Friday, August 02, 2019

What's Next? -- New Books

Here come the dog days of August. Lemonade in the high heat of midday. Gin and tonic in the medium heat of a summer-heavy evening. Half asleep on the back porch listening to The Best of Canned Heat, or the Breezy Summer Classics playlist, or Volume 1 of Tirando Chancla: The Music of Colorado. BBQ and gazpacho. Ice cream and Palisades peach pie.

On the other hand, the Broncos' exhibition games have begun. Any minute now schools will be back in session, the Rockies' miserable season will be over, and suddenly it will be dark at seven o'clock again. Así es.

And the end of summer also means reading publishers' announcements and publicists' notices about the new literature scheduled for the fall. Below are a few that caught our attention. More to come.


Severo Perez
TCU Press -- September

[from the publisher's catalog]
The year is 1961. Seventy-year-old Cosimo Infante Cano, a Cuban-born artist in need of inspiration, follows his lover to Texas in what was to be a temporary sabbatical from their life in France. Unexpectedly, he finds himself stranded in San Antonio, nearly penniless, with little more than the clothes on his back and an extraordinary pocket watch. His long hair and eccentric attire make him an odd sight in what he has been told is a conservative cultural backwater.

Cosimo’s French and Cuban passports put a cloud of suspicion over him as events elsewhere in the world play out. Algeria is in open revolt against France. Freedom Riders are being assaulted in Mississippi, and the Bay of Pigs debacle is front-page news. Cosimo confronts nightmares and waking terrors rooted in the horror he experienced during the Great War of 1914–1918. His friends—students, librarians, shopkeepers, laborers, lawyers, bankers, and even a parrot—coalesce around this elderly French artist as he attempts to return to what remains of his shattered life.

His new friends feel empathy for his impoverished condition, but his unconventional actions and uncompromising ethics confuse them. He creates charming drawings he refuses to sell and paints a house simply for the pleasure of making a difference. In the process he forever alters the lives of those who thought they were helping him.

Severo Perez, an award-winning filmmaker, playwright, and writer, grew up in working-class Westside San Antonio and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. For over forty-five years he produced programing for PBS and for network and cable television. His feature film adaptation of Tomas Rivera’s novel . . . and the earth did not swallow him (1994) won eleven international awards, including five for Best Picture. His first novel, Willa Brown & the Challengers (2012), is historical fiction based on the real-life African American aviation pioneer Willa Beatrice Brown. Odd Birds is his second novel.


Sergio Troncoso
Cinco Puntos Press -- October

[from the publisher]
How does a Mexican-American, the son of poor immigrants, leave his border home and move to the heart of gringo America? How does he adapt to the worlds of wealth, elite universities, the rush and power of New York City? How does he make peace with a stern old-fashioned father who has only known hard field labor his whole life? 

With echoes of Dreiser's American Tragedy and Fitzgerald's Gatsby, Troncoso tells his luminous stories through the lens of an exile adrift in the 21st century, his characters suffering from the loss of culture and language, the loss of roots and home as they adapt to the glittering promises of new worlds which ultimately seem so empty.

"Sergio Troncoso is one of our most brilliant minds in Latina/o Literature. These new stories demonstrate that he is also possessed of a great corazón. This is a world-class collection. Troncoso continues to raise the bar for the rest of us."
---Luis Urrea, author of The House of Broken Angels and The Hummingbird's Daughter

"A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant's Son is Troncoso at his absolute finest ... a masterwork bursting with immigrant intimacies, electrifying truths and hard-earned tenderness. This is a book I could not let go of, that took me from El Paso to New England to Mexico and to the labyrinths beyond. In these aching stories Troncoso has perfectly captured the diasporic dilemma of those of us who have had to leave our first worlds - how that exile both haunts and liberates, heals and injures. An extraordinary performance."

---Junot Díaz, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao


Rossy Lima Padilla (Spanish translation)
Piñata Books -- October 

[from the publisher]
"When our father cooks, tacos become magic tricks," Diane Gonzales Bertrand writes in the title poem of this collection for young people. "Like a magic wand, / he stirs circles through the frying pan, / Like a magic cape, he wraps a tortilla / around our wishes." In her introduction, A Taste for Poetry, she exhorts adults to introduce kids to verse. By helping them discover moments and memories through words, she says "tiny roots of curiosity, / tender wings of knowledge" will grow.

Gonzales Bertrand writes about everyday occurrences and feelings that children will recognize. In Blankie, a blanket sewn before the girl's birth kept her safe and warm for years. She can't take it to school now, but at home she still wraps it around herself, "even though it won't / cover my toes and my shoulders at the same time." There's also an ode to chanclas, or flip-flops, "Narrow rubber soles / protect my bare feet / from hot sidewalks." They even clap for her when she walks!

The importance of family shines through in pieces such as My Little Sister, Fishing with My Uncle Charlie, Abuelita's Kitchen Table and "Ta Mara's Love." In The Sailor of Woodlawn Lake, she remembers her brother's determination to create boats that would stay afloat. "I would love to say / he finally sailed across Woodlawn Lake, / but each raft slowly sank, / a few at the shore, one or two in the middle." The poems in this collection will encourage children ages 8-12 to consider writing odes to the important people and places in their own lives.

Diane Gonzales Bertrand is the author of more than twenty books for children and teens. Her books for intermediate readers include The Ruiz Street Kids / Los muchachos de la calle Ruiz (Piñata Books, 2006) and Alicia s Treasure (Piñata Books, 1996). A lifelong resident of San Antonio, she teaches creative writing at St. Mary s University, where she is the Writer in Residence. 


Jaquira Díaz
Algonquin Books -- October

[from the publisher's web site]
Ordinary Girls is a fierce, beautiful, and unflinching memoir from a wildly talented debut author. While growing up in housing projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach, Jaquira Díaz found herself caught between extremes: as her family split apart and her mother battled schizophrenia, she was surrounded by the love of her friends; as she longed for a family and home, she found instead a life upended by violence. From her own struggles with depression and sexual assault to Puerto Rico’s history of colonialism, every page of Ordinary Girls vibrates with music and lyricism. Díaz triumphantly maps a way out of despair toward love and hope to become her version of the girl she always wanted to be.

With a story reminiscent of Tara Westover’s Educated, Roxane Gay’s Hunger, and Terese Marie Mailhot’s Heart Berries, Jaquira Díaz delivers a memoir that reads as electrically as a novel.

Jaquira Dí­az was born in Puerto Rico. Her work has been published in Rolling Stone, the Guardian, the Fader, and T: The New York Times Style Magazine, and included in The Best American Essays 2016. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, an Elizabeth George Foundation grant, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Kenyon Review, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. She lives in Miami Beach with her partner, the writer Lars Horn.


Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction. His latest is The Golden Havana Night (Arte Público Press.) 

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