Tag Archives: Julia Amante

Happy Independence Day, Argentina!

Argentina declared its independence from Spain on July 9, 1816. Pope Francis and soccer player Lionel Messi call the South American country home. The country boasts a romantic image (the tango) and a tumultuous history (the Dirty War, when thousands of young Argentines disappeared in the 1970s) that makes it perfect fodder for its writers. (Face palm. I somehow forgot about Julio Cortázar when I first wrote this. Here’s his profile.)

Jorge_Luis_BorgesJorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) has become one of the most beloved writers of all time thanks to his short stories, which are collected in the books The Aleph and Ficciones. He won the Cervantes Prize, one of the most prestigious awards given to Spanish-language writers. Another Cervantes winner, Adolfo Bioy Casares (1914-1999), wrote the science fiction novel, The Invention of Moral, which was called “perfect” by Borges, a frequent collaborator.

Ernesto_Sabato_circa_1972• Other Cervantes honorees include Ernesto Sábato (1911-2011), left, who tackled psychological issues in books such as The Tunnel, and poet Juan Gelman, whose relatives who went missing during the Dirty War, inspiring  his political activism. The Dirty War is the focus of Carolina DeRobertis’ novel Perla.

puigManuel Puig (1932-1990) wrote one of Latino literature’s most famous works – the 1976 novel Kiss of the Spider Woman, about a gay man and a revolutionary who are trapped in prison together. The novel became a play, a popular Oscar-winning 1985 movie and Broadway musical. He also wrote 1968’s Betrayed by Rita Hayworth and 1973’s The Buenos Aires Affair.

Mempo Giardinelli• Winners of the Rómulo Gallegos International Novel Prize, one of Latin America’s most prestigious literary awards, are Abel Posse for Los perros del paraíso; Mempo Giardinelli, left, for Santo oficio de la memoria; and Ricardo Piglia, for Blanco nocturno.

JuliaAmante• Other writers with Argentine roots include Julia Amante, right, author of Say You’ll Be Mine; Annamaria Alfari, whose latest novel, Blood Tango, features Argentina’s most famous political couple, Juan and Eva Peron; quirky novelist César Aira; and Sonia Nazario, Pulitzer Prize winner author of Enrique’s Journey.

Sources: Britannica.com, Wikipedia. Hat tip for Joy Castro for the Borges quote on Casares.

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Classic book review: Rudolfo Anaya’s “Bless Me, Ultima”

BlessMeUltimaCoverIt’s easy to see why Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima has become one of Latino literature’s greatest classics and a well-read book in the classroom. The story of one boy’s struggle to find faith touches readers on a personal and cultural level.

Ultima was first published in 1972 by a small press, then grew in popularity through the decades – and has been the subject of banning at schools due to profanity. The book has been made into a movie that will be released this year.

The book is told through the eyes of 6-year-old Antonio Marez, who lives in rural New Mexico with his family in the 1940s. His mother wants him to become a priest, hoping for a more stable life than his brothers and some of the other villagers. The family invites Ultima, an elderly curandera, to live with them and she makes an instant connection with Antonio.

Antonio begins having visions as his town experiences some tough situations – including a shooting he witnesses. Some townspeople are angry at Ultima, accusing her of being a bruja who places curses on others.

But Ultima also heals people. As he undergoes his First Communion, Antonio begins to question his Catholic faith.

“I had been thinking how Ultima’s medicine had cured my uncle and how he was well and could work again. I had been thinking how the medicine of the doctors and of the priest had failed. In my mind I could not understand how the power of God had failed. But it had.”

The book is a fast read, with a well-paced plot and vivid descriptions about the land. Anaya also balances the dramatic passages with funny scenes at a Christmas pageant and Holy Communion.

Many Latinos – such as novelist Julia Amante, La Casa Azul bookseller Aurora Anaya-Cerda and writer Richard Yañez and others in a series of essays in the El Paso Times – cite this as one of their favorite books because they saw themselves depicted in the novel.

Bless Me, Ultima features some of the most prominent elements of Latino literature and the universal themes such as the importance of family and the toughness of growing up. Little wonder why it’s a classic.

Rudulfo AnayaMore about Rudolfo Anaya:

Anaya wrote Bless Me Ultima while working as a teacher in New Mexico in the 1960s. He went on to write many other books, including Alburquerque and the Sonny Baca mystery series, and he is considered the father of the Chicano literary movement.

Source: I checked this book out of the library.

Note: This is the first in my series of reviews of great Latino novels. Next up: The Aleph by Jorge Luis Borges.  

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Meet novelist Caridad Piñeiro, author of “Kissed by a Vampire”

Caridad Piñeiro has given Latino literature a supernatural edge.

Her latest novel is Kissed by a Vampire, featuring a paranormal romance. She’s written nearly three dozen books, including the Chicas romance series and the The Calling/Reborn series. She’s received numerous awards from romance writers associations.

Piñeiro was born in Havana, Cuba, and worked as an attorney. This post is part of a blog tour for Kissed by a Vampire.

Q: Tell us about your latest book, Kissed by a Vampire

Kissed by a Vampire is the story of a 2000-year-old vampire, Stacia, who has grown tired of her eternal life and has also grown lonely. She doesn’t believe it’s possible for her to find love or have any kind of lasting relationship, but then she meets DEA Agent Alex Garcia. Or should I say is reunited with him. She had saved his life many years earlier when Alex was shot during a raid that went wrong. Stacia had taken pity on Alex when she saw the love in his eyes for another agent who had been shot during the same raid. When Stacia runs into Alex again, she is unprepared for her attraction to him and for the emotions he rouses. Kissed by a Vampire is sexy and emotional. It’s also action-packed as Stacia decides to help Alex find a missing young woman and shut down a white slavery ring.

Q: Most of your novels deal with paranormal romance. What drew you to this genre? Why has it become so popular? 

I was in a dark mood and wanted to vent that in my writing. I also thought that stories with paranormal elements would let me play with different ideas that I could not include in more traditional romances. I think the ability to have such different stories, especially the edgier kinds of stories possible with paranormals, is what has made the genre so popular.

Q: How has your Cuban/Latino heritage inspired your work? Who are your favorite Latino authors? 

I try to include aspects of my culture and/or other Latino culture in as many works as I can.  For example, one of the main characters in The Calling/Reborn series is Cuban-American FBI Agent Diana Reyes. In her stories, I’ve brought in her family’s values and foods. In Kissed by a Vampire, the story is set in South Beach and I’ve tried to work in the flavor that Cuban-Americans have given to that area. As for my favorite Latino authors, there quite a few. Julia Amante, Sylvia Mendoza, Berta Platas, Tracey Montoya, Reyna Grande, Julia Alvarez and Aimee Thurlo just to name a few.

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A book club for Latino literature

One organization has a unique mission — combining Latino literature and fellowship.

Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club, a partnership between Las Comadres Para Las Americas and the Association of American Publishers, meets once a month to discuss a recently published book by a Hispanic author. It boosts more than a dozen chapters in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Texas.

Members read mostly novels, although they have discussed non-fiction and children’s books. (Its book archive is here.)

The club is scheduled to discuss The Madness of Mamá Carlota by Graciela Limón in April. The complete list for 2012, which includes Carolina de Robertis Perla and Joy Castro’s Hell or High Water, is here.

The book club also features Conversations with Authors, a teleconference in which members can talk with the writer. They’ve talked to Julia Amante, author of Say You’ll Be Mine; Lyn Di Iorio, Outside the Bones; Marisel Vera, If I Bring You Roses and Lelia Cobo, The Second Time We Met.

The book club began in 2008 as an offshoot of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, a national organization founded by Dr. Nora de Hoyos Comstock that connects and empowers Latinas through community building/networking, culture, learning and technology. The group features a monthly potluck called a comadrazo, as well as other activities.

But the book club remains one of its prominent activities. Many of the books have brought out interesting discussions, said Amanda Arizola, who serves as the National Project Manager for the book club.

“Book clubs are supposed to spark interest and debate,” she said. “All of our books have given us that.”

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Meet novelist Julia Amante, author of “Say You’ll Be Mine”

Julia Amante, right, writes about ordinary women facing extraordinary situations. Amante’s most recent book, Say You’ll Be Mine, was released last year. Her first book, Evening at the Argentine Club, was published in 2009. The daughter of Argentine immigrants, she currently lives in California.

Q: Tell me about your book, Say You’ll Be Mine.

The main character, Isabel Gallegos’s cousin, dies in a tragic accident and leaves her as custodian of three children that she does not want. That’s the basic plot, but Say You’ll Be Mine as well as my previous book, Evenings at the Argentine Club, are stories of immigrants striving to reach their goals in life. In Say You’ll Be Mine, Isabel has put her goals on hold her entire life to be there for her parents and husband, and just as she’s about to sell her winery and live the life she’s always wanted another family obligation presents itself and she has to decide what is more important – family or her dreams.

Q: What influenced you to become a writer?

I’ve always had a love for books. When I was younger I would rather spend time with a book than with other kids. I was so in awe of writers that could create such amazing stories out of their imaginations, so when I was given opportunities to write in school, I loved it. If anything influenced me, I would say it was other great books.

Q: What Latino/a authors have been your biggest influence and why?

Victor Villasenor – I think he’s an amazing writer, speaker and person. Rudolfo Anaya with Bless Me Ultimathis was such a sweet coming of age story full of cultural beauty that it made me want to read more books of this sort – though I have to say, I really never found others that were quite as good. More recently, Michele Serros – because her books and poems are so fun and real. She’s able to look at today’s culture and point out “issues” that make you think without sounding like she’s preaching or complaining. She makes me smile. There are others, but I’ll leave it at these three.

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