Monday, December 18, 2006

SPOTLIGHT ON SANDRA RODRIGUEZ BARRON

Monday’s post by Daniel Olivas

Sandra Rodriguez Barron’s debut novel is The Heiress of Water (Rayo/HarperCollins). She was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in El Salvador and Connecticut. Rodriguez also lived in Florida, the Dominican Republic and France. She says that she’s lived “somewhat of a nomadic life, and so I write from a perspective that includes both displacement and discovery.” Thus, she is “interested in portraying characters who, like me, belong in more than one place, and to see what happens to them as they seek to define, both geographically and emotionally, the term ‘home.’” Rodriguez describes her diverse personal history:

“My story begins when my father, Juan Rodriguez (born in Puerto Rico and raised mostly in Connecticut) was moved by the call to service proclaimed by President John F. Kennedy. When my dad was barely out of his teens, he joined the first band of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers and was sent to the tiny republic of El Salvador. There, he went on to do many wonderful things for the poor, including founding two schools that are still in operation. Along the way, he met and married my mother, Yolanda del Cid. After the four years in the Peace Corps, he went to work for Save the Children in the Dominican Republic. That's when I appear in the story. My parents decided that I would be born in Puerto Rico, and so I arrived in Caguas in October of 1967. After spending a few more years saving children in the Dominican Republic, my dad moved us to New Britain, Connecticut and he finished up his education and became a high school chemistry teacher in the Hartford Public School System. Eventually, my parents began to miss the Salvadoran lifestyle and so we moved to El Salvador in 1973.”

Rodriguez’s novel is already racking up fine honors:

- Borders Original Voices selection (fall 2006)
- Book Sense "Notable" selection (fall 2006, American Booksellers Association)
- Latino Recommended Reading List 2006 (Association of American Publishers)
- 2007 Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch (Latinostories.com)

And Isabel Allende says: "Sandra Rodriguez Barron's exuberant prose yields an immensely entertaining reading experience. You are fraught with the certainty that she is a gatekeeper of the secrets of the sea."

◙ I had the honor of being a guest lecturer at San Diego Mesa College in November. Professor Emeritus of Chicano Studies, César A. González-T., had included one of my short-story collections in his course, Chicano Studies 135. Such encounters are what I live for as a writer. The faculty, staff and especially the students were wonderful, gracious and armed with great questions. I then had an opportunity to lunch with several of the students, former students of this beloved Professor, as well as with the Professor’s wife, Bette. What fun! Well, I just received a bound collection of writings by Professor González’s students called, “My Story: Stories Told Straight From Our Hearts.” These essays written in the first week of the class are so powerful and moving. I’d be lying if I denied getting teary-eyed at times. The students included in this collection are: Brenda Alvarez, Abby Anderson, Carolina Auza, Nancy Cardenas, Sarahi Chavez, Samantha Cruz, David Freitas, Janet Garcia, Joseph Godoy, Sergio Guevara, Marisela Ibarra, Kelly Kelemen, Leaned Compassion, Mauricio Lutteroth, Emely Pulido, Juan Martinez, Vanessa Martinez and Luis Ortiz. They should all be proud of their stories. Also, I’m sure, they realize how lucky they’ve been to have Professor González as their mentor and friend. The great writer, Luis Alberto Urrea, worked as a student assistant for the Professor many years ago. Luis calls the Professor: “a god.” La Bloga profiled Professor González a while back so if you want to know more about him, visit this link.

Lyn Miller Lachmann, editor of The Multicultural Review and author of the eco-thriller Dirt Cheap (Curbstone Press), talks fiction vs. nonfiction, her characters' complex motivations, and how she came to write the story of a professor hot on the trail of the chemical company that gave him cancer on EcoTalk. LISTEN (10 min).

◙ Luis Alberto Urrea, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of numerous books, blogs about this and that on his website. His December 2 post is interesting…he talks about his literary influences. Here’s a preview:

“People often ask me what writers have inspired me, or been models for my work, or simply bring me pleasure. I find it hard to answer, since I'm such a reading slut. I love writing and writers! And I love genres--so it's hard to rattle off my influences. But I thought it might be instructive and interesting for anyone who is writing a paper, who is looking for good reading, or who is getting a career running, to try to make you some lists. But, you know, there's snow on the ground, and we're putting up our Christmas village (on cotton batting snowfields), and I'm trying to get this interview with Martin Espada worked out. But I will give you a list of POETS who have influenced me, taught me, changed me, or just pleased me. Read for pleasure, friends….”

◙ Until next Monday, remember: ¡Lea un libro!”

4 comments:

msedano said...

so, next monday we get the list of poets?

daniel olivas said...

no...you have to go to the link...

Anonymous said...

Great post compadre!

daniel olivas said...

gracias. did it cheer you up on this blue monday?