Tag Archives: Francisco Goldman

In the News: New releases from Zepeda, Garcia and Alarcón

October has arrived, and cooler temperatures mean a better excuse to curl up with a good book. Here’s what going on in the world of Latino literature:

FallinginLovewithPrisonersBook releases:

• Already out: Gwendolyn Zepeda’s newest book is a collection of poetry, Falling in Love with Fellow Prisoners, that details her life in the city. In the children’s book Parrots Over Puerto Rico, authors Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore connect the bird with the island’s history.

Kami Garcia/UnbreakableOct. 1: Kami Garcia’s Unbreakable, which is aimed at readers ages 12 and older, features a young girl who is haunted by paranormal activity.

Oct. 3: Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography finds Richard Rodriguez exploring the role of religion in the world.

Maximilian&theBingoRematchOct. 22: Xavier Garza’s newest children’s book is Maximilian & the Bingo Rematch: A Lucha Libre Sequel (Max’s Lucha Libre Adventures), in which a sixth-grader faces several challenges in life and love.

• Oct. 31: In Daniel Alarcón’s At Night We Walk in Circles, a young man touring with a political acting troupe finds himself caught up in his own personal drama.

Literary magazines:

The third edition of Huizache, the literary magazine produced by the University of Houston-Victoria’s Center for Mexican American Literature and Culture, comes out Oct. 15. The issue will include works by Cristina García, Juan Felipe Herrera, Domingo Martinez and Héctor Tobar. The $15 issue can be ordered online.

Book Festivals:

Oct. 5: Librofest in Houston features Sarah Cortez, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Manuel Ramos, René Saldaña Jr. and Gwendolyn Zepeda.

Oct. 26-27: The Texas Book Festival in Austin includes Monica Brown, Alfredo Corchado, Matt de la Peña, Cristina García, Kami Garcia, Xavier Garza, Manuel Gonzales, Duncan Tonatiuh and Mario Alberto Zambrano.

Writing contests:

The National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies—Tejas Foco is sponsoring two contests for writers who have published fiction in 2013 that relate to the Mexican American experience in Texas. Deadline is Dec. 3.

• The new Angela Johnson Scholarship from the Vermont College of Fine Arts will offer $5,000 to writers of color pursuing the school’s master’s degree in Writing for Children & Young Adults.

Alvaro MutisOther features:

Colombian writer Alvaro Mutis, left, the winner of the Cervantes Prize, passed away last month at age 90. Here’s his obituary from the Associated Press, via the Huffington Post; a remembrance from The Guardian; and an 2001 interview with Francisco Goldman from the Bombsite website.

MananaMeansHeaven• Poet and artist Jose Montoya, a former poet laureate for the city of Sacramento, passed away last month at age 81. The Modesto Bee had a obituary, while the Sacramento Bee featured a photo gallery and an editorial.

• The Los Angeles Times ran an obituary for Bea Franco, the woman who inspired “The Mexican Girl” character in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and the new Tim Z. Hernandez novel Mañana Means Heaven.

MayasNotebookIsabel Allende, whose most recent novel is Maya’s Notebook, talked to The Guardian about her family and her past.

• NBC Latino profiled Monica Brown, author of Marisol Mcdonald and the Clash Bash/Marisol Mcdonald Y La Fiesta Sin Igual.

ThisIsHowYouLoseHerJunot Díaz, whose latest book This is How You Lose Her comes out Oct. 31 in a paperback deluxe edition with illustrations by Jaime Hernandez, has been featured in the Associated Press, Esquire and Salon. He also spoke to NBC Cafecito about his work with Freedom University for undocumented students.

Alisa ValdesPoet and novelist Gary Soto wrote  in the Huffington Post about why he stopped writing children’s stories.

• Novelist Alisa Valdes, left, gave her views on contemporary Latino lit to NBC Latino.

Juan Pablo Villalobos, author of Down the Rabbit Hole, was featured in the latest Granta podcast.

Mario Alberto Zambrano discussed his book Lotería to the Village Voice.

DreaminginCuban• The Cristina García novel Dreaming in Cuban was banned by an Arizona school, according to the Colorlines website. Meg Medina faced problems at one school with her book, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass.

• Here’s a cool way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, which ends Oct. 15 — this literary flow chart from ebook publisher Open Road Media shows great Latino literature selections.

• Publishing Perspectives examined how ebooks were affecting libraries in the Spanish-speaking countries.

Also this month:

• Looking for books for Halloween? Check out these scary stories for children and these thrillers for adults.

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Happy Independence Day, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua!

On Sept. 15, 1821, five Central American countries declared their independence from Spain. (It also marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, with several Latin American countries celebrating their Independence Days in the next 30 days.) Here’s a look at the writers and books from these nations:

CocoriCosta Rica: Poet and novelist Joaquín Gutiérrez wrote several books, including Cronicas De Otro Mundo; the children’s book Cocori, which has been translated into several languages and produced as a play; and Chinto Pinto, a book of Costan Rican proverbs and songs for children.

RoqueDaltonSmallHoursEl Salvador: Poet Roque Dalton (1935-1975) now is considered a revered figure in his native country for his works, collected in the book Small Hours of the Night. But his left wing politics sent him in exile from his country and led to his death. Héctor Tobar of The Los Angeles Times had a fascinating story about his execution.

asturiasGuatemala: Miguel Angel Asturias (1899-1974), right, won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his novels — The President (El Senor Presidente) and Men of Maize: The Modernist Epic of the Guatemalan Indians (Hombres de Maize) — that depicted life in his country. Contemporary novelists Francisco Goldman, Héctor Tobar and Sabrina Vourvoulias have Guatemalan roots.

enriques-journeyHonduras: Novelist Froilán Turcios (1875-1943) is best known for his collection of short stories Cuentos del Amor y la Muerte (Stories of Love and Death). Roberto Sosa (1930-2011) won awards for his poetry. The non-fiction book Enrique’s Journey, based on Pulitzer Prize-winning series by Sonia Nazario, follows a young Honduran boy as he travels to the United States to find his mother.

Rubén_DaríoNicaragua: Poet Rubén Darío (1867-1916), right, is considered one of the finest wordsmiths in the Spanish language, with poems that experimented with the language. They can be found in the book Selected WritingsNovelist Silvio Sirias, who was raised in California, drew upon his cultural heritage for such books as Meet Me Under the Ceiba and Bernardo and the Virgin.

Sources: Answers.com, Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, Poets.org, Los Angeles Times, Vidagranada.com

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The Hispanic Reader is two!

The Hispanic Reader is two years today! And with our last post, a review of Javier Mácias’ The Infatuations, this blog has marked another milestone – 75 book reviews. Let’s look at these books:

MyBelovedWorldType of books:

  • 53: Novels
  • 6: Memoirs, including My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
  • 5: Short story collections
  • 4: Essay collections
  • 4: Non-Fiction
  • 3: Graphic books/Picture books

Death of Artemio CruzGender of authors:

Settings of book:

Note: Some books take place in more than one country. (And, in case you’re wondering, I kept a spreadsheet of these details.)

say-her-name-jpg-ccfb2220605708e3First book reviewed: Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman

Shortest book: Have You Seen Marie? by Sandra Cisneros, 112 pages, much of which were illustrations

Longest book: The Time in Between by Maria Duenas, 624 pages

AlephBorgesNumber of contemporary books (released during the blog’s existence): 58

Number of classic books (released before the blog’s existence): 17

Oldest Book: The Aleph by Jorge Luis Borges, released in 1949

Favorite title:The+Hummingbird's+Daughter Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

Favorite ending: When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago

Favorite book: The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

Best passages:

From The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

“If you are too blind to see God in a Goddamned taco … then you are truly blind.”

From Loving Pedro Infante by Denise Chávez

“There’s nothing a Mejicano or Mejicana loves more than the burning, stinging pain of thwarted, frustrated, hopeless, soulful, take-it-to-the-grave love. Nothing gets us going more than what I call rabia/love of the te-juro-you’re-going-to-pay-for-all-the-suffering-you-caused-me variety.”

From The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

“I kept waiting to run into my family posting up flyers of me on the boardwalk … but the closest I came to any of that was someone had put up for a cat they lost. That’s white people for you. They lost a cat and it’s an all-points bulletin, but we Dominicans, we lost a daughter and we might not even cancel our appointment at the salon.”

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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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Book review: Rudolfo Anaya’s “The Old Man’s Love Story”

OldMan'sLoveStoryRudolfo Anaya’s newest novel, The Old Man’s Love Story (The University of Oklahoma Press) is a book that will touch your heart because it feels so real – after all, it’s based on Anaya’s own experiences as a widower.

The book begins as the old man (no name is given) sees his wife dying after an illness. The grief is profound as he thinks about her everywhere he goes – including the grocery store.

“A flickering memory suddenly burned bright. His wife’s lovely breasts. Other memories came piling on him. Whenever he passed won the cereal aisle, tears filled his eyes. He would never again buy her favorite cereal.”

He tries to be active – going to a water aerobics class, eating dinner with friends and family, and even dating a high school friend who lost her husband. But the memories keep coming up as he deals with growing older. (“Old people know bathrooms are dangerous places.”) He thinks about their travels and the rooms she carved in his heart. At one point he tries to conjure up her spirit by placing her pictures in a circle.

“He couldn’t say the magic word and have her appear. He would never again hold her in his arms.”

The book, at 170 pages, is easy to read thanks to Anaya’s simple prose. I thought the book would be depressing, but it’s not. Anaya writes in a matter-of-fact tone that doesn’t sound self-pitying and many readers will be able to relate to his struggles.

I have one minor complaint about the book. The old man seems to idealize his wife – which is natural, but I would like to know if they had any arguments or is she did anything that annoyed him.

Still, The Old Man’s Love Story is a beautiful love story. Your heart aches for the old man, as he tries to live each day without his soulmate. You may wish you had a love like they did.

Rudulfo AnayaMore about Rudolfo Anaya:

The New Mexico-based Anaya is best known for his 1972 classic, Bless Me Ultima, which was released as a movie earlier this year. He has written numerous children’s books and novels, including the Sonny Baca detective series and Randy Lopez Goes Home.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

Another excellent book about a man dealing with the death of his wife, although in different circumstances, is Francisco Goldman’s 2011 novel Say Her Name.

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In the news: Books from Valdes, Gonzales kick off the new year

Here’s what’s happening in the first month of 2013 (Note: I updated this article to include the Blanco and Valdes links.):

Feminist and the CowboyJust released: In The Feminist and the Cowboy: An Unlikely Love Story, Alisa Valdes recounts her relationship with a man with opposite views. In an intriguing article in Salon, Valdes said the relationship was abusive. In The Tragedy of Fidel Castro, Portuguese writer Joao Cerqueira imagines how Jesus Christ would settle the battle between Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

Ways of Going HomeJan. 8: Chilean Alejandro Zambra depicts life in the Pinochet-era Chile in the novel Ways of Going Home.

Jan. 10: The Miniature Wife and Other Stories is a quirky collection of 18 short stories from Tejano Manuel Gonzales, whose work has appeared in The Believer and Esquire.

JunotDiazEvents:

Junot Díaz (right) and Francisco Goldman will speak at “A Benefit Evening of Latin American Storytelling,” Feb. 5 in New York City, with proceeds going to Radio Ambulante. Radio Ambulante’s executive producer, Daniel Alarcon, will moderate.

Literary magazines:

• The literary magazine BorderSenses is taking submissions until March 31 for its next issue. The publication will take short stories, poetry and book reviews in English and Spanish, as well as artwork. Write to editor@bordersenses.com.

Other features:

• Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco will read a poem at President Obama’s inauguration later this month, becoming the first Latino to hold that honor, NPR reports. He was also profiled in The New York Times.

• In a much-discussed article, The New York Times wrote about the lack of Latino-oriented books for children. In a follow-up article, Aurora Anaya-Cerda of La Casa Azul Bookstore in East Harlem, N.Y., gave her reading recommendations. Many small publishers felt they were not represented in the article, and Publishers Weekly featured those presses, including Lee and Low Books and Arte Público.

•  Arte Público books, which recently moved into new headquarters, was recently profiled in The Houston Chronicle.

ABC News/Univision marked the 50th anniversary of the Latin American Boom in literature.

• Book editor Marcela Landres delivered her list of the best in Latino literature for 2012.

Junot Díaz talked with NBC Latino about how he found his literary voice. He also discussed his love for libraries, politics and the greatness of Star Wars on the TV show Moyers & Company.

Joy Castro talked to the Lincoln Journal-Star about the prospect of her 2012 book, Hell or High Water, being optioned by actress Zoe Saldana for a possible movie or TV show.

Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street and Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist are among the 30 selections for World Book Night, in which volunteers will give out books April 23. Sign up to be giver by Jan. 23.

• Cisneros remembered Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, who passed away last year, in The New York Times.

• Chilean Roberto Ampuero, author of The Neruda Case and his country’s ambassador to Mexico, was profiled in The Wall Street Journal.

• The film version of Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima is coming to the big screen, reports the Huffington Post.

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In the News: New books and short stories, and plenty of awards

Hello, summer! Here are some June book releases to keep you entertained:

Already in bookstores: Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Dream of the Celt depicts the life of Irish human rights activist Richard Casement.  La Roja: How Soccer Conquered Spain and How Spanish Soccer Conquered the World by Jimmy Burns covers the world’s most popular sport. Daniel Orozco’s critically acclaimed book of short stories, Orientation, is now in paperback.

June 14: The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero features a private eye solving a case for poet Pablo Neruda during his final days. Carolina DeRobertis, author of Perla, talked to Publishers Weekly about translating the book.

June 26: Spanish author Felix J. Palma’s The Map of Time explores time travel in Victorian London.

Awards:

Congratulations to the winners of Latino Literacy Now’s International Latino Book Awards, which were announced last week. Honorees included some of The Hispanic Reader’s favorites – such as Becoming Dr. Q: My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon by Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa and Crossing Borders: Personal Essays by Sergio Troncoso, which won first place and second place, respectively, in the Best Biography category; Outside the Bones by Lyn Di Iorio and Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman, which earned honorable mentions in the Best Popular Fiction – English category; and The Time in Between by Maria Dueñas which received first place for Best Novel – Historical.

• The Skipping Stones 2012 Honor Awards – given to books with multicultural themes – honored Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown.

When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love & Revolution by Jeanne Córdova and Gay Latino Studies: A Critical Reader, edited by Michael Hames-García and Ernesto Javier Martínez, won prizes at the 24th Annual Lambda Literary Awards, which honors lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgendered literature.

New short stories and other works:

Junot Díaz talks about the science fiction short story, “Monstro,” he wrote for The New Yorker. He also remembered science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, who passed away earlier this month, in an article for the magazine.

Luis Alberto Urrea will have a short story included in Esquire’s ebook aimed at men, You and Me and the Devil Makes Three, out June 12.

Carlos Andrés Gómez put up a new poem, How to Fight, in response to recent shootings.

Author profiles:

NBC Latino profiled Julia Alvarez and her new book, A Wedding in Haiti.

Pulitzer Prize winner Oscar Hijuelos talked about his memoir, Thoughts Without Cigarettes, to The Morning News.

Carmen Gimenez Smith, New Mexico State University assistant professor of English and editor of the literary magazine Puerto del Sol, was featured in the Las Cruces Sun-News about being NPR’s NewsPoet.

Body art by Mia Roman. Photographed by Johnny Ramos.

Other news:

La Casa Azul bookstore, which specializes in Latino literature, opened in June in East Harlem by Aurora Anaya-Cerda (right), and was featured in The New York Times.

Aztec Muse publisher Tony Diaz earned the Open Book Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors for his Librotraficante work.

• Here’s an interesting story, published in the The Daily Beast/Newsweek, about how Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude brought down a banana empire.
Note: This post was updated to correct that Sergio Troncoso won second place in the International Latino Book Awards and to add the Garcia Marquez link.

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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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Love, Latino-style: Books and movies for Valentine’s Day

Depending on your point of view, Valentine’s Day is either one of the best or worst holidays of the year. But no matter what your point of view, this is a good time to look at some of the greatest love stories in Latino literature.

For the hopeless romantic:

In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera – young Florentino Ariza loves Fermina Daza from the moment he sees her – and keeps loving her even when she marries another man. This classic book was made into a 2007 movie staring Javier Bardem and Benjamin Bratt.

For the food lover:

Tita’s emotions can be felt in the food she is making in Laura Esquivel’s 1989 Like Water for Chocolate ­– and her emotions are intense when her sister marries the man she loves. The best-selling novel, made into a 1992 movie, includes recipes for the meals.

For a good cry:

Francisco Goldman’s 2011 Say Her Name tells the story of Goldman’s relationship with his wife, Aura Estrada, who died in a swimming accident. His love for her is so palpable that your heart will break along with his.

For the poetry fan:

If you prefer poetry, you can’t more romantic than Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda’s Love Poems. This book inspired the 1994 Academy Award-nominated movie Il Postino, in which Neruda appears as a character who helps a postal carrier woo the woman he loves. 

For the movie lover:

The 2011 film Chico and Rita features the romance between a Cuban pianist and singer in the 1940s. NPR talked to co-director Fernando Trueba about the film, which is up for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.

Do you know of any other great Latino love stories that should be included here? Post them in the comments.

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Best of 2011

At the end of the year, critics, bloggers and anyone else who wants to makes their own “best of” list, so I decided to make my own Latino literature favorites for 2011. Keep in mind that I started my blog in August, so I missed out on some books, such as Lorraine López’s The Realm of Hungry Spirits and Jon Michaud’s When Tito Loved Clara, and I’m keeping the list to just five books instead of the usual ten. Here are the books I loved the most from 2011:

• Francisco Goldman’s Say Her Name was a riveting love story – loosely based on his own marriage to writer Aura Estrada – that covered the beginning of their relationship to her death in a swimming accident. This book will break your heart.

• Héctor Tobar’s The Barbarian Nurseries was a fast-paced, unputdownable novel about an undocumented maid who is thrust in the middle of an immigration debate when she is left alone with her boss’s children. The book has great description, strong characters and terrific observations about politics. It’s a shame this book didn’t receive more attention.

• Although I consider myself an avid reader, how did I not discover the awesomeness that is Luis Alberto Urrea until this year? I absolutely loved his 2005 book The Hummingbird’s Daughter, a funny, beautiful novel about a woman who discovers her healing powers in revolutionary Mexico. Her father, Don Tomas, just may be one of the best literary characters ever. The 2011 sequel, Queen of America, shows Teresita coping with her success. The tone is more somber than Daughter and there’s not enough Don Tomas, but the book is still pretty terrific.

• Sergio Troncoso wrote two books this year – a book of essays, Crossing Borders, and a novel, From This Wicked Patch of Dust – both of which draw on his experiences of living on the Texas-Mexico border. I liked Borders for its riveting essays on family dynamics and relationships – and it’s unusual to see a male author talk about work-life balance. His works deserve a larger audience.

• Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa’s Becoming Dr. Q is a fascinating look at one man’s journey from an undocumented immigrant from Mexico to one of the top brain surgeons in the United States.

I also liked Justin Torres’s We the Animals, Dagoberto Gilb’s Before the End, After the Beginning and Lyn Di Iorio’s Outside the Bones. For my non-Latino books, I loved Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.

What were your favorite 2011 books? Post in the comments.

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