Tag Archives: Luis Alberto Urrea

In the News

Year in Review: Junot Díaz and Justin Torres recommended their favorite books of 2011 to New York magazine, while Héctor Tobar and Torres gave their choices for the year’s best in Salon and Julia Alvarez revealed her picks to the Algonquin Books blog. Book editor Marcela Landres made her own best of 2011 list, including Outside the Bones by Lyn Di Iorio and Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. The Washington Post cited Esmeralda Santiago’s Conquistadora and Justin Torres’s We the Animals as some of its favorite 2011 novels. But why stop at 2011? Dagoberto Gilb named his favorite books of all time in The Week magazine.

New releases: A paperback of Purgatory by the late Tómas Eloy Martinez, who was born in Argentina and lived in Venezuala, was released last month.

• A library in honor of Mexican writer Juan Jose Arreola is being constructed in Mexico City, with the opening expected for spring 2012. The library organization Reforma posted some pictures of the building on their Facebook page.

• According to this BBC article, the remains of legendary Nobel winning poet Pablo Neruda, pictured at left, have been asked to be exhumed to see if he was poisoned.

• Luis Alberto Urrea appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered to talk about his latest novel, Queen of America, which he describes as his “Lady Gaga book.”

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‘Tis the Season: Christmas books for adults

‘Tis the season for family gatherings, holiday parties and competitive shopping. If you prefer to celebrate Christmas with some good page turner, here are some Latino-themed books:

• Alisa Valdes’ 2010 book The Three Kings is a “Christmas dating story” about one woman’s quest to find love during the holiday season.

• In Pulitzer Prize-winner Oscar Hijuelos’s 1995 novel, Mr. Ives’ Christmas, a man struggles with life and his belief in God after his son is murdered on Christmas. PBS’s Ray Suarez gave a review of the book to NPR, which includes an excerpt.

• Twenty-five Latino authors, including Junot Diaz and Esmeralda Santiago, share their favorite holiday stories and recipes in the 1999 book, Las Christmas: Favorite Latino Authors Share Their Holiday Memories.

• In the 2007 book Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan, Manny DeLeón has to close down the Red Lobster he manages in New Britain, Connecticut, as a blizzard comes down four nights before Christmas. O’Nan talked about writing about a Latino character and gives a shout-out to Luis Alberto Urrea here.

And if you’re in more of a movie mood, Nothing Like the Holidays depicts a dysfunctional Puerto Rican family celebrating the holidays. The 2008 movie stars John Leguizamo, Freddy Rodríguez, Elizabeth Peña and Alfred Molina. I’m partial to the 2003 movie Love Actually, which has a mostly British cast but features Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro and Portuguese actress Lúcia Moniz.

Coming up on Thursday: Christmas books for children.

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Book review: Luis Alberto Urrea’s “Queen of America”

Luis Alberto Urrea has done it again.

Urrea has released his new book, Queen of America (Little, Brown), the sequel to his brilliant 2005 novel, The Hummingbird’s Daughter. And while the tone of the books is different, the book is classic Urrea.

In Daughter, Teresita Urrea (the author’s great aunt) discovered her healing powers, earning her the name “Saint of Cabora” and leading an uprising of Mexican revolutionaries that prompted her and her father to escape to the north. America describes her journey to the United States, taking her from Arizona to El Paso to California to St. Louis to New York City. Teresita finds love along the way, but she also realizes the negative effects of being a celebrity, such as in this passage when she thinks about how her friends think of her now:

“They had once been her neighbors and friends, and then they become her followers. She felt a small chill of horror. Followers! It was terrible to have followers. But it was more terrible that part of her liked it.

Of course, she could not control her fanatics, only herself. Balance, again. When she had followers, she was watched over by the government and the newspapers. People copied her words in notebooks. She caught herself wondering what she had said and worrying all night if this time her careless utterances would lead to someone’s death or some outbreak of madness she could not have foreseen. Sometimes you just want to speak without measuring your words! Sometimes you want to laugh and sing! Sometimes you just want to ride your horse!”

That passage shows why Urrea is such a great writer. He’s just so much fun to read. Besides his beautiful descriptions and witty dialogue, he also creates some memorable characters, such as Teresita’s father, Don Tómas. His selfishness, arrogance and lack of self-awareness brings some of the biggest laughs in the book.

Check out this dialogue between Teresita and Tómas:

“‘I never said I was a saint … I am a prophet.’

‘Oh God, no,’ he said. ‘What you are is nineteen years old.’”

Or read this conversation between Tómas and a businessman seeking to exploit Teresita:

“‘You will provide for her with your Consortium profits. You incorporate. Partners. But structured so that she can honestly say she took nothing. It will honor her, shall we say, religious beliefs.’

‘I love America,’ Tómas said.”

But Tómas is absent from the last half of the book as Queen focuses mostly on Teresita’s journey. And then the book becomes somber, as Teresita realizes that not everyone has the best intentions for her and she yearns to return to her homeland. The reader becomes a bit melancholy, too, as another great book comes to an end.

More about Luis Alberto Urrea:

Urrea spent 26 years researching and writing The Hummingbird’s Daughter and Queen of America, and he did it while writing other books, such as Into the Beautiful North and the non-fiction The Devil’s Highway.

Urrea has a great website, which includes tour dates and a blog. And follow Urrea on his Facebook and Twitter feeds. He’s a lot of fun on there, too.

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In the news

Awards: Pam Muñoz Ryan picked up the PEN Center USA award in Children/YA Literature earlier this month for her children’s book about poet Pablo Neruda, The Dreamer. Francisco Goldman took the Prix Femina Étranger, a French literary award, for his novel, Say Her Name, the first American to win since 2005.

• This is cool: The prestigious University of Iowa creative writing program is adding a master’s degree in Spanish Creative Writing, officials announced last week.

• Here’s some interesting articles about young adult authors: The Dallas Morning News profiled Ray Villareal (pictured at right), whose Don’t Call Me a Hero is published by Arte Publico Press, and NPR did a story about the popularity of Malín Alegría’s 2006 book Estrella’s Quinceanera.

• Spanish poet Tomas Segovia died last week. Segovia, who later lived in Mexico, won numerous awards for his work.

New releases: Luis Alberto Urrea’s Queen of America, the sequel to the awesome The Hummingbird’s Daughter comes out Nov. 29. Arte Público is releasing two books from Rolando Hinojosa Nov. 30: Partners In Crime: A Rae Buenrostro Mystery and A Voice of My Own: Essays and Stories. The Third Reich, written by the late Chilean author Roberto Bolaño, will come out Dec. 1 by Farrar Straus Giroux.

• The Hispanic Reader will return with reviews of those books after a weeklong holiday break. Happy Thanksgiving!

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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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Classic Book Review: “The Hummingbird’s Daughter”

In preparation for Luis Alberto Urrea’s upcoming Queen of America, I wanted to read its predecessor, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, which was published in 2005. I was intimidated by the 500-page book and its serious description on the book cover, but I shouldn’t have been. Every page was a joy to read.

Daughter, which takes place in the 1800s in a small Mexican village, centers on Teresita, who was born out of wedlock and is abandoned by her mother, Cayetana, but she is later groomed by her father, the womanizing ranch owner Tomás Urrea.

As the story progresses, Teresita discovers has powers of healing. But rebels are stirring up a revolution in Mexico while hundreds of villagers are flocking to Teresita so she will cure them. Soon, the two forces collide.

Besides the tightly paced plot, Urrea imbues Daughter with rich language. One character “had the face of an Aztec carving.” In another passage, Urrea compares the villagers’ complexion to a character’s drink: “Every Mexican was a diluted Indian, invaded by milk like the coffee in Cayetana’s cup.”

Urrea knows how to build tension in a scene – and put in some comic relief, too. Sometimes, he accomplishes it all in one scene, such as when Tomás’s wife, Loreto, confronts him about an affair as several friends, including two named Aguirre and Huila, watch:

“Loreto slapped Tomás.

He spluttered an obscenity.

She slapped his other check.

He raised his hand.

Aguirre rose.

Huila, watching, clenched her hands – this was even better than she’d hoped!”

Here’s another great line: “If you are too blind to see God in Goddamned taco, then you are truly blind.”

And another: “A Mennonite missionary had moved through the ranchos assuring them that Jesus Christ would return to earth by 1880 – maybe He was early.”

Daughter was a fantastic read. I can’t wait for Queen of America.

More about Luis Alberto Urrea:

• Urrea is just as witty in his Twitter and Facebook feeds. His website features a blog, readings from Queen of America and upcoming appearances. Queen of America will be released in December.

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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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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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A look at fall books

Many publications have released their list of “hot fall books,” and Hispanic authors are nowhere to be seen.

They’re not on BookPage’s list. Not on the Atlantic’s list. Not on New York’s list. This is odd, since there are some interesting books coming out by Hispanic authors this fall. They include:

Justin Torres’s We the Animals, about three boys raised by a Puerto Rican father and a white mother, is already out. He has gotten a lot of media attention, as noted by Syracuse.com, and the Shelf Awareness e-newsletter.

 

 

Ariel Dorfman, the author of Death and the Maiden, writes about his life after the 1973 Chilean coup in Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of a Unrepetent Exile. The book will be released in September.

 

 

• Ballet dancer Jock Soto, who is half Puerto Rican and half American Indian, discusses his life and career in Every Step You Take, out in October.

 

 

 

The Barbarian Nurseries, coming out in October, centers on a Los Angeles family and their Mexican maid. Author Hector Tobar, whose parents are Guatemalan, writes a column for The Los Angeles Times. (And kudos to More magazine, which put the novel on its fall books list.)

 

 

• Texan Dagoberto Gilb’s collection of short stories, Before the End, After the Beginning, comes out in November.

 

 

 

• Mexican-American Luis Alberto Urrea will release Queen of America, his sequel to The Hummingbird’s Daughter, in December.

Do you notice something missing from this list? Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any books coming out from Latinas. If you know of any other fall books, let me know at Hispanicreader (at) gmail (dot) com.

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