Showing posts with label summer reads. Show all posts
Showing posts with label summer reads. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Summer Reads 1: Matters of the Blood / Dispatches from Alburquerque

Maria Lima. Rockville MD. 2007.
ISBN-10: 0809557905, ISBN-13: 978-080955790-6

Michael Sedano

A "summer read" is one of those confections you pick up motivated to while away a few hours lounging by the pool, or to occupy the mindless hours eaten up in a transcontinental airplane ride.

Maria Lima's debut novel mixing supernatural humanoids with vampires in the Texas Hill Country is that type of novel. "Humanoid" might not exactly be on the mark. The main woman critter, Keira Kelly, is a supernatural, but comes with all the hormones to feed a healthy sexual appetite for humans and her own kind, but that goes unrequited in these pages when she's captivated by an alluring violence-renouncing vampire.

Maria Lima crafts a plot that brings the king of the vampires to a vampire guest ranch in Rio Seco Texas. Keira feels incredible horniness for the vampire, and he the same. Complicating matters is the local hunk of a sheriff, Keira's former lover. Keira's best friend is the local Mexicana restauranteur, a most understanding human who knows all about Keira's unhuman, immortal, identity and is liberal enough to lust after Keira's studly brother, a werewolf, though the correct term, evidently, is "shapeshifter."

A bumbling human cousin, a couple of refugees from Nazi evil, and a pair of bumblingly dangerous local crooks get mixed up in a plot to kill locals and sell their drained blood to the vampire ranch. Keira turns crime-solver and wraps up the whole mess through ingenuity and a modicum of supernatural skill.

The only contemporary vampire novels I've read are Mario Acevedo's Felix Gomez mysteries, so I'm not sure if Lima is writing into a set of otherworldly conventions. Still, there's little comparison. Acevedo writes a lot of humor and chicanismo into his titles, whereas for Lima, almost everything is secondary to Keira's lust and crime-solving.

Dispatches from Alburquerque

This week I'm attending the 2008 National Latino Writer's Conference as La Bloga's representative on a panel discussing internet resources for writers. The organizers have laid out an interesting and fulfilling schedule of workshops and readings that run from Wednesday through Saturday morning.

I'll be posting event summaries and other material daily. For information on this year's conference, visit their website

One of the first goals I have is clearing up the spelling issue. Rudolfa Anaya makes a point in his first Sonny Baca novel to include the first "r" in Alburquerque, though I don't remember exactly what the point was. Another first goal is meeting and thanking Teresa Marquez, founder of a long-gone much lamented CHICLE list. It's CHICLE that brought together Rudy Garcia, Manuel Ramos, and myself, in a long-distance association that eventuated to become La Bloga.

I'm looking forward to finding more fun summer reads, and as they come past my fingers, I'll share them here. In the meantime, I'd enjoy learning your views on other vampire works, or chicana chicano latina latino works of fantasy and sci-fi. This week, I'm travelling with Abraham Rodriguez' South by South Bronx, which, as far as I've gotten, is not a summer confection.

Hey! Sabes que? It's not too late to venture a guess at the identity of the writers in Manuel Ramos' first lines pop quiz. Make your guesses before reading the comments, then send 'em in by adding your comments, or sending in your own favorite first lines.

La Bloga welcomes guest columnists. Please let any La Bloga bloguera bloguero know by leaving a comment, sending an email, or clicking here to let us know.

See you later this week with dispatches from Alburque, and next week, too.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Children’s Books for August

René Colato Laínez

This poem was published in the Spanish Children's Magazine, Revista Iguana (July-August 2005)

El calor del mes de agosto

El calor del mes de agosto
me manda derechito al mar
a correr, a jugar y a nadar
con un delfín y un calamar.

El calor del mes de agosto
llena de arena mis manos
y hago con mis hermanos
castillos y dragones tiranos.

El calor del mes de agosto
llena de sudor mi frente
le pego a la pelota muy fuerte
y me mojo en una fuente.

El calor del mes de agosto
siempre hace agua mi boca.
Me como un elote en la roca
y carne asada en la troca.

Take a look at these summer books. Get a hat, a lemonade and enjoy reading.

From the Bellybutton of the Moon and other summer poems/Del ombligo de la luna y otros poemas de verano by Francisco X. Alarcon. Illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez.

Coral y espuma, abecedario del mar por Alma Flor Ada. Illustrado por Vivi Escrivá.

Icy watermelon / Sandía fría by Mary Sue Galindo. Illustrated by Pauline Rodriguez Howard.

Hello Ocean: Hola Mar by Pam Munoz Ryan. Translated by Yanitzia Canetti. Illustraded by Mark Astrella.

El verano by María Rius. from Catalan by Eulàlia Pérez.

Lemonade sun : and other summer poems by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. Illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist.

Not a copper penny in me house : poems from the Caribbean by Monica Gunning. Illustrated by Frané Lessac.

Torch fishing with the sun by Laura E. Williams. Illustrated by Fabricio Vanden Broeck.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Boston Boys Club-Sex y la Ciudad/National Latino Writer's Conference

Move over Candace Bushnell, Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda, Tommy, Mikey, Rico and Kyle are on the scene. Summer reading season is almost here and I can't think of a better pre-season recommendation than Boston Boys Club. Chic lit had to make way for chica lit, and I'm glad to say the the ground for chico lit is being broken by Johnny Diaz and his own tale of the city, filled with hot boy on boy sex, friendship, romance, trying to make sense of who you are, and what you really want against a well-crafted backdrop of Beantown.

Flanked by gorgeous brick row houses in the heart of Boston’s South End, the Club Café is a bar where everybody knows your name—and who you slept with last. Every night men like Tommy Perez, Rico DiMio, and Kyle Andrews take their place among the glistening crowd sporting chest-defining shirts and lots of smooth, tanned skin, sizing up the regulars and the new blood while TV monitors blare Beyoncé and Missy Elliott.

For Tommy, Thursdays at the Club Café in the company of his wingman Rico and a Skinny Black Bitch (vodka and Diet Coke) are unmissable. Recently relocated from Miami to Boston to take a reporting job at The Boston Daily, Tommy is finding it hard to break away from his tight-knit Cuban family, but his homesickness goes into rapid remission when he meets Mikey, a blue-eyed, boyish guidance counselor from Cape Cod.

Smart, funny, and wicked cute, Mikey is perfect boyfriend material…until his drinking leads Tommy to suspect that he’s got some issues of his own. Rico—a tough-talking, Italian-American accountant with a gamma ray smile and mournful green eyes that hint at a past he’ll admit to no one—is sure Mikey is bad news, but to Rico any relationship that lasts longer than three hours sounds like bad news. Then there’s Kyle, the lean, preening model and former reality show star who makes a red-carpet entrance into the CC every Thursday as if a swarm of cameras still follows his every move, but whose real life is about to take a dramatic turn he never anticipated.

Over the course of one unforgettable year, Tommy is forced to rethink everything he’s ever believed about life, lust, and love. And in the Club Café, a place filled with endless possibilities—of stumbling upon the perfect partner, the perfect story idea, or just a play buddy for the night—Tommy might finally discover the person he was meant to be.

Any like any good summer read, Boston Boys Club entertains, amuses, and is the perfect compliment to a long, lazy day at the beach and cold tropical drink of your choice. But don't be fooled, there is a serious side to this book, which makes it all the better a slice of LGBT life. There are issues and illnesses, losses and things falling apart. But in the end, things come together and these boys win your heart. This book is a keeper, and Johnny Diaz had better start working on a sequel.

Boston Boys Club
ISBN-10: 0758215452

Written by Lisa Alvarado


Other Important News: Do not miss this year's National Latino Writer's Conference, held at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, NM.

This three-day conference that takes place May 17-19, 2007, invites all writers published and unpublished, to participate in workshops conducted by nationally and internationally known authors in the genres of poetry, fiction, screenwriting, playwriting and news writing. Panels of editors and publishers representing such presses as Arte Público Press, Warner Books, Curbstone Press, Simon and Schuster, University of New Mexico, Arizona and California Presses and many others will speak on the process of getting your work published. Agents will be available for consultation and interview.

In addition to the aforementioned workshops and panels, there will be an open microphone reading at which time registrants can read from their work to an audience of authors and publishers. A Thursday evening social and Friday night banquet will captivate participants into further discussion and networking.

Presenters Include:

OSCAR HIJUELOS [Fiction] was the first Hispano to win the Pulitzer Prize for his second novel, Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love which was made into a movie starring Antonio Banderas and Armand Assante. His novel, Empress of the Splendid Season was published in 1999 and his latest, A Simple Habana Melody was published in 2002.

LORI CARLSON [Youth Literature] is an editor, translator and author of Caña Quemada Burnt Sugar: Contemporary Cuban Poetry, Translations and Originals. Among her other publications are Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems on the Young Latino in the U.S. and The Sunday Tertulia, both published by HarperCollins.

BRAULIO MUÑOZ [Fiction] is the author of an award winning novel, The Peruvian Notebooks. He is on the faculty of Swarthmore College and has also published A Storyteller: Mario Vargas Llosa Between Civilization and Barbarism, published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2000. In addition to literary criticism he also has published another work of fiction, Alejandro y los Pescadores de Tancay which was published in Italy in 2004.

KATHLEEN de AZEVEDO [Fiction] is the author of an award winning novel, Samba Dreams. She is on the faculty of Skyline College and her work has appeared in numerous publications including: Los Angeles Times, Americas, Boston Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Greensboro Review and many others. Her novel Samba Dreams, "reflects the conflict between the Brazilian and the American culture: the sensual and the pragmatic; the myth of self-determination and the myth of El Dorado."

PAT MORA [Youth Literature] is a nationally prominent poet/writer. Among her many writing awards, she was the winner of the 2006 NHCC Literary Award and author of Adobe Odes. Her many books of poetry, fiction and children's literature have made her one of the most productive and respected Chicana writers on the literary scene.

BENJAMIN SAENZ [Poetry] is a prolific poet and fiction writer. He is the author of Dreaming the End of War. He is on the faculty of University of Texas, El Paso and his latest book joins his many others. A former roofer, onion picker, janitor, theologian and Catholic priest, Saenz is now a prize winning essayist, novelist, poet and activist passionately in love with El Paso and its peoples.

BEVA SÁNCHEZ-PADILLA [Playwriting] is a native New Mexican, identifies herself as a literary media and performing artist. Her six produced plays include: La Guadalupe Que Camina, Mali and Maya: A Story of Malinche, Letty y su Mama, Contradictions Split-Rebozo, and An Altar for Emma. As part of her workshop on playwriting, she will perform segments from two of these plays.

ALFREDO CORCHADO [News writer] is a renowned investigative journalist with the Dallas Morning News and previously with the Wall Street Journal and the El Paso Herald-Post. He has won several awards for his coverage of Mexicans in the United States through special projects including: "The Mexicanization of the United States," and the "Disappearing Border." His reporting led to an internal U.S. inquiry and the removal of heads of the Immigration Customs Enforcement agency. His reporting on drug violence along the border led to the discovery of crimes committed in Texan cities under the order of Mexican drug cartels. Google Alfredo Corchado + Dallas Morning News and visit

YOLANDO NAVA [Marketing] Director of Marketing for NM Monuments of DCA. She is a specialist on writing for marketing and commercial media. Author of It's All in the Frijoles, Nava is an Emmy award-winning broadcast journalist, author and motivational speaker. Her book was winner of the Latino Literary Hall of Fames' 2001 Best Self-help Book Award and was also featured in the Writers Corner of Google "Yolanda Nava."

JAVIER GRILLO-MARXUACH [Screenwriting] is a writer for major TV serials like Boomtown, Medium, Lost, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Charmed and many others. He also writes his own comics with titles like Super-Skrull which he did for Marvel Comics Mini Series and Middleman, which he did for Viper Comics. He hosts a weekly video show performed entirely by Grillo-Marxuach. New episodes appear on his main website, or Google "Javier Grillo-Marxuach."

This three-day conference costs a total of $300.00 including all meals. Previous attendees receive a "founders discount" of $50.00 if you register by February 1st. Travel and lodging will be your responsibility. Participating hotels are listed on the registration form. For more information please call 505.246.2261 x148 or email

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Chica Lit, Meet Johnny Diaz

A staff writer for The Boston Globe, Johnny Diaz covers Boston’s colorful neighborhoods and Hispanic issues. Previously, Diaz was a reporter for The Miami Herald where he shared in the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the federal seizure of Elian Gonzales and its aftermath. MTV Real World fans will remember him as the “gay guy’s boyfriend” from the Miami season. In Boston Boys Club, his first novel, Johnny Diaz follows a trio of friends as they search for that perfect guy at the most happening bar in Boston, the Café Club.

I caught up with Johnny as he continues to juggle being a successful journalist and preparing for the national debut of his novel. Come back next week for a review of Boston Boys Club, summer read season is just around the corner.


Talk about chico lit and its place alongside chica lit...
What connection do you feel with writers like Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, and the chica lit movement? Who are the writers that influenced you, and what about them/their work clicked for you?

I believe chico lit is the guy's chica lit. Just as Latinas look for themselves and their stories in contemporary fiction, so are their gay brothers, cousins, and amigos. We want to see ourselves reflected accurately and positively. Latino readers of gay fiction want something that goes beyond what we've read countless times before: the gangbangers, the big and strong old-school macho guys, the sexy hot Latino gardeners to have sex with, and the stereotypical flamboyant drag queens. We're more than that just as Latinas are more than housekeepers and Spanish-accented sexy bombshells. What about our stories that speak of friendship and the struggles with being accepted not just in your own family and culture but in your own social group? What about our stories that show how we're constantly swaying and thriving in a bicultural bubble? We often speak two languages because of our parents and we travel back and forth in between cultures, 24-7 and I haven't seen many recent novels by a gay Latino writer that speaks to all that, especially from an American and Hispanic point of view.

I feel a strong kinship with Alisa Valdes Rodriguez and her chica lit movement. For one, I was a college intern in Living/Arts at The Boston Globe when she was a writer here. (She was my unofficial mentor and she would often read my copy and give me advice before I filed my stories to my editor. I sat next to her and I think I used to her annoy with questions about where to eat and dance.) I feel what she does now as an author is what she was did as a journalist, telling our stories, informing and enlightening readers about our culture and backgrounds and how diverse and rich we are. She broke a lot of new ground in Boston and in Los Angeles and in mainstream journalism. She always inspired me to do the same. (I actually have her old job here at The Globe.) When I read The Dirty Girls Social Club, I wanted to do a guy's version of that, hence Boston Boys Club but with not so many main characters, just three guys and how a gay Cuban-American adapts to a sometimes staid town like Boston.

So Alisa has been a big influence on me as well as authors such as Nicholas Sparks and William J. Mann. Some fellow writers frown on Nicholas Sparks because they say his writing is hokey and full of cliches with his simplistic stories, but they ring true and bring a romantic escapism for the reader. William J. Mann is a fellow gay writer from Cape Cod and he has written books about the gay party circuit. His novels have been the closest thing I've read to good gay fiction that speak to the everyday struggles of dating and relationships. But again, none of his characters are Latinos, hence another reason for writing BBC. I wanted to write something fun and positive about being gay and Hispanic today. I want people to read my novel and walk away with a good feeling about gays and Latinos in general, like they know understand us a little better.

Boston Boys Club will no doubt be popular as queer fiction in the LGBT community, but it also has the appeal of Bushnell and Sex and the City. Not to give anything away, but BBC has a strong thread of friendship as well as romance and sexuality. What do you that says about where we are in the culture wars, i.e. gay reality not a "subculture" anymore, but popular culture.

I find that if you write about universal themes (strong friendships, sweet romances, and the longing for intimacy) that they will transcend labels and be part of popular culture as opposed to a subculture or a specific niche. I know my characters are gay and one of them is Hispanic but their stories will resonate with anyone who has had issues with committing to a relationship, helping someone with has his own addiction issues or chronicling the challenges of being a newcomer in a new home and job. I describe the book as a Same-Sex in the City because men and women of various backgrounds related to that show, even though it was about four straight women and their search for Mr. Right. I hope that readers who pick up Boston Boys Club will relate to one of the characters, even if they are gay or Hispanic. My guys are all looking for love, and themselves and aren't we all in our own way?

On a related note, in your opinion, what do you think Latin culture has to offer the LGBT community and vise versa, and ultimately what do those communities bring to the "larger" body politic?

The Latin culture has offered us a rich tradition of storytelling. Our tradition is about sharing, being passionate and proud about who you are and what you do. We're all storytellers, from our abuelos y padres. I remember growing up in Miami, listening to my dad tell my sister and I stories about Cuba or he would pretend to be the voice of one of my sister's dolls to keep us entertained on long drives to Disney World. There is a long tradition of this among many famous gay Latin writers, from Reinaldo Arenas and Elias Miguel Munoz to Cuban poet Richard Blanco. You read their books and poems and you can hear, taste, smell, and see the results of those passed-on traditions of storytelling.

And by sharing their stories, they also contribute another layer of the
Latin experience - the gay experience, which has often been something you know but don't talk about. They've written about their tight-knit upbringing and struggles of being gay in a machismo mundo to being ostracized at times from a culture that is so often warm and embracing yet so cold and shunning with it comes to homosexuality.

As a journalist and novelist, do you experience one kind of writing as different than the other? For me, writing poetry feels very intuitive, very much a right brain activity, where fiction writing seems almost exclusively left brain. Does this resonate for you, and if not, how would you describe how your work develops, how it's linked?

That's a great question. I find that my writing for The Boston Globe is very left-brain and somewhat serious. I am writing with a pair of handcuffs on because the story is not about me, but about the person, the topic or the issue. I funnel the facts and the information from my notepad and do my best to write them into a clear and concise article that flows. I feel I have to keep my personality - my voice - at bay to tell the story for the newspaper. Sometimes, I struggle to keep my first-person observations out so that the article is completely third-person but sometimes, a personal insight or observation surfaces and I get away with it.

Writing fiction is pure pleasure for me. It's my creativity unleashed and it doesn't feel like work at all. It's feels more like art, something you do because your spirit guides you - calls you - to do it. When I write fiction, I feel I can take those proverbial handcuffs off (the ones from above at the newspaper) and let my voice run free and wild. When I write fiction, I feel like someone running in a boundless field of sawgrass or someone swimming in the middle of the sea. I don't where I'm running or swimming to but I am having fun exploring, seeing where the journey takes me. So yes, fiction is very "write" brain for me. :)

Where do you see yourself as a writer ten years from now?

I see myself smiling and writing, sharing my stories with others as a writer and telling other people's stories as well as journalist. And hopefully, I'll still be bopping around New England and South Florida in my little white Jeep Wrangler to find those stories.

Tell us something about yourself not in the official bio.

I'm addicted to the six-inch Veggie Delite sub (no mayo, honey mustard por favor) from Subways sandwich shops. I eat one daily for lunch, plus two chocolate chip cookies.

Written by Lisa Alvarado