Friday, July 10, 2009


A half-dozen selections from the Arte Público Fall catalog:

Death at Solstice: A Gloria Damasco Mystery
Lucha Corpi, September

Chicana detective Gloria Damasco has a "dark gift," an extrasensory prescience that underscores her investigations and compels her to solve numerous cases. This time, the recurring vision haunting her dreams contains two pairs of dark eyes watching her in the night, a phantom horse and rider, and the voice of a woman pleading for help. But most disquieting of all is Gloria’s sensation of being trapped underwater, unable to free herself, unable to breathe.

When Gloria is asked to help the owners of the Oro Blanco winery in California’s Shenandoah Valley, she finds herself on the road to the legendary Gold Country. And she can’t help but wonder if the ever-more persistent visions might foreshadow this new case that involves the theft of a family heirloom, a pair of antique diamond and emerald earrings rumored to have belonged to Mexico’s Empress Carlota.

Soon Gloria learns that there’s more to the case than stolen jewelry. Mysterious accidents, threatening anonymous notes, the disappearance of a woman believed to be a saint, and a ghost horse thought to have belonged to notorious bandit Joaquín Murrieta are some of the pieces Gloria struggles to fit together. A woman’s gruesome murder and the discovery of a group of young women from Mexico being held against their will in an abandoned house send Gloria on a fateful journey to a Witches’ Sabbath to find the final pieces of the puzzle before someone else is killed.

Corpi weaves the rich cultural history of California’s Gold Country with a suspenseful mystery in this latest installment in the Gloria Damasco Mystery series.

In addition to poetry and mystery novels, Lucha Corpi also writes for children. In 1997, she published her first bilingual picture book, Where Fireflies Dance / Ahí, donde bailan las luciérnagas (Children’s Book Press), and The Triple Banana Split Boy / Diente dulce (Arte Público Press, 2009).

Corpi holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from UC-Berkley and an M.A. in World and Comparative Literature from San Francisco State University. A tenured teacher in the Oakland Public Schools Neighborhood Centers Program for 30 years, she retired in 2005.

Meet Me Under the Ceiba
Silvio Sirias, September

"I’m not afraid of that old man," Adela once told her niece. But everyone in the small town of La Curva, Nicaragua, knew that the wealthy land owner, Don Roque Ramírez, wanted Adela Rugama dead. And on Christmas Day, Adela disappeared. It was two months before her murdered body was found.

An American professor of Nicaraguan descent spending the summer in his parents’ homeland learns of Adela’s murder and vows to unravel the threads of the mystery. He begins the painstaking process of interviewing the townspeople, and it quickly becomes apparent that Adela—a hard-working campesina who never learned to read and write—and Don Roque had one thing in common: the beautiful Ixelia Cruz. The love of Adela’s life, Ixelia was one of Don Roque’s many possessions until Adela lured her away.

The interviews with Adela’s family, neighbors, and former lovers shed light on the circumstances of her death and reveal the lively community left reeling by her brutal murder, including: her older sister Mariela and her four children, who spent Christmas morning with their beloved aunt, excitedly unwrapping the gifts she brought them that fateful day; her neighbor and friend, Lizbeth Hodgson, the beautiful mulata who rejected Adela’s passionate advances early in their relationship; Padre Uriel, who did not welcome Adela to mass because she loved women (though he has no qualms about his lengthy affair with a married woman); her former lover Gloria, the town’s midwife, who is forever destined to beg her charges to name their newborn daughters Adela.

Through stories and gossip that expose jealousies, scandals, and misfortunes, Sirias lovingly portrays the community of La Curva, Nicaragua, in all its evil and goodness. The winner of the Chicano / Latino Literary Prize, this spellbinding novel captures the essence of a world rarely seen in American literature.

Silvio Sirias is the author of Bernardo and the Virgin (Northwestern University Press, 2007). He has also written and edited several books on Latino/a literature, including Julia Alvarez: A Critical Companion (Greenwood Press, 2001) and Conversations with Rudolfo Anaya (University Press of Mississippi, 1998). He received his doctorate in Spanish from the University of Arizona and worked as a professor of Spanish and U.S. Latino/a literature for several years before returning to live in Nicaragua in 1999. He currently lives in Panama.

Cut & Run: The Misadventures of Alex Perez
Alberto Arcia, September

Alex Perez is an aspiring writer living with his girlfriend Ramona, who feeds him, washes and irons his clothes, and gives him nice and useful gifts. All that is expected of him in return is to satisfy her unquenchable sexual urges. Her mother Charlene is paying Ramona’s bills until she graduates from college, and she thinks Alex is a free loader. He’s horrified when Charlene gives him an ultimatum: "You either marry her or I won’t put out another dime."

Quick thinker that he is, Alex negotiates a dowry: Charlene’s Mercedes Benz convertible and an all-expense-paid road trip to Panama so he can marry Ramona in the presence of his beloved mother. Soon the deal is sealed and Alex finds himself headed down the Pan American Highway with his fiancée and—much to his dismay—his future mother-in-law.

Armed with maps and an assortment of emergency rations, Alex is determined to postpone their arrival in Panama and his impending nuptials. The unlikely trio has just crossed the border when two Mexican street urchins, Junior (Jaime Buffet, Jr.) and his brother Raul, join the group. And before they know it, Alex’s delaying tactics lead the motley crew into a series of dodgy and often perilous situations frequently involving pistol-waving bandits and corrupt government officials. But it’s their efforts to free Charlene’s lover—a defrocked Guatemalan priest—from jail that leads to an even more twisted turn of events!

Their travels through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala introduce them to a slew of colorful characters, including a drunken boat captain and his blind first mate, and a Guatemalan police officer, who owns several whorehouses. Featuring a roguish protagonist with a distinct, humorous voice, Cut & Run: The Misadventures of Alex Perez is a satirical take on the clash of cultures between north and south of the U.S. border.

Alberto Arcia, a native of Panama, lives in Plantersville, Texas. Cut & Run: The Misadventures of Alex Perez is his first novel.

Rudy's Memory Walk
Gloria Velásquez, October

Rudy can’t believe it when his dad says he will have to watch his abuela while his parents go out. He shouldn't have to babysit his own grandmother! And he had plans to go out with his girlfriend, Juanita. His brother Manuel isn’t happy either, and won’t even consider watching Abuela alone.

Nothing has been going right since Abuela moved in. Manuel had to give up his own room and move into Rudy’s, and both boys are unhappy about losing their privacy. Abuela’s forgetfulness and weird behavior has everyone worried, and Rudy’s mom in particular spends lots of time crying.

When Abuela disappears one day, they can’t ignore the problem anymore. A trip to the doctor confirms what they feared: Abuela has Alzheimer’s. What are they going to do? They can’t lock her up, but they can’t be with her every minute of the day either.

As Rudy juggles everything going on in his senior year at Roosevelt High School, including his relationship with Juanita and his friends’ attempts to convince him to enroll in college, his feelings of guilt grow. He can’t help but wish he had his room to himself and that life would go back to the way it was before Abuela moved in.

Rudy’s Memory Walk is the eighth novel in Gloria Velásquez’s popular Roosevelt High School series, which features a multiracial group of teen aged students who must individually confront social and cultural issues (such as violence, sexuality, and prejudice) that young adults face today.

Gloria Velásquez is an internationally acclaimed author who holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University in Latin American and Chicano Literatures. Velásquez is the author of two collections of poetry, I Used to Be a Superwoman (Arte Público Press, 1994) and Xicana on the Run (Chusma House Publications, 2005). She is a professor in the Modern Languages and Literatures Department at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California. Velásquez has also toured throughout the United States performing songs and poetry from her Superwoman Chicana CD.

René Has Two Last Names / René tiene dos apellidos

René Colato Laínez, illustrated by Fabiola Graullera Ramírez, October

"On the first day at my new school, my teacher, Miss Soria, gave me a sticker that said René Colato. The sticker was missing my second last name. Maybe Miss Soria's pen ran out of ink. I took my pencil and added it. Now it looked right: René Colato Laínez."

Young René is from El Salvador, and he doesn't understand why his name has to be different in the United States. When he writes Colato, he sees his paternal grandparents, René and Amelia. When he writes Laínez, he sees his maternal grandparents, Angela and Julio. Without his second last name, René feels incomplete, "like a hamburger without the meat or a pizza without cheese or a hot dog without a wiener."

His new classmates giggle when René tells them his name. "That's a long dinosaur name," one says. "Your name is longer than an anaconda," another laughs. But René doesn't want to lose the part of him that comes from his mother's family. So when the students are given a project to create a family tree, René is determined to explain the importance of using both of his last names. On the day of his presentation, René explains that he is as hard working as Abuelo René, who is a farmer, and as creative as his Abuela Amelia, who is a potter. He can tell stories like his Abuelo Julio and enjoys music like his Abuela Angela.

This charming bilingual picture book for children ages 4-8 combines the winning team of author René Colato Laínez and illustrator Fabiola Graullera Ramírez, and follows their award-winning collaboration, I Am René, the Boy / Soy René, el niño. With whimsical illustrations and entertaining text, this sequel is sure to please fans and gain many new ones while explaining an important Hispanic cultural tradition.

René Colato Laínez came to the United States from El Salvador as a teen, and he writes about his experiences in children’s books such as Waiting for Papá / Esperando a Papá (Piñata Books, 2004) and I Am René, the Boy / Soy René, el niño (Piñata Books, 2005), which received Special Recognition in the 2006 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People. His book, Playing Lotería / El juego de la lotería (Luna Rising, 2005), was a finalist in the 2007-2008 Tejas Star Book Award, was named to Críticas magazine’s “Best Children’s Books” of 2005 and received the 2008 New Mexico Book Award for Best Children’s Book. René is a graduate of the Vermont College MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults and a bilingual elementary teacher at Fernangeles Elementary School in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Fabiola Graullera Ramírez, a native of Mexico City, graduated from UNAM’s National School of Fine Arts with a degree in Graphic Communication. Her work has been part of collective exhibits in Mexico and Spain. She has illustrated many picture books, including I Am René, the Boy / Soy René, el niño (Piñata Books, 2005).

Baseball on Mars/ Béisbol en Marte
Rafael Rivera, Jr and Tim Hoppey, Illustrations by Christina Rodriguez, Spanish Translation by Gabriela Baeza Ventura, October

Roberto’s dad speaks in Spanish when he gets upset, and boy, is he unhappy today! His lucky chair—the one he sits in to watch his beloved New York Yankees play—is missing. And he needs it for the afternoon game against the Red Sox!

Roberto is excited, too. He’s about to take off to Mars on his home-made rocket ship, and his dad’s lucky chair makes a perfect pilot’s seat. When his father finds that the missing chair has become part of the rocket ship in the backyard, he grudgingly tells Roberto he can use it—for now. But it needs to be returned before game time.

Roberto’s dad is skeptical about the rocket ship. “You might have a problem getting off the ground,” he says. “You’re forgetting one little thing—you don’t have an engine!” Soon, he finds himself invited along as co-pilot. And during the exciting flight to Mars, Roberto helps his father rediscover his imagination as they experience an amazing blastoff, wayward asteroids, and even weightlessness.

When they finally land, Roberto surprises his father with two baseball gloves and a ball. “Today’s baseball game is on Mars,” he tells his dad. After spending the day playing catch, father and son realize that they speak the same language on the Red Planet. And his dad doesn’t even mind that he missed the Yankees’ game!

Children ages 4-8 will want to embark on their own mission to Mars after reading this story that combines vibrant illustrations with a touching story about a father and son’s afternoon adventure.

Rafael Rivera, Jr. was born and raised in the Bronx, the setting for this story. He is a New York City firefighter stationed in Spanish Harlem. He has two young daughters with whom he hopes to build rocket ships. He is a lifelong New York Yankees fan, but does not have a lucky chair to sit in.

Tim Hoppey is a New York City firefighter stationed in Spanish Harlem. He is the author of a bilingual picture book, Tito, the Firefighter / Tito, el bombero (Raven Tree Press, 2005). He lives on Long Island with his wife and three children.

Christina Rodriguez received her BFA in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2003 and presently works as a freelance illustrator and designer. She has illustrated many children’s books, including Mayté and the Bogeyman / Mayté y el Cuco (Piñata Books, 2006), Un día con mis tías / A Day with My Aunts (Piñata Books, 2006), and Storm Codes (Windward Publishing, 2007).


Thanks to RudyG for filling in the past couple of weeks.

Read and lead.


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