Friday, December 30, 2011

La Bloga's Best Books of 2011

La Bloga's contributors present the list of best books of 2011. The guidelines were short and simple - name the book that, for whatever reason, you consider your favorite read this year. No restrictions on genre, ethnicity, or year of publication. Below are the results. There is no ranking among these books - they are listed in order of days of the week since we have different contributors each and every day.

The eclectic mix of books reflects the several points of views the bloguer@s bring to their weekly posts on La Bloga: biography, children's, novels, poetry; coming of age to confronting death; inspirational, upsetting, out-of-the ordinary. Something for all of our readers, a clever bunch as mixed and varied as the contributors.

We'd love to hear from you about your favorite reads, or maybe some reaction to the choices. In any event, we all hope you and yours have a happy, healthful, and literary 2012.

Manuel Ramos


No hay silencio que no termine
Ingrid Betancourt


Even Silence Has An End: My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle
Ingrid Betancourt


Selected by tatiana de la tierra (La Bloga - Sunday)

"I love to read the true stuff of life, especially when it’s highly dramatic. Anything to do with Colombia catches my eye. Add complex characters, intriguing history, and eloquent writing and you get my favorite book of the year. This is Ingrid Betancourt’s version of what happened while she was held hostage by FARC guerrilleros in the jungle for six years. Betancourt fascinates me and I love the way she writes. Here’s a post I wrote in January of 2011 about this book: "


Steve Jobs
Walter Isaacson
Simon & Schuster

Selected by Amelia M.L. Montes (La Bloga - Sunday)

"I'm choosing the Steve Jobs biography not because I consider it the best but because of its ability to capture the complicated aspects of an individual who made a major impact on our culture. So many U.S. Latinas y Latinos have written their novels, short stories, poetry, non-fiction on a Mac or while listening to music via their I-Pods. This is a book about a man obsessed, who was abandoned, then adopted, became wealthy at a very young age, then abandoned his own first child (for a few years) and even denied she was his, was a product of the 60s -- right at the end of that era. Jobs was an individual who constantly exerted his male privilege with disarming charm and also with uncontrolled anger. It reveals all the contradictions/successes/failures of being human-- including the most serious failure of not treating his cancer when he could have done so early on and instead, opting for a variety of holistic treatments. I couldn't put it down and continue to think about it."

Amelia Montes lived in a commune in the Los Angeles area for six years and her Mexica indigenous heritage is Purepecha.

Ocotillo Dreams: A Novel
Melinda Palacio
Bilingual Press

Selected by Daniel Olivas (La Bloga - Monday)

"Though Melinda Palacio's debut novel takes place during the infamous immigration sweeps in Chandler, Arizona, more than a decade ago, her tale could not be more timely. She has created a powerful protagonist in Isola, the young San Franciscan who inherits her mother's Arizona home only to find an undocumented immigrant living within. Palacio writes with courage as she confronts issues of identity, politics and family secrets. Ocotillo Dreams is a startling, moving and, indeed, necessary novel as our country roils with xenophobia and unfettered disdain for the other."

Daniel A. Olivas is the author of The Book of Want. Daniel's first pet was a Siamese cat whom he named Susie.

Melinda's book also was selected by Michael Sedano (La Bloga - Tuesday)

"In a year with novels from Rudolfo Anaya, Daniel Olivas, and Sergio Troncoso, bloguera Melinda Palacio’s debut novel stands out for its strong woman’s voice and ingenious plotting."

Honorable mention (from Michael Sedano):

The Norton Anthology Of Latino Literature
Ilan Stavans, general editor
W.W. Norton & Co.

"Easily the most entertaining book of the year owing to the encyclopedic sweep of writers and eras. An essential addition to any family’s books."


Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match/Marisol McDonald no combina
Monica Brown - illustrated by Sara Palacios
Children's Book Press

Selected by René Colato Laínez (La Bloga - Wednesday)

"My favorite book of 2011 is Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match/ Marisol McDonald no combina written my Monica Brown and illustrated by Sara Palacios. Marisol is a bicultural child. She is different! She is unique! But everyone said that she doesn't match at all. She could not wear polka dotted shirts and striped pants or eat peanut butter and jelly on burritos. Even her name did not match with her last name. Marisol tried to change to make everyone happy but now Marisol McDonald was sad because she was pretending to be another child. She realized that she was perfect in her own way even if she didn't match. Everyone be happy the way you are. Everyone is unique and we need to celebrate it!"



Ishmael Reed
Dalkey Archive Press

Selected by Ernest Hogan (La Bloga - Thursday)

"My favorite book of the year is Juice! by Ishmael Reed. This imaginative satire about an aging, diabetic, African American cartoonist, obsessed with O.J. Simpson is a wild ride through the American landscape of the last few decades. La Bloga readers will find a lot to identify with in its depiction of postmodern racism. And if they haven't discovered Ishmael Reed's work, the need to seek it out and start reading it now."

In 2012 Ernest Hogan's books will become available as ebooks -- something the Maya did not predict.


The Trouble Ball: Poems
Martín Espada
W.W. Norton

Selected by Lydia Gil (La Bloga - Thursday)

"In this collection Martín Espada explores the city landscape and turns founding myths inside out (such as baseball as the all-American game.) A master of disguises, he veils the knifelike quality of his verses with humor and elegance as he tears our defenses down. Suddenly, we have no choice but to confront prejudice (especially our own) head on.... These poems teach us how to read the newspaper with new, poetic eyes and, hopefully, to transform our anger into words that bellow against injustice."

The Trouble Ball was also selected by Melinda Palacio (La Bloga - Friday)

"My vote goes to Martín Espada's The Trouble Ball: Poems. Espada is fearless in his poetry. He says so much with a few strokes. In The Trouble Ball, he pays tribute to his father, mentors, and people he has loved and lost. Espada has a way of turning injustice and justice into a refrain you want to read over and over again. His exquisite poetry inspires me."

Melinda Palacio is the author of Ocotillo Dreams (Bilingual Press 2011).

Lydia usually posts in Spanish and she adds the following book to our list as her Spanish selection --

El tiempo entre costuras
María Dueñas
Atria Books

"EL TIEMPO ENTRE COSTURAS de María Dueñas es una novela que desborda de intriga y pasión. Situada entre España y Marruecos durante el periodo de la entreguerra, la novela recuerda el famoso texto EL PACIENTE INGLÉS de Michael Ondaatje. Su protagonista, Sira Quiroga, es una joven modista que deja todo atrás para perseguir una pasión juvenil que la llevará a trasladarse a Tánger.Tras la traición del hombre por quien dejó su país, la joven se instala en Tetuán donde se las ingenia para salir adelante. Codeándose de gente influyente, aunque de reputación dudosa, Sira pronto se convierte en una codiciada modista en cuyo atelier se diseña mucho más que alta costura."


Here Lies Lalo: The Collected Poems of Abelardo Delgado
Jarica Linn Watts, ed.
Arte Público Press

Selected by Manuel Ramos (La Bloga - Friday)

"As noted in the introduction, Abelardo Lalo Delgado (1930-2004) could be hailed as the humble poet laureate de Aztlán, a title well-deserved. I knew him also as an activist, entertainer, comedian, philosopher, cultural warrior, and teacher. All of these roles, and more, are admirably presented in this collection. Hats off to the editor, Jarica Linn Watts, who gathered and edited the material, and to the Delgado family for their willingness to share Lalo's papers and rare publications with new generations of readers. Kudos to Arte Público Press for saving and investing in Lalo's bits of wisdom and, thus, preserving an important part of American history that otherwise would be lost. The editor includes five of Lalo's self-published volumes (out of fourteen), which represents a major step in safeguarding Lalo's output. Open this book to any page and you will hear the voice of a sensitive, strong, caring human being. Lalo continues to inspire and lead."

Manuel Ramos listens to Outlaw Country.



My Shoes And I
René Colato Laínez - illustrated by Fabricio Vanden Broeck
Boyds Mills Press

Selected by Rudy Ch. Garcia (La Bloga - Saturday)

"As a co-founder and regular contributor to La Bloga, and a primary bilingual teacher, I selected our own René Colato Laínez's book My Shoes And I. It received 2nd place in the 2011 International Latino Book Award in the Best Children's Book - English category. Synopsis: Mario is leaving his home in El Salvador. With his father he is going north to join his mother who lives in the U.S. She sent Mario a new pair of shoes, and he is thrilled. He will need them because the trip will be long and hard, crossing the borders of three countries. They will walk, ride buses, climb mountains and wade the river. But Mario has faith and believes his shoes will take him anywhere where his family will be reunited. An inspiring story--dramatically illustrated by Fabricio Vanden Broeck. I won't repeat my whole appraisal from my May 2011 post about this book's cultural relevancy for young Latino bilinguals. But from days of watching a class read, reread, analyze and discover My Shoes, I've no doubt it should be in every home library."

A little-known fact no one would guess about me is that I have an athletic zombie's pulse (54), or prebradycardia.


I'm impressed - by the list and by our contributors. If you read at least one of these books I guarantee you will start the new year right. Goodbye 2011. Ya 'stuvo. We've had fun - maybe we provided a bit of valuable information, an insight or two, moved someone to laugh or a wistful sigh. But if we accomplished nothing more than maintaining a forum for a new novelist or poet, or reintroducing an old favorite, we've done our job.

Manuel Ramos

No comments: