Saludos todos! This week we are taking the time to feature the renowned, Cuban-American author, Oscar Hijuelos, and his body of work. Like with our previous authors, we take this time to feature the breadth of the author’s collective oeuvre, as well as the more personal aspects of his life and legacy.
Oscar Hijuelos (1951-2013) is a Cuban-American author who wrote several adult and young adult books, mostly focusing on Latin American protagonists or themes. Hijuelos was the first Latino to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction when he was recognized for his 1989 novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, which was turned into a movie in 1992. Hijuelos also won the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature in 2000. Through his iconic work, Hijuelos endures as a prominent figure of Latino literature, describing the immigrant experience, questions of identity, and the many hurdles of communication, through witty and endearing prose.
A New York Times piece remembering Hijuelos after his death reflects upon the narrative style and insightful perspectives that appear throughout his novels:
In novels like “Our House in the Last World” (1983), which traces a family’s travails from Havana in 1939 to Spanish Harlem; “Mambo Kings,” about the rise and fall of the Castillo brothers, Cesar, a flamboyant and profligate bandleader, and his ruminative trumpeter brother, Nestor; and “The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O’Brien” (1993), about several generations of a Cuban-Irish family in Pennsylvania, he wrote about the non-native experience in the United States from a sympathetic, occasionally amused perspective and with a keen eye for detail in his period settings.
Saludos todos! This week marks the end of our April themes, as well as my last ¡Mira, Look! book review as a contributing blogger here at Vamos a Leer. Although I’ll be sad to leave the wonderful Vamos a Leer team, I’m delighted to conclude my blog-writing year with this week’s lovely and sophisticated Parrots over Puerto Rico, written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore and illustrated by Susan L. Roth. This incredible book reminds me of all the inspiring authors and stories that we’ve featured here on ¡Mira, Look! throughout the year, as it is both mesmerizing and astounding with a powerful message and beautiful imagery.
Parrots over Puerto Rico is a perfect culmination of this year’s diverse themes, incorporating elements of social justice, colonial history, and Caribbean culture. At the same time, it also illustrates this month’s focus on the environment with its overarching aim of encouraging wildlife conservation and environmental awareness. As noted by Kirkus Reviews, Parrots over Puerto Rico is an “ambitious project”: “The text on each vibrant, double-page collage, arranged vertically, intersperses the near-extinction and slow comeback of the Puerto Rican parrot with over 2,000 years of human history.”
Parrots over Puerto Rico, best for ages 6-11, explores the recent rehabilitation of Puerto Rico’s diverse parrot population, and the species’ all-too-close call with extinction: “These are Puerto Rican parrots. They lived on this island for millions of years, and then they nearly vanished from the earth forever. This is their story.” While Roth and Trumbore outline the long, human history of the island of Puerto Rico, they integrate the Puerto Rican parrots as prominent actors in that history, important protagonists who were long overlooked: “this is their story.” In doing so, the authors remind readers that our history is intertwined with that of our planet’s and its species’. Likewise, our future hinges on their future. Continue reading
I hope everyone is having a great Thursday! In celebration of this month’s featured book, Claire of the Sea Light, I’ve brought you a visual quote by Edwidge Danticat.
I hope you enjoy it!
Saludos todos! This week we are continuing our themes of nature and environmental awareness with another great read. The book for this week is The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Aliona Bereghici. This book follows the life of renowned bird painter, Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874–1927), including his bicultural upbringing, his worldly travels, and his absolute love for birds. As some of you may remember from my previous post on Margarita Engle, she, too, is an avid bird-watcher, botanist and advocate for nature conservation and environmentalism. Written in Engle’s characteristic poetic style, this book celebrates the beauty of nature, and the pursuit of one’s dreams.
The book is divided up into a series of poems that read like prose, illustrating Engle’s classic, stylistic fusion. Every two pages there is a new title and with an artful use of enjambment and rhyme, Engle narrates the life and work of the wonderful bird artist. Engle, like with many of her other books, expertly combines art and imagination with nonfictional information that will undoubtedly educate young readers in more ways than one. According to a review by Good Reads, “Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874–1927) is now known as the father of modern bird art. He traveled with many scientific expeditions all over the world. His best-known works—paintings for habitat exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History in New York—are still beloved by visitors today. His art helped to encourage wildlife conservation, inspiring people to celebrate and protect the world of wings.” Indeed, Engle’s book joins in Fuertes’ mission of encouraging wildlife conservation and reveling in the beauty of our world’s diverse flora and fauna. Here at Vamos a Leer, we, too, would like to join in the choir and celebrate the natural habitats of the world, while inspiring readers and educators to participate in and encourage environmental conservationism and wildlife protection.
¡Feliz viernes a todos!
I’m feeling a bit under the weather this week so my post will be a little shorter than usual. This week, I will continue the discussion about our lovely planet! As I mentioned last week, Earth Day is important for many reasons, just one of which is to highlight the problems our environments are facing today as a result of our ever-changing climate. While “climate change” is a popular phrase in politics and media reports, I thought it may be nice to introduce a resource that explains the terms frequently used with climate change, and thus explains how climate change began. With both the option to watch a video (narrated by Bill Nye the Science Guy) or to review a slideshow of terms and definitions, we think this resource could help students understand what climate change means as a term and also what it means for the planet we call home.
The second resource is a video that illustrates environmental impacts of climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean. In conjunction with my post from last week, this could lead to discussion about why Earth Day is important, what will happen if we do not take action, alternative resources and energy, and even to discussion about recycling both in the classroom and at home.
The video above is best suited for older audiences, since it ties environmental issues into economic terminology. However, we think younger students could benefit from the video with proper introduction to the key vocabulary. We hope these examples help illustrate that environmental problems impact everyone. If nothing else, we hope you can use these resources in the classroom to provide depth and real life scenarios to your environmental and energy source discussions in the coming weeks. At best, we hope these resources inspire your students to get involved this Earth Day and everyday!
With warmest wishes,
Keira and I are still traveling in Cuba this week. In place of today’s En la Clase, I thought I’d share one of my favorite photos of Habana Vieja. I’ll be back with a new post next week.
Image: Photo of “Habana Sunset.” Reprinted from Flickr use Jaume Escofet under CC ©.