This week I am really excited to introduce you to one of my favorite authors (journalists, essayists, soccer enthusiasts) Daniel Alarcón, the author of our first adult Vamos a Leer book, Lost City Radio.
Alarcón, born in Lima, Peru in 1977, is an American author who currently resides in San Francisco, California. Alarcón grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Columbia University and a Master’s from the renowned Iowa Writer’s Workshop. His books include War by Candlelight, a finalist for the 2005 PEN/Hemingway Award, and Lost City Radio, winner of the PEN USA award in 2008. He is Executive Producer of Radio Ambulante, a Spanish language narrative journalism podcast – telling Latin America’s stories in a very similar fashion to ‘This American Life.’ In 2010 The New Yorker included Alarcón in their best 20 writers under 40 list, and his most recent novel, At Night We Walk in Circles, was a finalist for the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award. From an artistic standpoint, Alarcón is one of the forerunners in Latin American literature and literary fiction in general. His works are widely acclaimed, but his success goes beyond critics: many of his themes allow his readers insight into very Latin American experiences and beyond that, very human experiences. Alarcón succinctly uses his novels and short stories to probe for answers revolving around the themes of violence, dictatorship and oppression, but also to understand more human qualities, like how we come to cope with and understand loss, the role of memory, cross culturalism, and transnationalism.
Alarcón’s work, to be honest, is sometimes hard to follow – not because of the content, but because of the varying venues in which Alarcón works. It seems as though simultaneously he is doing interviews with The New Yorker, in El Salvador doing research for NY Times articles, live-blogging the Copa America, writing new chapters for a novel or producing another episode of the dio Ambulante podcast. Once you know the name, Alarcón seems to be involved in nearly all things Latin America.
This month’s book, Lost City Radio, is set in an unnamed Latin American city ten years after a brutal civil war shook the nation to near extinction. Alarcón dissects the complexities of living in this post-war society, and through a master narrative weaves a beautiful history of different characters, from different places and asks us some very important questions: Can any good come from violence? What are we left with after brutal conflicts like civil war? How do we move on and what role does memory have to play in time of violence?
We hope you enjoy Lost City Radio and join us for our book group Monday, October 5 at Tractor Brewing (1800 4th St NW), and if you are anything like me, the one novel will not be nearly enough. For more fiction, nonfiction and the podcast Radio Ambulante, check out the following resources:
- Radio Ambulante
- Personal website
- Daniel Alarcón in the New York Times: A Writer Thrives in Two Cultures by Larry Rohter
- Traveling Players: Daniel Alarcón’s ‘At Night We Walk in Circles’ by Ana Menéndez
Image: Photograph of author Daniel Alarcón. Reprinted from Author’s Official Facebook Page.