of the Mas Tequila Review.

• The fall issue of Zyzzyva magazine, which is devoted to West Coast writers, features works by Dagoberto Gilb and Luis Alberto Urrea.


Sept. 21: Librotraficante, which was founded earlier this year to protest the state of Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies, will host a 50 States of Freedom of Speech event in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins Sept. 15.

Writer’s Workshop

Las Comadres Para Las Americas will host a writer’s workshop Oct. 6 in New York City. Speakers include Sesame Street actress and children’s book writer Sonia Manzano, author of the just released The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, as well asLyn DiIorio, and Caridad Pineiro.

Other features:

• NPR featured the latest work of graphic comic book artist Jaime Hernandez, creator of the Love and Rockets series.

• The El Paso Times has marked the 40th anniversary of the Rudolfo Anaya novel Bless Me Ultima with essays from Rigoberto González, Denise Chávez and other writers.

• Argentine writers will now receive a pension, according to The New York Times.

Reyna Grande, author of The Distance Between Us, talked to the Zyzzyva website.

• Junot Díaz was among the writers at the Edinburgh World Writer’s Conference who condemned Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies.


Filed under 2012 Books, Events, Fiction, News