Tag Archives: Michele Serros

Happy Independence Day, Mexico!

Mexico declared its independence from Spain on Sept. 16, 1810. The North American country is the largest Spanish-speaking nation and perhaps the most influential Latin American nation in the world. Its close proximity to the United States has given writers great fodder for literature. Here’s a look at its writers:

OctavioPazOctavio Paz (1914-1998), right, won the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Cervantes Prize for Spanish language writers for his collection of poems, including 1957’s Sun Stone, which revolves around the Aztec calendar and was adapted into a play, and 1950’s The Labyrinth of Solitude, which focuses on his homeland.

Juan Rulfo Juan Rulfo (1918-1986), left, had a tremendous influence on writers, including Colombian writer Gabriel Gárcia Márquez, despite releasing only two books, 1955’s El llano en llamas/The Burning Plain and 1955’s Pedro Páramo. Short story writer Juan José Arreola (1918-2001) is known for his humorous writings, which are collected in the book, Confabulario and Other Inventions.

carlos-fuentes• Novelist Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012), right, was part of the Latin American boom in literature of the 1960s. He is best known for 1962’s The Death of Artemio Cruz, about a dying man looking back on his life, and 1985’s The Old Gringo, the story of an American writer in the Mexican Revolution. He also won the Cervantes Prize.

• Other winners of the Cervantes Prize are Sergio Pitol, a diplomat who described his international experiences and his life in Mexico in his 1996 novel El arte de la fuga/The Art of Flight, and José Emilio Pacheco, a poet and short story writer. Winners of the Rómulo Gallegos Prize include Fernando del Paso for Palinuro de México; Ángeles Mastretta for Mal de amores and Elena Poniatowska for El tren pasa primero.

LikeWaterforChocolate• Contemporary Mexican writers include Laura Esquivel, author of the hugely popular Like Water for Chocolate, and Juan Pablo Villalobos, author of Down the Rabbit Hole. Mexican-American writers include (among many others) Rudolfo Anaya, Sandra Cisneros, Alex Espinoza, Reyna Grande, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Michele Serros, Luis Alberto Urrea and Victor Villasenor.

Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, Poets.org, Wikipedia

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Happy Independence Day, United States of America!

On July 4, 1776, the United States of America declared themselves free from Great Britain. Thanks to its diverse population, the United States is one of the world’s great superpowers. And, by 2050, some scholars project it will boast the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. Here’s a look, by region, at some of America’s great Latino writers.

LuisValdezCalifornia: Luiz Valdez, right, the father of Latino theater and playwright of “Zoot Suit,” began presenting plays during the Delano farmworkers strike. The plight of farmworkers in California have been the subject of books by Helena María Viramontes and Pam Muñoz Ryan. Other Californians include Gustavo Arellano, Margarita Engle, Alex Espinoza, Reyna Grande, Gilbert Hernandez, Lorraine López, Luis J. Rodriguez, Michele Serros, Gary Soto, Héctor Tobar and Victor Villaseñor.

Rudulfo AnayaNew Mexico: Native son Rudolfo Anaya, left, considered the father of Chicano literature, has set his novels, including his beloved Bless Me Ultima and Sonny Baca mysteries, in this state. The state also served as the setting for novels by Ana Castillo, Denise Chávez and Alisa Valdes.

esmeralda_santiago_163x179_1Puerto Rico: The Caribbean island joined the United States in 1898. Esmeralda Santiago, right, wrote about her personal history in When I Was Puerto Rican and the island’s history in the novel Conquistadora. Other authors of Puerto Rican heritage include Lyn DiIorio, Sarah McCoy, Piri Thomas, Justin Torres and Willliam Carlos Williams.

Rolando HinojosaTexas: Life on the border has served as fodder for books by Rolando Hinojosa,  left, of the Rio Grande Valley, and Sergio Troncoso of El Paso. Sandra Cisneros, originally from Chicago, set her books Woman Hollering Creek and Have You Seen Marie? in this state. Other Tejanos include Dagoberto Gilb, Manuel Gonzales, Diana López and Gwendolyn Zepeda.

JunotDiazThe country’s most prestigious literary award, the Pulitzer Prize, has been given to Cuban-American Oscar Hijuelos and Dominican-American Junot Díaz, right, in the fiction category; Cuban-American Nilo Cruz and Quiara Alegría Hudes, who is of Puerto Rican descent, in drama; and numerous journalists. Eduardo Lalo won the 2013 International Rómulo Gallegos Prize for Fiction, becoming the first American to win one of Latin America’s most prestigious literary awards. The Pura Belpré Award, given by the American Library Association, honors books written for young readers.

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Classic book review: Michele Serros’ “Chicana Falsa”

chicana-falsaMichele Serros can say a lot in just a few words.

In the 88 pages of her 1993 book of poems and stories Chicana Falsa, she writes about cultural identity, adolescent angst and the quirks of human relationships. In one poem, she shows the consequences of gang violence in just 37 words.

Her poetry is easy to read and, even better for a challenging genre, fun to read. Her poems feature great characters that you would know in real life – the lone Chicana in the gym who “the whole time/I am thinking of/that double-cheese/Chimichanga Supreme/I’m gonna pick up/On the way home”; a worker who gets what she want, including larger cubicle space and extended lunches; and a Chicana who’s yearns to speak Spanish so “I’ll be a perfected ‘r’ rolling/tilde-using Spanish speaker/A true Mexican!”

But her stories are universal. Serros understands the neurotic tendencies of humans very well. In one story, the narrator sticks with some friends just for the free stuff she gets from them. Another story features a family that holds grudges against each other over petty incidents.

The book begins and ends with stories about Serros’ mother, who encouraged her to be a writer – even buying her a desk. Serros grew up wanting to be an author, and she finally starting writing after her mother’s death at an early age. “The purpose? To make someone happy, inspired.” Serros succeeded because reading this book will make readers feel that way.

Michele SerrosMore about Michele Serros:

A California native, Serros has written the books How to Be a Chicana Role Model, Honey Blonde Chica and ¡Scandalosa! A Honey Blonde Chica Novel, as well as for The George Lopez Show TV show and other publications.

Source: I won this book in a giveaway on Serros’ Facebook page for my random knowledge of Santa Barbara, Calif. Thanks, Michele!

Note: This book is part of my series of books by Latina writers that I began last year. Yes, I know I’m way behind. Next up: Alisa Valdes’ The Dirty Girls Social Club.

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In the news: Books from Bolaño, Saramago; new literary magazine

(I’m still taking a break, but check out my story I wrote about a Dallas theater company’s adaption of Sandra Cisneros’ Women Hollering Creek for the Theater Jones website.)

The Hispanic Reader will be taking a long hiatus, so here’s the new releases, events and holiday books to keep you entertained for the rest of the year. See you in 2013.

New releases:

Nov. 13Woes of the True Policeman is the last book Roberto Bolaño wrote before his death. The novel follows a Chilean professor as he undergoes several personal crises.

Nov. 30 – In the children’s book The Poet Upstairs by Judith Ortiz Cofer, a young girl makes friends with a writer.

• Dec. 4 – Raised From the Ground, by the late Nobel Prize winner José Saramago, is a reissue of a book – published for the first time in English – that depicts the lives of Portuguese peasants.

Dec. 11 – The children’s book The Beautiful Lady: Our Lady of Guadalupe by Pat Mora features the iconic Mexican figure.

Awards:

• The National Book Awards announced its nominations, with Junot Díaz’s  This is How You Lose Her shortlisted in the fiction category and Domingo Martinez’s The Boy Kings of Texas making the non-fiction category. Martinez spoke to NPR about how he learned about his nomination. Winners will be announced Nov. 14.

Literary magazines:

• The second issue of the literary magazine Huizache, produced by CentroVictoria – the Center for Mexican American Literature and Culture at the University of Houston-Victoria, is out. Contributors include Lorna Dee Cervantes, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Luis J. Rodriguez, Michele Serros and Gary Soto.

Book Festivals:

• The Miami Book Fair Festival International takes place Nov. 16-18. Featured authors include Malin Alegria, Roberto Ampuero, Joy Castro, Sandra Cisneros, Jeanne Cordova, Junot Díaz, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Reyna Grande and Justin Torres.

Other News:

Sandra Cisneros discussed her newest book, Have You Seen Marie?, to NBC Latino, CNN and the LA Review of Books.

Junot Díaz talked to Wired magazine about the science-fiction book he’s writing, Monstro, and to LA Review of Books about his current book, This Is How You Lose Her.

Luis Alberto Urrea’s Into the Beautiful North has been named a 2013 Big Read selection by the National Endowment for the Arts.

• Pulitzer Prize winner Oscar Hijuelos will be featured in Symphony Space’s Artful Dining fundraiser Nov. 12 in New York City. Sonia Manzano will lead the discussion.

• Mexico City celebrated the 50th anniversary of Gabriel Gárcia Márquez’s move to that city by putting up posters honoring him, according to an article by Héctor Tobar in the Los Angeles Times. Tobar also wrote about a MacArthur Grant-winning Orange County barbershop that features a bookstore and is teaming up with Chapman University to promote Latino literature.

• Ploughshares magazine talked to Aurora Anaya-Cerda, owner of the La Casa Azul Bookstore in East Harlem, N.Y., that is devoted to Latino literature.

• Voices of New York wrote up about the Las Comadres Para Las Americas writer’s conference last month, with some interesting insights about Latinos in publishing.

• Want a blog that features the poetry of Pablo Neruda with pictures of cats? Here you go.

Also:

• Celebrating birthdays in November: The late Carlos Fuentes, right, and Nobel Prize winner José Saramago.

• Celebrating birthdays in December: Sandra Cisneros, Nobel Prize winning poet Juan Ramon Jimenez and Manuel Puig.

• Looking for gifts for the holidays? Here some some Christmas books for children and adults.

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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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Resolutions for the New Year

Hey, happy new year! Today is the day set aside to recover from last night, watch football and make resolutions. I’ve got a few of my own for my blog. 2011 was a great year for Latino literature but, with just a few exceptions, most of the books I reviewed were by male authors. So I’m declaring 2012 year of the Latina writer. Each month, I’ll review a classic book from a woman author. Here’s my schedule:

• January – Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits

February – Julia Alvarez, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

• March – Ana Castillo, So Far From God

• April – Denise Chavez, Loving Pedro Infante

May – Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate

• June – Cristina García, Dreaming in Cuban

• July – Lorraine López, The Realm of Hungry Spirits

• August – Pam Muñoz Ryan, Esperanza Rising

• September – Esmeralda Santiago, When I Was Puerto Rican

• October – Michele Serros, Chicana Falsa

• November – Alisa Valdes, The Dirty Girls Social Club

• December – Helena Maria Viramontes, Under the Feet of Jesus

As you’ve probably noticed, I didn’t include some prominent writers. I’ve read most of Sandra Cisneros’s books, and I hope she will have a new book out soon that I can review. I also decided not to include academic Gloria Anzaldúa or poet Gabriela Minstral because I wanted to focus on novels or memoirs. I do plan to profile them on their birthdays, as I did for Cisneros.

Besides reading these books, I also hope to attend more plays for my “At the Theater” feature (which I kicked off last month with 26 Miles) and cover lectures by authors (I have tickets to a Luis Alberto Urrea talk in January). Of course, with all resolutions, things don’t always they turn out as planned, so all items are subject to change. I’ve also decided to scale back on my postings from three times a week to twice a week to make things a little easier on myself (and get to work on my own novel). I’m also in the midst of moving the headquarters of The Hispanic Reader, so I’m giving myself a break for a couple of weeks. See you in 2012!

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