Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Review: The World In Half.

Cristina Henríquez. The World In Half. NY: Riverhead Books, 2009.
ISBN 9781594488559

Michael Sedano

Cristina Henríquez’ The World In Half is a deceptively complex, deeply romantic novel that should be next on your summer reading list, and an ideal choice for book groups who enjoy a rich discussion that balances decisions looked back on from middle age against possibilities open only to youth.

Deceptive because on its surface it recounts a naïve young woman’s search for an absent father whose identity has been a closely guarded secret by a steely, abrasive mother. Complex because the still-young mother’s mind has begun to fail under the merciless attack of Alzheimer’s Disease. As mother’s memory fades, the daughter fears what her own future health may bring, the total loss of her mother, and along with that, all connection to the mystery of her father.

Miraflores Reid, “Mira,” a University of Chicago scholarship student majoring in Geology, knows only that her mother lived in Panama with her husband, a Marine stationed in the Zone, where she conceived the child with an unnamed local. The pregnant woman returned to New York to live with her family near West Point, where Catherine Reid’s father taught. Mira wonders how difficult the pregnancy and birth must have been in that small-minded military town. Catherine is white. Was Gatún black? Danilo has “brown” skin, and Mira may “look” Puerto Rican, or like a local of whom Panameño travelers ask directions.

Escaping that life, Catherine takes her child to Chicago where she works a series of survival jobs as waitress, pizza delivery, receptionist. Mother keeps a wall between herself and the social world, treating others abruptly and welcoming little humor or flirtation into her privacy. Mira carries herself similarly, but this may simply reflect her nerdly scientific bent.

Much of the mother’s personality emerges over the course of the story. Early in the novel, as Mira is organizing her mother’s property, she comes across a box of letters her father mailed to the woman who abandoned him. Mira’s mother led the daughter to believe the man had no interest in either of them. The letters open Mira to a poetic and broken heart whose longing for a daughter and fugitive lover cries off the pages.

The letters provide two vital clues to help Mira unravel the mystery. A name, Gatún Gallardo, and an address in Panama. With these, the desperate young woman launches herself on an ill-planned, desperate quest to recover the facts of her own birth and reconnect with the heart-broken man. Fortunately for Miraflores, her mother has enrolled the child in Spanish language classes and, as a Spanish minor, she has superb bilingual skills.

Arriving in Panamá--note the diacritic, an authorial denotation that the English-language narrative is taking place in the local idiom—Mira makes friends with Hernán, a hotel bellman, and his nephew Danilo, an ambulante flower seller. Hernán invites Mira to move into their home while Danilo helps Mira track down the clues leading to her father. Danilo warms to the task of tour guide and intercultural informant.

Mira is a guileless virgin and would be easy prey for a womanizing school dropout like Danilo. But he wants to be her friend. In fact, the most serious crisis in their relationship occurs when, nearing the end of her stay, a drunk Mira caresses her host in a late-night conversation. He bolts and she spends the next day tracking him down instead of tracking down clues to her still-unreachable father.

Danilo looks into Mira’s heart and fears, and draws them out in conversation. On the surface, they talk of her fears that Alzheimer’s will strike Mira young, as it has her mother. On a different level is the parallel of Catherine coming to Panama to find a man, and here is the daughter, come to Panama and finding a man. The mother, nineteen years earlier, had returned home pregnant. Now here is the fruitless frustration Mira experiences of not finding any trace of her mother’s lover, even as Danilo unwittingly draws Mira’s affection toward himself.

The canal across the isthmus cut the world in half. That is what the laborers who dug the waterway used to say. Alzheimer’s is cutting Catherine and Mira’s world in half, as their personalities do in their social world. Mira stands astride both halves, her parental history on the one side, her own future on the other. How much will history repeat itself, will Mira make the same errors her mother has, abandoning love in Panama to a bitter life of denial in Chicago? Adding complexity to themes of choice and circumstance, Danilo’s story echoes Mira’s. He’s been abandoned by his parents, a difference being he has their address and phone number but they never call. That story lurks in the background as we work through Mira’s story.

Henríquez draws a parallel between mother and daughter when Mira meets her father’s sister in a rich part of town. A box of letters Gatún Gallardo never mailed to Catherine fills in blanks missing from the letters Catherine closeted. Mira gets unreasonably angry that Hernán and Danilo knew and didn’t help until her stay was near its end. Unlike her mother, however, Mira lets it out, confronting Danilo angrily. He convinces her that friendship and love were the motive for what Hernán and Danilo suspected, only suspected. They believed it would be preferable to keep hope alive in Mira’s heart, rather than break it with a hard truth.

The World in Half tells a complex story that a casual summary can only hint at. Cristina Henríquez rewards her readers with compelling narrative and touching personal portraits of the city and residents. Much of the enjoyment of the romantic nature of the novel comes as the story unfolds, and to disclose details will spoil the pleasure of seeing it firsthand with your own eyes. One indication of this comes in the names. Both Miraflores and Gatún are names of locks on the canal. It’s not just that a lock allows the uniting of both halves of the world, but that Catherine, despite closing off her daughter’s life from her father’s, gave her daughter a name like her father's, one that foretells her quest to bring both worlds together.

As the novel ends, Catherine’s illness grows increasingly severe and dictates much of what must come next. But beyond a daughter’s responsibilities lie the choices Miraflores can make, but that Henríquez leaves open to delicious speculation. Your book group will enjoy discussing and accounting for what happened in Catherine’s life, more so the undefined what ifs that lie ahead for a young woman like Mira and a young man like Danilo.

There's the final Tuesday of June 2009. A Tuesday like any other Tuesday, except you are here. Thank you for visiting La Bloga. And a quick question, with Independence Day hard upon us. How many other countries have a fourth of July?


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Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer reading list

For those of you who are planning a much-deserved vacation (or staycation), here are a few recent releases that will bring great enjoyment as you sit back and re-charge that internal battery. And if you have a few titles you want to recommend to La Bloga readers, post a comment below. Remember: be safe, have fun, use sun screen and: ¡Lea un libro!

Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction (Dalkey Archive Press) edited by Álvaro Uribe; translation edited by Olivia Sears (hardcover and paperback)

From the publisher: Sixteen of Mexico's finest fiction writers born after 1945 are collected in this compelling bilingual anthology, offering a glimpse of the rich tapestry of Mexican fiction, from small-town dramas to tales of urban savagery. Many of these writers, and most of these stories, have never before appeared in English. Readers will meet an embalmed man positioned in front of the TV, a mariachi singer suffering from mediocrity, a man's lifelong imaginary friend, and the town prostitute whose funeral draws a crowd from the highest rungs of the social ladder. The writers that Mexican editor Álvaro Uribe selected for this volume are deeply engaged in the literary life of Mexico and include prominent editors, translators, columnists, professors, and even the young founder of a new publishing collective. Between them they have received dozens of prizes, from the Xavier Villaurrutia prize to Guggenheim fellowships and other international awards.

Praise: "It is a fine book for either those curious about current Mexican fiction or those simply in search of some good things to read." —Scott Esposito for The Quarterly Conversation (read whole review here)

Christ Like (Queer Mojo) by Emanuel Xavier (paperback)

From the publisher: Mikey is a spirited but self-destructive survivor of sexual abuse, a gay Latino native New Yorker caught somewhere between Catholic guilt and club kid decadence looking to fit in as part of a family. Instead, Mikey delves into a demimonde of petty thieves, prostitutes, and pushers. Haunted by a father that Mikey has never met, a difficult childhood, recurring nightmares, the reality of death, and Christ, the story unfolds through the '80s and '90s following him on his journey through a fascinating world filled with Santeros, transsexuals and voguing queens.

Praise: “Christ Like is the harrowing first novel by Emanuel Xavier. When it was first published ten years ago, it announced the arrival of a unique and important new voice among both gay and Latino/a writers. Ten years later, the novel retains its compelling power as it takes the reader on a jagged journey though the New York club scene; in theme and naked urgency, it may be justly compared to Dancer from the Dance and Last Exit to Brooklyn, but its heartbeat is puro latino.” —Michael Nava, author of The Little Death and Rag and Bone

Land of a Thousand Dances: Chicano Rock 'n' Roll from Southern California (University of New Mexico Press) by David Reyes and Tom Waldman (paperback, revised edition)

From the publisher: Reyes and Waldman tell the stories of Chicano rock music in Southern California and the musicians who continue to make pop music with a Latin beat.

Praise: "It's fascinating to read this alternative history of pop music, as Land of a Thousand Dances offers a wealth of anecdotes, interviews, and facts that have never been so meticulously documented. The book helps fill one of the biggest gaps in the rock timeline, ensuring that rock 'n' roll's Chicano roots will not be forgotten." —A. V. Club

"Authors [David] Reyes and [Tom] Waldman give a flavorful overview of the ever-changing East L.A. scene. . . . They note that barrio culture, which so richly intertwines American and Mexican traditions, has given rise to groups who move through many different types of music with ease, as well as the type of fans who can appreciate them all." —Raza Report

Latinos and the Nation's Future (Arte Público Press) edited by Henry G. Cisneros (hardcover)

From the publisher: The outgrowth of a conference involving Latino leaders and exploring the impact of the dynamic growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S., Latinos and the Nation's Future contains essays by leading scholars, civil rights leaders and other professionals on issues impacting the advancement of Latino citizens—and therefore, all U.S. citizens. Contributors include Harry P. Pachón, Tamar Jacoby, Sarita E. Brown and Elena Ríos, M.D.

Although the future is never certain, it is inevitable that the Latino community is destined to shape the future of the United States, and Cisneros contends, it is imperative that Americans accept this fact and work to harness its growth, develop its educational potential, engage its community-building energies, and transform it into the next middle class.

Media coverage: Watch a panel discussion at Center for American Progress.

Postnationalism in Chicana/o Literature and Culture (University of Texas Press) by Ellie D. Hernández (hardcover)

From the publisher: In recent decades, Chicana/o literary and cultural productions have dramatically shifted from a nationalist movement that emphasized unity to one that openly celebrates diverse experiences. Charting this transformation, Postnationalism in Chicana/o Literature and Culture looks to the late 1970s, during a resurgence of global culture, as a crucial turning point whose reverberations in twenty-first-century late capitalism have been profound. Arguing for a post nationalism that documents the radical politics and aesthetic processes of the past while embracing contemporary cultural and sociopolitical expressions among Chicana/o peoples, Hernández links the multiple forces at play in these interactions. Reconfiguring text-based analysis, she looks at the comparative development of movements within women's rights and LGBTQI activist circles. Incorporating economic influences, this unique trajectory leads to a new conception of border studies as well, rethinking the effects of a restructured masculinity as a symbol of national cultural transformation. Ultimately positing that globalization has enhanced the emergence of new Chicana/o identities, Hernández cultivates important new understandings of borderlands identities and post nationalism itself.

Read an excerpt of the book.

Crazy Chicana in Catholic City: Poems (Ghost Road Press) by Juliana Aragón Fatula (paperback)

From the publisher: "Juliana Aragón Fatula is one of those rare poets who can grip the smoke of myth and pack it with her two hands into clay. She takes the largest subjects—the death of a parent, drug and alcohol abuse, even massacre and colonization—and transforms these into hats, lizards, coffee, pennies, bullets. She offers us the tiniest artifacts of the most beautiful, unthinkable human experiences. Here is a poet of great skill and resilience. Here is a master of the lyric of sorrows." —David Keplinger, author of The Prayers of Others

Friday, June 26, 2009

While Ramos is away, more books to giveaway!

Built a contest, and they didn't come . . .

My attempt to give away a copy of the new Drollerie Press anthology, Needles & Bones, didn't produce a rush of contestants. It was supposed to officially end tomorrow, but I will invoke my right as contributor and extend it for one more week. Given that
the original rules appear to have asked for too much, I'm changing those as well.

Since today's post replaces Manuel Ramos's usual wealth of literary fare, the new rules are simple: in the Comments below, submit the names of three of Ramos's novels, spelled correctly, and I will randomly draw the name of one winner. Contest ends (a la verdad) next Saturday, July 4th.

How 'bout a Latino book giveaway, instead?

While I'm in the mood to press my luck, Hachette Book Group has provided us with cinco--get that: 5!--copies of The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos by Margaret Mascarenhas.

Here's a description of the book from the
publisher's website:

"Irene dos Santos disappeared at age 15. Believed to have drowned while on holiday with her best friend, Lily Martinez, her body was never found. Now, years later, she appears ghostlike in Lily's dreams, prompting a quest for the truth behind her disappearance.

"Mysteriously, Lily, eight-months pregnant with her first child, slips and falls on the same day that the statue of Maria Lionza, Patron Saint of their Venezuelan town, cracks in two. Confined to her bed, Lily is surrounded by her family and closest friends, who agree that a Novena to Maria Lionza will guide the baby's spirit safely into the world.

"Together, through their nine nights of prayer, each offers a story to entertain Lily and her baby. What emerges is a vivid picture of Venezuela during a time of revolution and uncertainty and the unraveling of the mystery behind Irene dos Santos."

To avoid the errors of my last contest, the rules this time are much simpler: in the Comments below indicate the color of the female's dress (of the cover) and what country she's likely in. I'll randomly draw five winners from the correct entries, but they will have to provide us with a U.S. or Canadian address, not a P.O. box, to receive the prize. Contest ends July 11, 2009. (Wait to hear if you've won before providing your address.)

N.B.: for the only contestant so far in the Needles & Bones contest, even if she doesn't win that, I will send a special surprise for her effort to date.

Native American Joe Montoya Receives Award

And speaking of contests, from out Califas way come this news:
Calaca Press, the Red CalacArts Collective and Red Salmon Arts proudly announce that the winner of the First raúlrsalinas Guerrilla Chapbook Poetry Contest is New Mexico writer Vernon “Joe” Montoya.

In a close contest, judged by University of Minnesota Chicano Studies professor Louis G. Mendoza, Ph.D, Red Salmon Arts Executive Director Rene Valdez and Calaca Press publisher Brent E. Beltrán, Mr. Montoya edged out runner up Jonathan Gomez of East Los Angeles.
By winning the first raúlrsalinas Guerrilla Chapbook Poetry Contest Joe Montoya will have his work published in chapbook form by Red CalacArts Publications and Red Salmon Press, receive 100 copies of the chapbook, a $500 honorarium and travel to and from book release readings in San Diego, California and Austin, Texas.

Joe Montoya’s poetry reflects the heartbreaking realities of life on the rez. Though pain and loss are a recurring theme his work also presents the beauty and joy of being Native in 21st century America. “We are proud to have him join our Calacaverse,” said Brent E. Beltrán of Calaca Press. “His voice is an important voice that needs to be shared with all.”
Vernon “Joe” Montoya is a young Native American poet and short story writer born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and raised on the Santa Ana and San Felipe Pueblos. He was incarcerated on drug offenses and used his time in prison to read and write poetry. Joe has won several slam competitions and reads, lectures and teaches workshops in jails, prisons, juvenile facilities, middle and high schools. He is currently a student at the University of New Mexico and works with youth as a drug preventionist.

Calaca Press and Red Salmon Arts looks forward to publishing this talented young voice. The untitled chapbook will feature cover art by San Antonio, Texas artist Gerry Quetzatl Garcia. Stayed tuned for publication date and chapbook release reading information.

The raúlrsalinas Guerrilla Chapbook Poetry Contest was created to honor the lifework and interests of Xicanindio poet activist raúlrsalinas (1934-2008). By organizing this contest Calaca Press, the Red CalacArts Collective and Red Salmon Arts hope to inspire a new generation of activist writers to carry on the work of raúlrsalinas. The contest is supported in part by the Ford Foundation, JP Morgan Chase and Southwest Airlines through a grant from the NALAC Fund for the Arts.

(Calaca Press is a Chicano family-owned small publishing house dedicated to publishing and producing unknown, emerging, and established progressive Chicano and Latino voices. With a commitment to social justice and human rights Calaca Press strives to bring about change through the literary arts.)


Ramos is off vacationing or surfing or something somewhere out there, but will return in July. Should you have the luck to find him in your village or monastery, please share a bit of pan seco or sangria fria with him, as he has just come from Denver, which seems to have global-warmed into Portland's humid weather. It's rained or tornadoed for weeks now. Everything's growing, even the rocks, but it's all soggy here.

Es todo,


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cristina Acosta: Luminous Work, Lasting Art

Cristina Acosta

Guadalupe with Crown, the World is Her Heart

La Conquistadora/The Corn Maiden/Dine Spider Woman

Exhibit: Reshaping the Divine - Contemporary Hispanic Retablos Exploring the Divine Feminine

When: Summer 2009

El Museo Cultural, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Click here to see this series of Hispanic Retablos.

This is quintessentially female, strong, sinous, visual art. It is a contemporary re-visioning of traditional retablo, hinting at the aesthetic of popular commercial artists like Laurel Burch, but containing a depth of spirit. There is a certain richness, an evanescence emanating from the figures portrayed.

Acosta has an ability to make a heart connection with the observer beyond the demands and trends of the marketplace, or the prevailing winds of "fine" art communities and critics. I find Acosta's work to be completely accessible, capitalizing and re-visioning icons from a metizo heritage, as well as feminist ideas of the female God-force.

She's also creative in the use of precious and mundane material in the creation of these retablos. In an in depth look at her site, piece after piece reveals she is truly a renaissance woman balancing comerciality with content and succeeding admirably.

Take a look at what Cristina herself has to say about her work:

Over the past twenty years, my series of Madonna retablos came to me in ebbs and flows via a series of powerful dreams. The dreams started during my pregnancy with my daughter. For the entire pregnancy I dreamt of being a woman on a journey north across dusty plains and through arroyos as I mostly walked behind an oxcart. The dreams ended in a room lit by a wooden candelabra filled with tallow candles and the birth of my daughter, Isabella Pilar in 1993.

I called these dreams my Maria Dreams because in the dreams, I/she was named Maria. Seeking the meaning of those dreams over the years brought me down a path I could never have imagined and deepened my understanding of my cultural heritage. Searching for the meaning of my Maria Dreams eventually lead me back to New Mexico, the land of my Ortiz ancestors.

My paternal grandmother, Catalina Maria Ortiz Acosta, born in 1904, was the daughter of J. Nestor Ortiz and Maria Elena Salazar, descendents of the original Spanish settlers founding the cities and villages throughout New Mexico. Researching my family genealogy (my grandmother spoke vaguely about her ancestors), I discovered that my direct ancestors had participated in the initial 16th and 17th century migrations of the Spanish, traveling North from Mexico City into the region that is now the State of New Mexico. I read books about the era and became fascinated by the types of experiences my female ancestors must have had while living on the New Mexican frontier for generations. With this research nurturing my experience of my personal history, my calling to paint Madonna’s began to take shape.

Born in Los Angeles to an Anglo mother and Hispanic father, early on I was aware of cultural concepts because of the differences between the two sides of my family. Despite their differences, Catholicism was the central theme for my parents. Celebrating their devotion resulted in religious images from the Americas and Europe scattered throughout our home and those of our relatives. Images of Mary the Mother of God as the Guadalupe, Conquistadora and many other versions were always present. Along with those images were displayed American Indian items from the Ortiz ranch.

The artifacts from the Ortiz family ranch consumed my imagination from as far back as I can remember. Handmade Indian blankets and pots, and even a gold menorah (referred to as a “candelabra” by my grandmother) made by Ortiz ancestors generations past (some of the men were renowned filigree gold smiths). Those as well as the chili ristras hanging in my grandmother’s kitchen hinted at another world far from the Southern California beach scene of my childhood home. For reasons I can’t sufficiently articulate, the mix of these images and experiences coalesced into my calling to visually explore and create new images of the Madonna as an expression of the feminine divine.

Each of the retablos I paint results in a new vision of the sacred. For example, painting La Conquistadora opened the door to re-balancing the dominant patriarchal and European view of the divine with the North American native and feminine. In La Conquistadora I layer symbols of the Dine Spider woman and the Puebloan Corn Maiden, seeking to blend the indigenous ancient female images and concepts harmoniously with the Catholic image of Mary. The result is a Madonna that hints of ancient goddesses many thousands of years old at the same time she conveys the current blend of cultures in the Southwest.

I create my work in the traditions of the Spanish/Mexican retablo to reinforce my expression of reverence and convey the intimate experience of sacredness. I find antique, reclaimed timbers for the substrate. I mix gold, silver and copper metals into my oil paintings to both embellish the image and in homage to the gifts my ancestors created for me with their existence. The vintage gold glazed ceramic tiles come from a tile company that operated near my childhood home in Southern California during the 1950’s and 60’s. When I finish a retablo, I write a blessing on the backside of the retablo to convey love to all who view the images.

My Maria Dreams from over a decade ago continue to influence this series of work. May you find your own meanings and blessings within these images.


And from none other than our own recently published Rudy G,

Win a book!
Midnight, Friday, June 26 is the deadline to enter to win a copy of the just-released Needles & Bones anthology, featuring a fantastical story by La Bloga contributor Rudy Ch. Garcia.
Click here for details.

Lisa Alvarado

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Bilingual Books from Children's Book Press

My Papa Diego and Me
Recollections by Guadalupe Rivera Marín
Artwork by Diego Rivera

32 page • Ages 6 and up
8 3⁄4” x 10 1⁄4”
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-89239-228-5
Available Fall 2009

When most people think of my father, Diego Rivera, they think of him as a famous painter. And they’re right, he did grow up to be a famous painter… His hard work, dedication, and talent taught me that if you work hard at your passion, you can achieve your dreams. –Guadalupe Rivera Marín

Guadalupe Rivera Marín had a very unusual childhood, growing up in Mexico among world famous artwork. Her papá, Diego Rivera, was a larger-than-life figure who created unforgettable images of working people, of life in Mexico, of industrial machines and flowers. But Diego Rivera also loved to paint children — children just like you — and you’ll find them inside the pages of this book, along with the lessons and wisdom he passed along to his eldest daughter.

Guadalupe Rivera Marín shares some of her childhood memories of the world-renowned artist who also happened to be her papá. Her recollections are tender, humorous, and unexpected. This intimate artistic portrait will delight readers, from the youngest art lovers to Diego Rivera’s biggest fans.

Guadalupe Rivera Marín is the daughter of Diego Rivera and Guadalupe Marín. Her early childhood was spent in rural Mexico, while her father created government-sponsored murals for the Secretaria de Educación Pública. An accomplished author and lecturer, Dr. Rivera Marín lives in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

Diego Rivera was one of Mexico’s most famous and influential painters. Born in 1886 in Guanajuato, Mexico, he began studying art as a child and went on to create paintings and murals that can be seen in public spaces and museums around the world. Diego Rivera was also a passionate advocate for working men and women, and he featured them in much of his artwork. He died in 1957.

I Know the River Loves Me
Written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez

Bilingual in English and Spanish
24 pages • Ages 4 to 8
8 1⁄4” x 10”
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-89239-233-9
Available Fall 2009

Listen. . . Can you hear the river calling you? Rushing and bubbling, splashing or still, the river has so much to teach us.

Whenever Maya visits the river, the river jumps up to greet her. It cools her down when the summer sun is too hot, and holds her up when she dives in. It keeps her company in the quiet of winter. The river takes care of Maya and Maya takes care of the river.

In this gentle story of love and respect for nature, Maya Christina Gonzalez combines her award-winning talents as an artist and storyteller. Young readers will be inspired by the joy and wonder of being outdoors, and learn powerful lessons about their environment and themselves.

Maya Christina Gonzalez is an acclaimed fine artist, educator, and award-winning children's book illustrator. This is the second book that she has both written and illustrated. She has also created artwork for 20 other children's books, including: My Colors, My World, My Very Own Room, and Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Review: Down to the Bone.

Mayra Lazara Dole. Down to the Bone. NY: Harper Teen, 2008.
ISBN: 9780060843106

Michael Sedano

Down to the bone is among the more challenging YA novels I’ve had the pleasure to read.The challenge is less to the reader than to the author, Mayra Lazara Dole. Not only must Dole work her coming of age plot to a happy ending, the author tasks herself to address gay sexuality in an ambiente of Miami’s Cubano cultura. The specific geography provides background for a work that should have widespread appeal for kids everywhere.

Dole, or her editor, recognizes the language gap between Spanish-literate readers and those less endowed. There’s a Spanish-English glossary that clarifies the majority of italicized expressions, even to obvious cognates like música and gringo, and the conjunction y. I looked for a description of a tortilla de platano, but it was omitted. As a certified senior citizen who digs YA and chica lit and is hip to a certain amount of patois, I would have appreciated glossaried help with such English expressions as “hooking up” and the title. Given the popularity of the phrase—a movie and a band share the name--“down to the bone,” I suspect that means something beyond the novel’s final line, “This is where I belong, loved and understood right down to the bone.” In my vocabulary, “hooking up” seems a clearly metaphorical allusion to forming a social alliance, but in Laura’s world, the phrase seems restricted to sexual union.

Scrunchy, née Laura Sofia, has already hooked up with Marlena, or maybe tonight's the night. For sure, they've shared passionate kisses. Laura and Marlena are eleventh graders and deeply in love. Back in the day, this might have been called “puppy love” by adults who remember the first time is not necessarily lasting. But that’s not Laura’s world view. Por vida, that’s what Laura feels. And that’s what Marlena says, too, in a love note Laura’s reading on the last day of school as the novel opens. Daydreaming, the vivacious teen doesn’t hear Fart Face, Sister Asunción, ask a question. That daydream leads to a world of hurt.

Adults in Laura’s world fit one of two types. There are the horrorshow assholes, like the nun and Laura’s mother, or there are the totally cool, like Viva, the mother of Laura’s best friend, Soli. Mostly it’s a world of the former, until Laura discovers Miami’s gay society. Laura’s classmates fit into the former tipos, too. “Muff diver!” they shout, after Sister seizes and reads Marlena’s note to the entire classroom.

Being kicked out of Catholic school is not punishment enough. Laura’s mother demands to know the identity of Laura’s degenerate friend, and, failing that, kicks Laura out of her home until Laura identifies the lover and accepts heterosexuality. Find a man, get married.

Viva and Soli love Laura unconditionally, mirror images of the horrid mother whose love is conditioned on the teenaged girl complying with the mother’s every demand. As much love as Laura feels in her cramped temporary abode, still the daughter wants to go back home to her mother’s love, and to remain in her little brother’s life. I worry about that kid, given that mother.

Laura meets a boi—another term some readers will learn—who befriends the emotionally devasted Laura. Tazer, a rich woman virtually abandoned by her father to a luxurious pad, prefers to present himself as a male. Tazer wants to start a love affair with Laura, but he is not what Laura wants. It’s an interesting view of gay choices. Dole makes the point that gay gente don’t hook up with promiscuous abandon. Like all people, Laura and the gay world she enters are concerned with choices and motivated by emotional attraction. The one who flits from lover to lover is la Soli, a confirmed heterosexual. (Who will come around in the end to a decent but spurned lover).

The worst choice a person can make is to conform to outside pressures, especially when these are inimical to one's self. Laura denies her desires and starts dating a hot-to-trot man. Hoping she’ll fall in love with him, she falls into his arms and into his bed, but doesn’t “hook up” with the conquest-minded hottie. Marlena, on the other hand, is whisked away by her family to Puerto Rico, to be brainwashed by a fundamentalist church. Laura finally gets a “dear Jill” letter from the about-to-be married Marlena, who washes her hands of their love, wishing for Laura to reject herself and become a betrayer like Marlena.

I’ve summarized only a few key plot lines in this engaging novel. Dole’s depiction of Laura’s peers takes the novel into a similar direction as the adultcentric line. There are STD, clubbing, dancing, blind hatred, krypto personae; all adding rich texture to the teenage scene. Sadly, Dole doesn’t dwell on the tragedy of Laura quitting school to work full time to support herself, nor look forward to what happens in three or five years. Will Laura graduate? Get her landscape architect degree? A contractor’s license? Such unexplored possibilities are sorely lacking in an otherwise edifying story that likely mirrors what’s happening for countless teens facing amor prohibido, whether parents like it or not.

Irrespective of sexual identity or activity, teenagers and adults will take serious thought from the novel. Laura and Soli are healthy, happy children. As such—children—they control only some elements of their environment, and expose themselves too much to risky behaviors, e.g. a speeding cab runs down Laura on her bicycle in a late-night accident. Adults might find difficulty allowing a child the kind of freedom Laura takes, but only because her awful mother is such a narrow-minded person. Viva, perhaps, allows her daughter and live-in friend too much liberty, but because the girls make good choices, little harm comes of going overboard in this direction. Obviously the restrictive nuns and birth mother’s rules produce dysfunctional results. Dole’s lesson is a good one: trust the kids to make good decisions. Despite the poor raising Laura got from her mother, she makes those decisions because that’s the right thing to do. Trust the kid to know her heart and take the proper course.

Still, there’s nothing like reasoned adult upbringing to help a kid grow into the kind of adult I hope Laura, Soli, Tazer and the rest will. Adults would profit from YA work like this, if only to know what, or whom, is influencing the next generation's views of their inheritance. As my dad liked to say, pa'lla va la sombra. Let's see what kids can do that we didn't. In Dole's world, there's a montón of intractable caca that won't take care of itself.

That's June's penultimate Tuesday. A Tuesday like any other Tuesday, except you are here. Thank you for visiting La Bloga. Please invite your friends to stop by, read, leave comments--las huellas de sus pasos.


La Bloga welcomes your comments on this, or any, daily column. Click the Comments counter below to share your thoughts. La Bloga welcomes guest columnists. If you have a book, arts, or cultural review you'd like to share, or something about writing from your writer's notebook, click here to discuss being our guest.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Waves at LPR

Guest post by Francisco Aragón

Over a year ago, in Latino Poetry Review’s inaugural issue, it was Eric Murphy Selinger’s long essay-review that lit the fuse. Sparks flew over his take on a passage in Corky Gonzales’ seminal poem, “I am Joaquín.” They surfaced mostly at Javier Huerta’s blog and Craig Santos Perez’s. When the dust settled, the following comment to Huerta, who was the first to take Selinger to task, seemed to wrap things up:

“Longtime lurker here, first-time commentator... Just wanted to express my appreciation for this discussion, which I've been following with interest for a while now. As a non-Latino reader, I also had mixed feelings about Eric Selinger's Parnassus review, and it's heartening to see him respond to criticisms in an open-minded, non-defensive manner. Javier Huerta, your eloquence and insightfulness pushes this discussion toward ever-expanding spheres of consideration. You are shedding some much-needed light on questions of culture, craft, ethnicity, and intergenerational dialogue that have been swirling around in my mind for a long time. I haven't quite seen anyone else articulate these issues with as much clarity, objectivity, and relevance as you have done here.”

This year, in Latino Poetry Review’s recently launched second issue, it’s been Steven D. Schroeder’s assessment of Richard Vargas’ McLife and American Jesus that has provided this year’s spirited discussion, especially after Vargas himself decided to pen a letter that Schroeder posted on his blog.

Barbara Jane Reyes offered the following comment to Schroeder:

“The bodily functions and body parts, which you discuss in your review, and which Vargas brings up in his letter: whereas your assessment of these brings you to the conclusion that the work is perhaps immature or 'macho,' have you considered Oscar Zeta Acosta's Brown Buffalo, which seems a fair comparison. From what I understand about Zeta Acosta, his writing openly and unrestrained about bodily functions and body parts has much more to do with the body politics of brown men and standards of beauty for brown men in the USA than it has to do with immature boy humor. Body politics seems relegated to the realm of women's writing, but I think it's totally fair to say men of color also must write against mainstream American objectification and commodification, which are both emasculating, and which are major sources of man of color rage….”

Later, Vargas himself responded at Barbara Jane Reyes’ blog, where she contributed a post of her own in the unfolding discussion:

“[M]y real question is for the LPR, and why they thought this guy was on the up and up? what statement does this make about their literary agenda? again, thank you, ms. reyes, for facilitating what i consider to be an open minded and rational approach to this subject. rvargas”

What I have found encouraging about these latest “waves” is that people have been specifically talking about seeking out, acquiring and reading Vargas’ two books. Regardless of how one might feel about Schroeder’s review, would we be talking about Vargas—two years after the latest of his books had been published—if LPR Schroeder's review hadn't appeared, or if LPR hadn't commissioned a review on Vargas to begin with? Vargas himself had this to say in his comment to Reyes:

“…i’ve always written with the belief that if everyone liked my poetry, then i was doing something wrong. i’ve been waiting for someone like schroeder to sit down and “review” me for quite a while. it was due.…”

As far as LPR thinking Schroeder was on “the up and up,” I can only offer this: A couple of years ago, I was giving a poetry reading in Saint Louis, MO. I met Schroeder there. I’d occasionally read his blog and noticed that he sometimes commented on Eduardo C. Corral’s blog. The reading took place in a micro-brewery so a small group of us stuck around for a few beers afterwards. Schroeder and I talked poetry and publishing: he was on the verge of launching Anti-. It was a cordial and engaging interaction. What I don’t recall is if I asked him then and there or if I waited until I got home. But at some point, I asked if he’d write a piece for LPR. He said Yes: I sent him Vargas’ books.

That night I also met Heather Treseler, a doctoral candidate at Notre Dame who was writing a dissertation on American poetry. I made her the same pitch I made to Schroeder; she said Yes: I sent her A Weakness for Boleros by Lidia Torres, and This Side of Skin by Deborah Parédez. It might be worth noting that neither Schroeder nor Treseler are Latino/a. To some that might matter. To LPR, it doesn’t. Vargas asks about LPR’s “literary agenda.” Here’s its mission statement:

Latino Poetry Review (LPR) publishes book reviews, essays, and interviews with an eye towards spurring inquiry and dialogue. LPR recognizes that Latino and Latina poets in the 21st century embrace, and work out of, a multitude of aesthetics. With this in mind, its critical focus is the poem and its poetics.

Perhaps these episodes, these “waves” might also be considered “growing pains.” LPR could have, from the get go, commissioned two reviews on Vargas. This was the case with Roberto Tejada’s book, Mirrors for Gold. LPR #2 published one by poet and editor Carmen Giménez Smith, and another by Notre Dame doctoral candidate, Todd Thorpe. Full disclosure: I presented this option to Schroeder after the fact—that is: getting an additional review on Vargas, and posting them both in LPR #3. I let Schroeder make the call because he had been so patient with LPR’s delay in publication, and because I suspected his review might elicit some of the responses it got. In the end, he opted for having his review published sooner rather than later.

Barbara Jane Reyes got one thread of the discussion started in a post that referenced Schroeder’s claim that Vargas was an “outsider” in the poetry world. Vargas’ letter or, rather, Schroeder’s decision to publish the letter, took the discussion up a notch.

LPR would like to commission another piece on Vargas, if for no other reason than to underscore that its agenda is none other than to give Latino and Latina poets their due in the arena of poetry criticism—something they don’t get in most poetry reviewing venues. It’s the reason LPR exists. This gesture should not, however, be viewed as an expression of regret for publishing Schroeder’s piece. LPR believes that books by Latino and Latina poets should be reviewed from a plethora of perspectives, including Schroeder’s. LPR doesn’t censor. Unless someone writes a piece that is laced with personal attacks, LPR will publish it. There is no aesthetic nor cultural litmus test for a potential LPR contributor. If LPR does have a bias, it might be its inherent interest in reviews and essays that explore how poems are made.

And yet, if a reviewer slips up in the eyes of some readers (i.e. doesn’t bother to do any homework about the work or writer being reviewed or is simply a lazy reader who let’s his/her preconceived notions about “Latinos” have too much sway) well…here’s Eric Selinger on his piece in LPR#1:

“I was told that my glib comment about a particular poet’s lack of artistry showed that I hadn’t read him closely. And guess what? I hadn’t. I’d substituted a flip, offhand remark for actual thinking, and got caught….I don’t call that an 'attack.' I call it 'peer-review.'
In academic journals, it happens before a piece is published. In literary journals, it happens afterwards, in public. It’s not fun, but it’s awfully educational.”

My hope is that discussions generated by the pieces in Latino Poetry Review won’t, however, solely stem from reviews that are perceived as negative. I’ve linked a number of other reviews in the current issue in this guest post. What do readers of La Bloga think about them?


Preparations for the new and improved 2009 Los Angeles Latino Book & Family Festival are now underway! The festival will take place October 10 & 11 on the campus of California State University, Los Angeles. We are now accepting proposals for panels/presentations on any topic having to do with literature or anything of interest to the Latino community. American Book Award-winner Reyna Grande, author of Across a Hundred Mountains and Dancing with Butterflies, will be in charge of scheduling. Please submit your proposal to Reyna Grande at reynagrande@yahoo.com.


Remembering El Espectador by Agustin Gurza
California is Broke. Why? by Alberto Marrero Salas
La Pistola: Tribute to my Mexican father by Alvaro Huerta
"Descarga" in CityWalk This Summer By Mariluz Gonzalez
Rockin' & Rollin' with the Marines in Reseda by Frankie Firme

These are just a few great stories on LatinoLA. You should drop by and check them out and make it a daily habit. You may also submit essays, reviews, short stories, poems, upcoming event news, etc. Go to LatinoLa.com.


In the new issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, the column Page One: Where New and Noteworthy Books Begin includes Stephen Gutierrez's new short story collection, Live from Fresno y Los (Bear Star Press). If you missed it, you may read my review of Gutierrez's collection here.


Marisela Norte, if you're reading this, could you drop me an e-mail at olivasdan@aol.com please? I don't have your current e-mail. If any La Bloga readers are eavesdropping right now, I might as well remind you that Marisela is a wonderful poet who published her first collection recently, Peeping Tom Tom Girl (San Diego City Works Press, $12.95 paperback). You may read my review of it here.

◙ That’s all for now. So, in the meantime, enjoy the intervening posts from mis compadres y comadres here on La Bloga. And remember: ¡Lea un libro!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

You say "commercial" like it's a bad thing: reflections on the Black Eyed Peas and their new Album The E.N.D.

I was nervous about the new Black Eyed Peas album. Though I enjoy “Boom Boom Pow” and “Imma Bee”—the singles they released as teasers to the album—both fall into the category I discussed in my last article “Is Cockiness Passé?” They are original and danceable songs, but much of the lyrics fall into that dated, self-aggrandizing category I am so tired of. Like “I’m so 3008 you’re so 2000 and late” from “Boom Boom Pow,” or “Imma be looking all fly and shit, Imma be the flyest chick” from…well, the song is obvious. But after spending the last two weeks listening to it over and over again I am very pleasantly surprised: it is a solid and creatively diverse album. No, it doesn’t have the raw quality of the early Peas, this is clearly a commercial venture, but it is a damn good one. And I was pleased to see that they tapped internal talent rather than relying heavily on outside artists as they had in the past.

And speaking of internal talent, I have to admit, I like Fergie. Though her solo work leaves something to be desired I always thought she was a smart addition to the group. I know there was an uproar at one point because supposedly someone isolated her singing (as they did with Linda McCartney) and it was awful, and from there it was deduced that she was merely a decorative and token pair of breasts for the group. There’s SO much I hate about this accusation. First of all, they never accuse men of such things (no one accused Taboo of being a dancing penis, and John Legend he ain’t). Secondly, since when is rap or hip hop about singing? Last I checked it was more spoken than sung and didn’t require the vocal stylings or acrobatics of a Marc Anthony. It is more about personality and story, and I think Fergie is as well-suited as her male counterparts to tell these stories.

In keeping with the BEP’s philosophy, the songs are not about drugs or hos or pimp-slapping (though they still have a sophomoric obsession with women’s body parts there are thankfully no revisits to the murky depths of “My Humps”) and the collection is positive to the point of being downright cheery. There are several party anthems—“Rock That Body,” “I Gotta Feeling,” “Party All the Time,” “Rockin to the Beat”—relationship songs—“Meet Me Halfway” and “Missing You”—and even mild social commentary in “Now Generation” (which has a strong 80s new wave vibe) and “One Tribe.” I was particularly pleased with how the melancholy story of “Missing You” then segues to “Ring-a-Ling,” the techno but quite lyrical song about a late night booty call.

There is all kind of speculation that the title The E.N.D. (Energy Never Dies), implies this is the last album from the group. Much though I adore the Black Eyed Peas, that would be okay because I imagine that this creative energy won’t die but will rather go in four unique directions with solo work, production, movies and more. I am particularly looking forward to hearing the forthcoming solo albums from the less publicized members Taboo and my favorite, Apl De Ap. I really enjoyed the cultural insights of “The Apl Song” (off of Elephunk) and “Bebot” (from Monkey Business) and am always impressed with the depth and introspection of his rap. But if they do stay together I hope they continue to grow and evolve. For one, they’re getting older (they’re all in their mid-30s) and personally I find artists in their 40s or 50s singing songs about partying all night long kind of depressing (yes, that includes you Mick Jagger, I mean for Christ’s sake, you’re 65!).

I’m sure critics will slam the Peas for this unapologetically commercial record, but I feel this is was a natural progression for them. My IPod has not played anything else since its release and though I ‘m not sure how long it will endure or whether it will ever be considered “important,” it is relentlessly listenable, catchy and really quite fabulous. I’ve said before I think that will.i.am is the greatest musical genius of the last twenty years (though Wyclef is a close second) and for this BEP fan, he and his crew didn’t disappoint with this release either.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Needles & Bones anthology & a contest

Ours is probably the only household on the block with no cell phone and cable or satellite TV. Our Internet service clunks along at DSL speed--which means slow--although we did succumb to wireless, which is great for early Sat. mornings out on the patio, surfing the Web.

Consequently, much of 21st Century tech has bypassed me. No apps for an IPhone I don't have, etc. So, when I got word from Drollerie Press that my short story Memorabilia had been accepted for their anthology Needles & Bones, this segment made me realize how behind the times I was: "N&B will be available in PDF, Microsoft Reader format, Mobipocket format, ePUB, Sony Reader, and HTML reader for Windows."

My ignorance began after the word PDF. Drollerie's editor Deena Fisher asked which format I wanted. I didn't know what to tell her, nor which format might one day be of use to me.

Anyway, here's where you, the La Bloga reader, can become the beneficiary of my technological uncouthness. I'll run a contest for a week and the winner will receive a copy of Needles & Bones in whatever format he, she or it desires. Before I explain the contest rules, here's a bit about the book so you can decide if it's your copa de té.

Blurb from the publisher:
"Needles & Bones is a collection of poems and short fiction by a double handful of brilliantly creative artists-with-words. It begins gently, with fairy tales, but its tendrils of surreality spread from the stories of our childhood, into our adult world, and on to places beyond our own. We visit heaven, and hell, and places we might never imagine, peopled by creatures who are only sometimes like us."

There's also a link about the authors, and you'll find that these are twenty-two contributions from a great pool of talented and well-published novelists, poets and short story authors. To get a better idea, you can read two excerpts if you go to Drollerie's website. Or you can buy it for the strange price of just $8.46.

My story Memorabilia uses a premise from the epilogue:
“Surely all material things have a form of sentience, even the inorganic: surely they all exist in some subtle and complicated tension of vibration which makes them sensitive to external influence and causes them to have an influence on other external objects, irrespective of contact.” [from “Edgar Allan Poe”, Studies in Classic American Literature, by former N.M. resident D.H.Lawrence, 1923]

If that doesn't pique your interest, I'll say Memorabilia is the crazy story of Tomás Chaneco Martinez, a near-immortal Aztec shaman-sorcerer, who finds himself in contemporary, rural, northern New Mexico. He's gotta clean out decades' worth of knick-knacks that somehow found their way into his adobe. It seems that his nemeses, some ancient dragons, have taken possession of the things and are threatening to disturb more than his sleep. What starts out as a spring housecleaning turns into a series of fantastical encounters that Harry Potter would never have survived. Anyway, if you enjoy fantasy, dragons, azteca lore, No. New Mexico, and maybe a little humor, I expect you'll like this one.

Now for the contest:
Compose a 50-word (more or less, but not much more) synopsis of what a book entitled Agujas & Huesos (needles & bones) might be about. Everything is up to you--any genre, any authors you want to include, any hyperbole you care to wield. Do it scholarly, humorous, satirical, in Spanish--whatever. "Best" synopsis wins. Post your entry by clicking the Comments section below. Must be posted by Friday, midnight, June 26th, 2009. No more than two entries per person, please.

P.S.: In the event my fellow La Bloga contributors enter, they won't be destined to win.

Rudy Ch. Garcia

Friday, June 19, 2009

New and Newer Books - Cristina Henríquez

From the publishers' websites

Lonesome Point
Ian Vasquez

(Minotaur - June, 2009)
The Varela brothers are bound by a decades-old secret from their childhood back home in their native Belize. Today Patrick is the Miami-Dade County commissioner and a probable candidate for mayor of Miami, while his brother, Leo, a sometime poet and mental health worker, spends more time getting high than anything else. Still, they’ve both been struggling for years to completely sever their ties to their father, his illegal businesses, and his secrets.

But those years quickly vanish the moment an old friend recently released from prison asks Leo to release a patient from the mental hospital where Leo works. He calls it a favor, but the threat is clear to Leo, Patrick, and---more dangerously---the men with a stake in Patrick’s political career. The request sets off a chain of events destined to lay bare once and for all the truth about what happened that night, and maybe even to pit brother against brother in their efforts to finally set things right.

Moody, atmospheric, and evocative, Lonesome Point showcases the distinct and rhythmic voice that makes Ian Vasquez a unique talent among today’s crime writers.

About the author
Ian Vasquez received his MFA while working on a psychiatric ward and counseling at-risk high school students. Raised in Belize and now a copy editor at the St. Petersburg Times, he lives with this family near Tampa Bay, Florida. This is his second novel.

The Angel's Game
Carlos Ruiz
Zafón, translated by Lucia Graves
(Doubleday - June, 2009)
In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man, David Martín, makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city's underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house lie photographs and letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner.

Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Close to despair, David receives a letter from a reclusive French editor, Andreas Corelli, who makes him the offer of a lifetime. He is to write a book unlike anything that has ever existed—a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, and perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realizes that there is a connection between his haunting book and the shadows that surround his home.

Set in the 1920s, Zafón takes us into a dark, gothic universe first seen in the Shadow of the Wind and creates a breathtaking adventure of intrigue, romance, and tragedy. Through a dizzily constructed labyrinth of secrets, the magic of books, passion, and friendship blend into a masterful story.

About the author
Carlos Ruiz Zafón, author of The Shadow of the Wind and other novels, is one of the world's most read and best-loved writers. His work has been translated into more than forty languages and published around the world, garnering numerous international prizes and reaching millions of readers. He divides his time between Barcelona and Los Angeles.

Here's the intro to this interview from the Oxford American website:

She's not yet thirty years old, but Cristina Henríquez has already: published two books of fiction (an award-winning collection of stories, Come Together, Fall Apart, and the just-released novel The World in Half); appeared in the country's most respected literary publications; and inspired so much praise from discerning critics* and devoted readers that you might expect her to be, well, just a little bit cocky. But when we met her at the Arkansas Literary Festival a couple of months ago, we found she is not only charming and energetic, but she is also hardworking and humble.

Born in Delaware, Henríquez spent her childhood summers in Panama with her father's extended family. Her intimate knowledge of that country, with its unique relationship to the U.S., informs most of her work.

Henríquez has lived in at least seven states and is now based in Chicago, where she lives with her husband and young daughter. Her first article in The Oxford American, an ode to the "Big Sam" statue near Houston, appeared in our 2006 Best of the South Issue. She will also appear in our forthcoming Southern Lit/Writing on Writing Issue.

We wanted to find out more about this intriguing writer, so we asked her.

* The New York Times says that Henríquez's prose is "fluoridated with traces of John Updike and Ann Beattie." The legendary novelist Isabel Allende describes Henriquez's stories as "truly unforgettable." The Chicago Sun-Times praises Henríquez's subtle use of hope in lieu of all-too-tidy conclusion.

Read the interview here.


In case you missed some of the excellent books published in 2008, our friend Teresa Márquez compiled this list of up-and-c0ming writers and their books. Thanks, Teresa.

From Here You Can Almost See the End of the Desert
Aaron Michael Morales
Momotombo Press Institute for Latino Studies University of Notre Dame
This is subversive and sly work, as knowing in its effect as it is exciting to read. For all its thrilling nature, and for all his hard-edge style, this is a deeply moral effort. Morales wrestles with nothing less than the parameters of the human soul.
Luis Alberto Urrea

The Smell of Old Lady Perfume
Claudia Guadalupe Martínez
Cinco Puntos Press
Martínez’ highly episodic first novel is a quiet story that is filled with such coming-of-age staples as mean girls, popularity contests, first romances, sibling rivalries, and more. However, readers will also find the book’s loving portrayal of Chela’s family, its nicely realized setting, and its artful exploration of the problems of assimilation to be both engaging and heartfelt.
. Read La Bloga's interview with the author here.

Las Ninas: A Collection of Childhood Memories
Sarah Rafael García

Floricanto Press
Las Niñas is a Latina Little Women, a real-life Judy Blume saga, alternately hilarious, touching, and poignant, but always written sharply. If you have a daughter, get rid of her American Girl collection and give her this book!
Gustavo Arellano

Esperanza: A Latina Story
Sandra C. López
Floricanto Press
Esperanza is an admirable and too real story of many Latino youth lacking role models, who find themselves lost and isolated in the paved jungles of the inner cities and overwhelmed by the dissonance of barrio life. Sandra C. López has created a resilient and likeable character, Esperanza, who seems closer to a naked truth-seeker than to a barrio kid desperately trying to get out of a crappy world, but not knowing exactly where she was going to. Highly Recommended.
Andrea Alessandra,
University of California, Berkeley.

Ghosts of El Grullo
Patricia Santana

University of New Mexico Press
Winner of the Premio Aztlán Literary Prize for 2008 from the National Latino Writers Conference and the History and Literary Arts program of the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Winner of the San Diego Book & Writing Award for General Fiction from the San Diego Book Awards Association (SDBAA).

The Case Runner
Carlos Cisneros
Arte Público Press
Best Novel - Mystery - English, International Latino Book Awards

Chicken Foot Farm
Anne Estevis
Arte Público Press
Life goes on - it always goes on, and one has to keep up with it to survive. "Chicken Foot Farm" is the story of a Mexican American family, set just after World War II has begun in Europe. They deal with random events that life throws at them - consuming fires, the senility of old age, sibling rivalry, approval of one's parents, and the omnipresent influence of a world war. Though all these things are horrible, it is heartwarming to see how the family copes with each of them. "Chicken Foot Farm" is a deftly written literary novel, highly recommended for community library collections.
Midwest Book Review

Desert Passage
P. S. Carrillo

Arte Público Press
A summer journey on a motor scooter becomes a transformative rite of passage for two teenage cousins.... Definitely a “guy” book, with a strong male-bonding subtext that should appeal to boys, who will enjoy Ramón and Miguel’s desert adventures.
Kirkus Reviews


With all this good writing available there's just no excuse for not reading a book. Take the time to enjoy the words.