Friday, July 15, 2011

New Books from Heavy Hitters

Thoughts Without Cigarettes: A Memoir
Oscar Hijuelos
Gotham - June, 2011

[from the publisher]
The beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist turns his pen to the real people and places that have influenced his life and, in turn, his literature. Growing up in 1950's working-class New York City to Cuban immigrants, Hijuelos journey to literary acclaim is the evolution of an unlikely writer.

Oscar Hijuelos has enchanted readers with vibrant characters who hunger for success, love, and self-acceptance. In his first work of nonfiction, Hijuelos writes from the heart about the people and places that inspired his international bestselling novels.

Born in Manhattan's Morningside Heights to Cuban immigrants in 1951, Hijuelos introduces readers to the colorful circumstances of his upbringing. The son of a Cuban hotel worker and exuberant poetry- writing mother, his story, played out against the backdrop of an often prejudiced working-class neighborhood, takes on an even richer dimension when his relationship to his family and culture changes forever. During a sojourn in pre-Castro Cuba with his mother, he catches a disease that sends him into a Dickensian home for terminally ill children. The year long stay estranges him from the very language and people he had so loved.

With a cast of characters whose stories are both funny and tragic, Thoughts Without Cigarettes follows Hijuelos's subsequent quest for his true identity into adulthood, through college and beyond-a mystery whose resolution he eventually discovers hidden away in the trappings of his fiction, and which finds its most glorious expression in his best-known book, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Illuminating the most dazzling scenes from his novels, Thoughts Without Cigarettes reveals the true stories and indelible memories that shaped a literary genius.




Randy Lopez Goes Home
Rudolfo Anaya
University of Oklahoma Press - June, 2011

[from the publisher]
A new novel by the master storyteller that explores what it means to go home

When he was a young man, Randy Lopez left his village in northern New Mexico to seek his fortune. Since then, he has learned some of the secrets of success in the Anglo world—and even written a book called Life Among the Gringos. But something has been missing. Now he returns to Agua Bendita to reconnect with his past and to find the wisdom the Anglo world has not provided. In this allegorical account of Randy's final journey, master storyteller Rudolfo Anaya tackles life's big questions with a light touch.

Randy's entry into the haunted canyon that leads to his ancestral home begins on the Day of the Dead. Reuniting with his padrinos—his godparents—and hoping to meet up with his lost love, Sofia, Randy encounters a series of spirits: coyotes, cowboys, Death, and the devil. Each one engages him in a conversation about life. It is Randy's old teacher Miss Libriana who suggests his new purpose. She gives him a book, How to Build a Bridge. Only the bridge—which is both literal and figurative, like everything else in this story—can enable Randy to complete his journey.

Readers acquainted with Anaya's fiction will find themselves in familiar territory here. Randy Lopez, like all Anaya's protagonists, is on a spiritual quest. But both those new to and familiar with Anaya will recognize this philosophical meditation as part of a long literary tradition going back to Homer, Dante, and the Bible. Richly allusive and uniquely witty, Randy Lopez Goes Home presents man's quest for meaning in a touching, thought-provoking narrative that will resound with young adults and mature readers alike.



Conquistadora
Esmeralda Santiago

Knopf - July, 2011

“Santiago brings passion, color, and historical detail to this Puerto Rican Gone with the Wind, featuring a hard-as-nails heroine more devoted to her plantation than to any of the men in her life . . . Ana grows up the willful daughter of aristocratic parents during the waning years of Spain’s colonial era. [She is] a not-so-innocent convent girl who marries her best friend’s fiancé’s twin brother, then heads to Puerto Rico without her friend, but with both twins in tow. The young men intend to make their fortunes, but it is Ana who has the savvy and determination to persevere through hurricanes, slave revolts, cholera and any other challenge the island has to offer. . . Santiago makes Caribbean history come alive through characters as human as they are iconic. The richness of her imagination and the lushness of her language will serve saga enthusiasts well, and she provides readers a massive panorama of plantation life—plus all you could ever want to know and more about growing sugar cane.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)



The Traitor's Emblem
Juan Gómez-Jurado
Atria - July, 2011

[from the publisher]
Based on a true story: A Spanish sea captain rescues four German castaways during a treacherous storm in 1940. He doesn't know who they are or where they came from, but one of them gives him a mysterious gold-and-diamond emblem before disembarking. Decades later, the captain's son receives a substantial offer for it and is told an astounding story behind the object: it holds the key to Paul Reiner's lifelong quest. . . . Munich, 1919. After his family falls into disgrace, fifteen-year-old Paul dreams of the heroic father he never knew. But one night, seconds before committing suicide, Paul's cousin reveals a terrible secret about his father's death. This discovery turns Paul's world upside down and leads him on a hunt in Nazi Germany to uncover the mystery surrounding his father's death. The Traitor's Emblem is an epic novel spanning decades of family betrayal, impossible love, and the high price of vengeance. Set against the menacing streets of Depression-era Munich and the cruel rise of Nazism, Gómez-Jurado's spellbinding thriller proves again that he is a master of narration.



The Potter's Field
Andrea Camilleri

Penguin - September, 2011

I include this book and author because it is always good news when another Inspector Montalbano mystery is translated from Italian and made available here in the States. I've read several in this series and hope to read them all. These books never disappoint. Good stories, excellent mysteries, an intriguing, very human main character, and so much Sicilian culture, food, and traditions that when the last page is closed, it feels as though my vacation is over.

[from the publisher]
Witty and entertaining, the Montalbano novels by Andrea Camilleri - a master of the Italian detective story - have become favorites of mystery fans everywhere. In this latest installment, an unidentified corpse is found near Vigàta, a town known for its soil rich with potter's clay. Meanwhile, a woman reports the disappearance of her husband, a Colombian man with Sicilian origins who turns out to be related to a local mobster. Then Inspector Montalbano remembers the story from the Bible - Judas's betrayal, the act of remorse, and the money for the potter's field, where those of unknown or foreign origin are to be buried-and slowly, through myriad betrayals, finds his way to the solution to the crime.


Boundaries
Elizabeth Nunez
Akashic Books - October, 2011

[from the publisher]
In an age of reality TV, a husband and wife cling to Victorian notions of privacy, though doing so threatens the life of the wife. Their daughter, Anna, yearns for her mother's unguarded affection, and eventually learns there is value in restraint. But Anna, a Caribbean American immigrant, finds that lesson harder to accept when, eager to assimilate in her new country, she discovers that a gap yawns between her and American-born citizens.

The head of a specialized imprint at a major publishing house, Anna is soon challenged for her position by an ambitious upstart who accuses her of not really understanding American culture, particularly African American culture. Her job at stake, Anna turns for advice to her boyfriend Paul, a Caribbean American himself, who attempts to convince her that immigrants must accept limitations on their freedom in America.

Told in spare and transcendent prose, Boundaries is a riveting immigrant story, a fascinating look into the world of contemporary book publishing, a beautiful extension of the exploration of family dynamics that began in Nunez's previous novel Anna In-Between, and a heart-warming love story.

Elizabeth Nunez is the award-winning author of seven novels. Her most recent, Anna In-Between, was a New York Times Editors' Choice and was selected for the 2010 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award. Her other novels include Prospero's Daughter (2006 Florida Center for the Literary Arts One Book, One Community selection, 2006 Novel of the Year for Black Issues Book Review); and Bruised Hibiscus (American Book Award winner).


3 comments:

Alvarado Frazier said...

This list of new books came at the right time since I just finished reading "Every Night is Ladies Night," by Micheal Jaime-Becerra yesterday. Becerra's book was a great read of connected short stories with true-to-life working class people in El Monte.

Kathy Cano-Murillo, The Crafty Chica said...

What a great list! Thank you for compiling!

Manuel Ramos said...

Glad to be of service to both of you. This is one of the major reasons for La Bloga's existence -- spreading the word about great reads: old, new, and yet-to-be.