Monday, December 24, 2007


As I venture out to the busy streets of Los Angeles, I sense the angst and urgency of those who have not finished buying gifts for their family and friends. So, here is one last book list that might make your life easier. Each title is followed by a short description from the publisher. Stay safe, enjoy the season, and remember: ¡Lea un libro!

My Nature Is Hunger: New and Selected Poems 1989-2004 (Curbstone Press) by Luis J. Rodríguez. “My Nature is Hunger is the first poetry collection in five years by this major award-winning Latino author. It includes selections from his previous books, Poems Across the Pavement, The Concrete River, and Trochemoche, and 26 new poems that reflect his increasingly global view, his hard-won spirituality, and his movement toward reconciliation with his family and his past.”

Walking the Forest with Chico Mendes: Struggle for Justice in the Amazon (University Of Texas Press) by Gomercind Rodrigues. “A close associate of Chico Mendes, Gomercindo Rodrigues witnessed the struggle between Brazil's rubber tappers and local ranchers--a struggle that led to the murder of Mendes. Rodrigues's memoir of his years with Mendes has never before been translated into English from the Portuguese. Now, Walking the Forest with Chico Mendes makes this important work available to new audiences, capturing the events and trends that shaped the lives of both men and the fragile system of public security and justice within which they lived and worked.”

Liquid Mexico: Festive Spirits, Tequila Culture, and the Infamous Worm (Bilingual Review Press) by Becky Youman and Bryan Estep. “Liquid Mexico delves into the locales, festivities, and history related to Mexico's most famous libations. Each of the chapters focuses on a specific beverage as well as the region of the country most closely associated with that particular drink as seen through the eyes of a U.S. couple. The authors describe a wealth of interesting characters as they travel the country to unearth the traditions and unique culture associated with each drink and its corresponding location.”

Velvet Barrios: Popular Culture & Chicana/o Sexualities (Palgrave Macmillan) edited by Alicia Gaspar De Alba. “In Chicano/a popular culture, nothing signifies the working class, highly-layered, textured, and metaphoric sensibility known as ‘rasquache aesthetic’ more than black velvet art. The essays in this volume examine that aesthetic by looking at icons, heroes, cultural myths, popular rituals, and border issues as they are expressed in a variety of ways. The contributors dialectically engage methods of popular cultural studies with discourses of gender, sexuality, identity politics, representation, and cultural production. In addition to a hagiography of ‘locas santas,’ the book includes studies of the sexual politics of early Chicana activists in the Chicano youth movement, the representation of Latina bodies in popular magazines, the stereotypical renderings of recipe books and calendar art, the ritual performance of Mexican femaleness in the quinceañera, and mediums through which Chicano masculinity is measured.”

A Simple Plan (Chronicle Books) by Gary Soto. “National Book Award finalist Gary Soto returns to his favorite themes of place, childhood, and kinship with the down-and-out in his sparkling and satisfying new collection of poems. The title poem concerns a young man's attempt to rid himself of the family dog by leading it so far from home that it becomes lost for good a metaphor for the poet's attempt to rid himself of the pulls of childhood.”

The Desert Remembers My Name: On Family and Writing (University Of Arizona Press) by Kathleen Alcalá. “Loosely linked by an exploration of the many meanings of ‘family,’ these essays move in a broad arc from the stories and experiences of those close to her to those whom she wonders about, like Andrea Yates, a mother who drowned her children. In the process of digging and sifting, she is frequently surprised by what she unearths. Her family, she discovers, were Jewish refugees from the Spanish Inquisition who took on the trappings of Catholicism in order to survive. Although the essays are in many ways personal, they are also universal.”

Atomik Aztex (City Lights Books) by Sesshu Foster. “A fantastical gonzo Aztlán mythology, where modern Aztecs and immigrant ghosts uncover blood sacrifice in Los Angeles. In the alternate universe of this glitteringly surreal first novel, the Aztecs rule, having conquered the European invaders. Aztek warriors armed with automatic weapons and totemic powers, with the help of their Russian allies, are colonizing Europe. Human sacrifice is basic to economic growth.”

Memory, Oblivion, and Jewish Culture in Latin America (University of Texas Press) edited by Marjorie Agosin. “This anthology gathers fifteen essays by historians, creative writers, artists, literary scholars, anthropologists, and social scientists who collectively tell the story of Jewish life in Latin America. Some of the pieces are personal tales of exile and survival; some explore Jewish humor and its role in amalgamating histories of past and present; and others look at serious episodes of political persecution and military dictatorship. As a whole, these challenging essays ask what Jewish identity is in Latin America and how it changes throughout history. They leave us to ponder the tantalizing question: Does being Jewish in the Americas speak to a transitory history or a more permanent one?”

Hecho En Tejas : An Anthology of Texas-Mexican Literature (University of New Mexico Press) edited by Dagoberto Gilb. “In assembling this canonic reader, Dagoberto Gilb has created more than an anthology. Read cover to cover, Hecho en Tejas is not only a literary showcase, but also a cultural and historical narrative both for those familiar with Texas Mexicans and for outsiders. Hecho en Tejas is a mosaic portrait of the community, the land and its history, its people's sorrows and joys, anger and humor and pride, what has been assimilated and what will not be.”

Antonio's Card/La Tarjeta de Antonio (Children’s Book Press) by Rigoberto González and illustrated by Cecilia Concepción Álavarez. “Antonio loves words, because words have the power to express feelings like love, pride, or hurt. Mother's Day is coming soon, and Antonio searches for the words to express his love for his mother and her partner, Leslie. But he's not sure what to do when his classmates make fun of Leslie, an artist, who towers over everyone and wears paint-splattered overalls. As Mother's Day approaches, Antonio must choose whether -- or how -- to express his connection to both of the special women in his life. Rigoberto González's bilingual story resonates with all children who have been faced with speaking up for themselves or for the people they love. Cecilia Concepción Álvarez's paintings bring the tale to life in tender, richly hued detail.”

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