Author’s Corner: Laura Esquivel

Saludos a todos,

As we wrap up the fall term and the 2017 calendar year, we’re looking forward to a lighthearted and memorable book group meeting focused on Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. We’ll meet at Red Door Brewing in downtown Abq to enjoy the book and share in a potluck meal inspired by the same. For the moment, though, we want to take this time to share a bit more about the author and her work.

A Mexican essayist, novelist, and playwright, Esquivel is, of course, best known for her magical realist-inspired novel, Like Water for Chocolate. It was first published in Spanish in 1989 under the full title Como agua para chocolate: novela de entregas mensuales, con recetas, amores y remedios caseros (Like Water for Chocolate: a novel in monthly installments with recipes, romances, and home remedies) and was followed shortly by the release of the feature film – with the novel adapted for the screen by Esquivel herself and her husband of the time, Alfonso Arau. The novel itself was a success in Mexico and was well-received by English-speaking audiences when translated, but it was truly the success of the film in 1992 that thrust Esquivel into the international spotlight.

Before becoming an award-winning novelist, Esquivel was first and foremost a teacher, beginning in the 1970s. She would go on to become a playwright, writing scripts for children’s television and theater. For her work on the film Chido One, she was nominated for the Ariel Award, Best Screenplay, by the Mexican Academy of Motion Pictures in 1985.

Following Like Water for Chocolate, Esquivel would go on to publish the novel La lay del amor in 1996, a book of essays titled Intimas suculencias in 2000,  the novel Tan veloz como el deseo in 2000, Escribiendo la nueva historia: cómo dejar de ser víctima en 12 sesiones in 2014, and  A Lupita le gustaba planchar in 2015. Most recently, she has returned with a crime thriller, Pierced by the Sun (2016). As NPR’s Carrie Kahn reports in an interview with the author, “Now author Laura Esquivel is tackling crime and corruption in modern day Mexico. Her novel “Pierced by the Sun” – just out in English – has a female protagonist who battles crooked politicians, criminal gangs, as well as her own demons”

But of course it was with Like Water for Chocolate that Esquivel entered women’s hearts and homes across the world. In an essay examining how the novel represents women, particularly Latin American women, scholar María Elena de Valdés begins by pointing out that part of the novels’ success was due to how Esquivel parodied an already popular genre. Forgive me in advance for this a long quote, but I’m personally fascinated by the novel’s points of commonality with the genre: “The genre in question is the Mexican version of women’s fiction published in monthly installments together with recipes, home remedies, dressmaking patterns, short poems, moral exhortations, ideas on home decoration, and the calendar of church observances. In brief, this genre is the nineteenth-century forerunner of what is known throughout Europe and Americas as a women’s magazine.” De Valdés observes that “Como agua para chocolate is a parody of nineteenth-century women’s periodical fiction in the same way that Don Quijote is a parody of the novel of chivalry. Both genres were expressions of popular culture that created a unique space for a segment of the population.”

Whether we accept that Esquivel was parodying this informal genre (I do) or not, readers of the novel quickly learn that her novel elevates the act of cooking and the traditions associated with it. She effectively reclaims the space as one of power and authority – an act which no doubt resonates with many women in many countries. In an interview with the NYTimes in 1993, the author herself acknowledged that “As a very young girl, I understood that the interior activities of the home are as significant as the exterior activities of a society…food can change anything,’ she said.” She went on to explore this significance even further, writing two subsequent novels that build Como agua para chocolate into a trilogy:  El diario de Tita and Mi negro pasado. 

Amid the ongoing legacy and love surrounding Like Water for Chocolate, Esquivel has continued to write and recently, even, undertaken a fourth career, becoming a politician serving in the Chamber of Deputies for the Morena Party in her hometown of Mexico City. We’ll all have to stay tuned to see where she takes life next.

Cheers,
Keira

p.s. special shout out to LAII graduate student, Jacob Sandler, for his help with writing this feature!


Image: Photograph of author reprinted from Goldey-Beacon College.

Happy Thanksgiving

maizHola a todas y todos,

I’m dropping in to say Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Vamos a Leer and to share a few sources with you for dispelling myths during this holiday season.

We also encourage you to check out our Rethinking Thanksgiving tab on our blog for more posts and resources about Thanksgiving. Stay tuned for more Indigenous Peoples books next week!

 

~ Keira

Author’s Corner: Ibi Zoboi

Saludos a todos! This week we are taking a moment to celebrate and feature author Ibi Aanu Zoboi, the writer behind this month’s featured novel, American Street, which we’ll read next week on November 13th at Tractor Brewing on 4th. Like with our previous authors, we take this time to feature the breadth of the author’s oeuvre, as well as more personal details that have informed her work.

Ibi Zoboi was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  She immigrated to the United States as a young child alongside her mother and currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their three children.

She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and is an accomplished writer, with publications in The New York Times Book Review, the Horn Book Magazine, and The Rumpus, among others. Her debut novel, American Street, was published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, this year. Her work has a received an impressive range of awards, accolades and recognition, but, most notably, American Street was nominated for a 2017 National Book Award, one of the greatest literary honors in the country.  Her next YA novel, Pride, is due out in the Fall of 2018, and a middle grade novel, My life as an Ice-Cream Sandwich, is forthcoming.

Zoboi’s writing is powerful and rooted in a celebration of her Haitian heritage. More than celebratory, however, her writing confronts and challenges how Haitian culture is generally portrayed – and how young women of color, particularly young Black and Latinx women, appear in literature and the media.  She grapples openly with questions of poverty and institutional racism, white supremacy and violence.  And in the process, her writing helps to humanize individuals whose lives are too frequently dehumanized, degraded, and stigmatized  in popular media – if they’re fortunate enough to appear at all. As Zoboi writes in her blog, “what matters most is that we black content creators within all-white industries take the helm and steer the ship to tell stories that are true and humanizing – narratives that pull from lived experiences and are based on a deep love for black people.”

This inspiration is apparent in American Street, a novel that brings individual stories to life through empathy, emotion, and truth – while also acknowledging complexities of  immigration, poverty, love, patriotism, religion, ethnicity, culture, language, and so much more. In truth, Zoboi’s writing is deeply intersectional and multilayered, nuanced with keen observations about lived experiences. In an interview with Zoboi, Alice Cary of BookPage hones in on this complexity, calling Zoboi “a novelist who digs deep into what happens when cultures, nationalities, races, and religions collide.”  It fits, then, that Zoboi’s  work appears in literary outlets which emphasize speaking with honesty. Her award-winning story, “At the Shores of Dawn,” for instance, first appeared in the literary journal of One?Respe!, an educational organization focused on the power of reflection, taking its name from a creole expression loosely meaning Honor and Respect.

Perhaps just as important as the themes she addresses are the audiences for which Zoboi writes. Her audiences range from children to adults, leading s blogger for Kreyolicious to observe that, “to call writer Ibi Zoboi ‘versatile’ is an understatement. Her pen will write a compelling essay one minute, a short story the next, and a children’s book the next.”

After reading through Zoboi’s work, it is clear that part of her trademark style is a rare ability to write fluid, internal dialogue that fleshes out social nuances often difficult to put into words – and to write stories on behalf of lesser-known, lesser-voiced protagonists who are too often omitted from the broader publishing world. Hers is most certainly a writing worth seeking out, be it one of her essays, her children’s book, or her first YA novel. We highly recommend it.

And for those who want to learn more and about from the woman herself, we encourage you to visit Zoboi’s website and blog, where she describes her writing in more detail, tackles issues of representation and blackness in literature, and explores and what it means to write children’s literature with empowered brown characters.

~ Keira

p.s. special shout out to LAII graduate student, Jacob Sandler, for his help with writing this feature!


Photograph of Ibi Zoboi reprinted from author website.

Hello! Welcome Back!

Hello, dear friends!

It has been a long time since we last connected. I hope this finds you well as the school year gets underway!

We’re finally back at it and looking forward to a year of sharing resources with you dedicated to Latin American/Latinx literature in the classroom and the wealth of possibilities that accompany this focus. To get us started, I’m pleased to share our list of 2017-2018 titles with you. We hope you’ll join us each month as we read these books with our local book group here in Albuquerque, and follow along as our blogging team shares complementary children’s book reviews and related ideas.

Happy reading,
Keira

2017-08-21-Vamos-a-Leer

Athe-jumbiesugust 12: The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Corinne La Mer claims she isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. They’re just tricksters made up by parents to frighten their children. Then one night Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest, and shining yellow eyes follow her to the edge of the trees. They couldn’t belong to a jumbie. Or could they? When Corinne spots a beautiful stranger at the market the very next day, she knows something extraordinary is about to happen. When this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, danger is in the air. Severine plans to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn’t know she possessed to stop Severine and to save her island home.


lucky-broken-girl

September 11: Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar

In this unforgettable multicultural coming-of-age narrative—based on the author’s childhood in the 1960s—a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed. Ruthie’s plight will intrigue readers, and her powerful story of strength and resilience, full of color, light, and poignancy, will stay with them for a long time.

Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro’s Cuba to New York City. Just when she’s finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English—and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood’s hopscotch queen—a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie’s world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger and she comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times


reputations.jpgOctober 9: Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Javier Mallarino is a living legend. He is his country’s most influential political cartoonist, the consciousness of a nation. A man capable of repealing laws, overturning judges’ decisions, destroying politicians’ careers with his art. His weapons are pen and ink. Those in power fear him and pay him homage.

After four decades of a brilliant career, he’s at the height of his powers. But this all changes when he’s paid an unexpected visit from a young woman who upends his sense of personal history and forces him to re-evaluate his life and work, questioning his position in the world.

In Reputations, Juan Gabriel Vásquez examines the weight of the past, how a public persona intersects with private histories, and the burdens and surprises of memory. In this intimate novel that recalls authors like Coetzee and Ian McEwan, Vásquez plumbs universal experiences to create a masterful story, one that reverberates long after you turn the final page.


american-streetNovember 13: American Street by Ibi Zoboi

American Street is an evocative and powerful coming-of-age story perfect for fans of Everything, EverythingBone Gap; and All American Boys.

In this stunning debut novel, Pushcart-nominated author Ibi Zoboi draws on her own experience as a young Haitian immigrant, infusing this lyrical exploration of America with magical realism and vodouculture.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?


like-water-for-chocolate.jpgDecember 11: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

The bestselling phenomenon and inspiration for the award-winning film.

Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico blends poignant romance and bittersweet wit.

This classic love story takes place on the De la Garza ranch, as the tyrannical owner, Mama Elena, chops onions at the kitchen table in her final days of pregnancy. While still in her mother’s womb, her daughter to be weeps so violently she causes an early labor, and little Tita slips out amid the spices and fixings for noodle soup. This early encounter with food soon becomes a way of life, and Tita grows up to be a master chef, using cooking to express herself and sharing recipes with readers along the way.


maximilian-and-the-mystery-of-the-guardian-angel

January 8: Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Lubre Thriller by Xavier Garza

Margarito acts like any other eleven-year-old aficionado of lucha libre. He worships all the players. But in the summer just before sixth grade, he tumbles over the railing at a match in San Antonio and makes a connection to the world of Mexican wrestling that will ultimately connect him—maybe by blood!—to the greatest hero of all time: the Guardian Angel.

Xavier Garza was born in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. An enthusiastic author, artist, teacher, and storyteller, his work is a lively documentation of the dreams, superstitions, and heroes in the bigger-than-life world of south Texas.


the-inexplicable-logic-of-my-life

February 12: The  Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

A “mesmerizing, poetic exploration of family, friendship, love and loss” from the acclaimed author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. (New York Times Book Review)

Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it’s senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?
This humor-infused, warmly humane look at universal questions of belonging is a triumph.


the-only-road

March 12: The Only Road by Alexandria Diaz

“Powerful and timely.” —Booklist (starred review)
“An important, must-have addition to the growing body of literature with immigrant themes.” —School Library Journal (starred review)

Twelve-year-old Jaime makes the treacherous and life-changing journey from his home in Guatemala to live with his older brother in the United States in this gripping and realistic middle grade novel.

Jaime is sitting on his bed drawing when he hears a scream. Instantly, he knows: Miguel, his cousin and best friend, is dead.

Everyone in Jaime’s small town in Guatemala knows someone who has been killed by the Alphas, a powerful gang that’s known for violence and drug trafficking. Anyone who refuses to work for them is hurt or killed—like Miguel. With Miguel gone, Jaime fears that he is next. There’s only one choice: accompanied by his cousin Ángela, Jaime must flee his home to live with his older brother in New Mexico.

Inspired by true events, The Only Road is an individual story of a boy who feels that leaving his home and risking everything is his only chance for a better life. It is a story of fear and bravery, love and loss, strangers becoming family, and one boy’s treacherous and life-changing journey.


how-i-became-a-nun.jpgApril 9: How I Became a Nun by César Aira

“A good story and first-rate social science.”―New York Times Book Review. A sinisterly funny modern-day Through the Looking Glass that begins with cyanide poisoning and ends in strawberry ice cream.

“My story, the story of ‘how I became a nun,’ began very early in my life; I had just turned six. The beginning is marked by a vivid memory, which I can reconstruct down to the last detail. Before, there is nothing, and after, everything is an extension of the same vivid memory, continuous and unbroken, including the intervals of sleep, up to the point where I took the veil .” So starts Cesar Aira’s astounding “autobiographical” novel. Intense and perfect, this invented narrative of childhood experience bristles with dramatic humor at each stage of growing up: a first ice cream, school, reading, games, friendship. The novel begins in Aira’s hometown, Coronel Pringles. As self-awareness grows, the story rushes forward in a torrent of anecdotes which transform a world of uneventful happiness into something else: the anecdote becomes adventure, and adventure, fable, and then legend. Between memory and oblivion, reality and fiction, Cesar Aira’s How I Became a Nun retains childhood’s main treasures: the reality of fable and the delirium of invention.

A few days after his fiftieth birthday, Aira noticed the thin rim of the moon, visible despite the rising sun. When his wife explained the phenomenon to him he was shocked that for fifty years he had known nothing about “something so obvious, so visible.” This epiphany led him to write How I Became a Nun. With a subtle and melancholic sense of humor he reflects on his failures, on the meaning of life and the importance of literature.


shame-the-stars

May 14: Shame the Stars by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Eighteen-year-old Joaquin del Toro’s future looks bright. With his older brother in the priesthood, he s set to inherit his family s Texas ranch. He s in love with Dulcena and she s in love with him. But it s 1915, and trouble has been brewing along the US-Mexico border. On one side, the Mexican Revolution is taking hold; on the other, Texas Rangers fight Tejano insurgents, and ordinary citizens are caught in the middle.

As tensions grow, Joaquin is torn away from Dulcena, whose father s critical reporting on the Rangers in the local newspaper has driven a wedge between their families. Joaquin s own father insists that the Rangers are their friends, and refuses to take sides in the conflict. But when their family ranch becomes a target, Joaquin must decide how he will stand up for what s right.

Shame the Stars is a rich reimagining of Romeo and Juliet set in Texas during the explosive years of Mexico s revolution. Filled with period detail, captivating romance, and political intrigue, it brings Shakespeare s classic to life in an entirely new way.”

Summer Reading

May-2017-Vamos-a-LeerHi all,

We’re still here! Some of our students may have left the office, but a few of us are still here quietly working away during the summer months and our local book group is going strong.

So, I’m popping in with a few pieces of news to share.

First, keep your eye out for scattered updates from Hania, who will be keeping us company this summer as she shares more interviews from award-winning Américas authors and illustrators.

Second, I’m pleased to report that our local book group has decided to continue reading adult novels over the summer. In case you’re in Albuquerque and want to join us, or if you’re further afield and just want to follow along, below I’ve copied what we’ll be reading.

That’s it for now!  Don’t be surprised if you hear from us every now and again in the next few weeks when opportunities arise, but come August we’ll return to our scheduled content.

Cheers,
Keira

 

June 19th @ Tractor Brewing |  5:00-7:00 p.m.

1800 4th St NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102

Clarice-LispectorThe Complete Stories of Clarise Lispector

The recent publication by New Directions of five Lispector novels revealed to legions of new readers her darkness and dazzle. Now, for the first time in English, are all the stories that made her a Brazilian legend: from teenagers coming into awareness of their sexual and artistic powers to humdrum housewives whose lives are shattered by unexpected epiphanies to old people who don’t know what to do with themselves. Clarice’s stories take us through their lives―and ours.

From one of the greatest modern writers, these stories, gathered from the nine collections published during her lifetime, follow an unbroken time line of success as a writer, from her adolescence to her death bed.

NY Times Review / New Yorker / The Globe and the Mail / Paris Review

 

July 17th @ Casa Rondeña | 5:00-7:00 p.m.

733 Chavez Rd, Los Ranchos De Albuquerque, NM 87107

Umami

Umami / Umami by Laia Jufresa

It started with a drowning.

Deep in the heart of Mexico City, where five houses cluster around a sun-drenched courtyard, lives Ana, a precocious twelve-year-old who spends her days buried in Agatha Christie novels to forget the mysterious death of her little sister years earlier. Over the summer she decides to plant a milpa in her backyard, and as she digs the ground and plants her seeds, her neighbors in turn delve into their past. The ripple effects of grief, childlessness, illness and displacement saturate their stories, secrets seep out and questions emerge — Who was my wife? Why did my Mom leave? Can I turn back the clock? And how could a girl who knew how to swim drown?

In prose that is dazzlingly inventive, funny and tender, Laia Jufresa immerses us in the troubled lives of her narrators, deftly unpicking their stories to offer a darkly comic portrait of contemporary Mexico, as whimsical as it is heart-wrenching.

NPR Book Interview / The Culture Trip Review

Poets and Poems: #NationalPoetryMonth

Hello, all!

Our wonderful children’s book reviewer, Alice, is away from the blog this week. In  place of her review, we thought we’d share this beautiful resource developed by Bookology Magazine: Poetry Mosaic.

In honor of #NationalPoetryMonth, Bookology has invited authors to read their original poetry and is compiling the recordings into a mosaic of poets and poetry, with a new author highlighted each day. All of the poets selected are amazing, but here are a few of our Vamos a Leer favorites: Jorge Argueta, Pat Mora, and Margarita Engle. Argueta and Engle read both English and Spanish versions of their poems, so this is an even better start to the day for our bilingual readers. Take your pick of language!

Jorge Tetl Argueta     Pat Mora     Margarita Engle
Hope you enjoy this poetic start to the day as much as we did!

Cheers,
Keira

Sobre Abril: Latinx Children’s Literature Celebrating the Natural World and the Beauty of Poetry

2017-Sobre-Abril

Hola a tod@s!

As March and Women’s History Month wrap up, I’ve been pleasantly distracted by the birdsong outside my window, the patter of rain that passed over our desert city last night, and the many spring flowers bursting from the ground. With National Poetry Month coming next week, I’m compelled to think in poetic terms. This piece from Neruda seems appropriate:

La Primavera

El pájaro ha venido
a dar la luz:
de cada trino suyo
nace el agua.

Y entre agua y luz que el aire desarrollan
ya está la primavera inaugurada,
ya sabe la semilla que ha crecido,
la raíz se retrata en la corola,
se abren por fin los párpados del polen.

Todo lo hizo un pájaro sencillo
desde una rama verde.


The Spring

The bird has come
to give us light:
from each of its trills
water is born.

Between water and light, air unfolds.
Now the spring’s inaugurated.
The seed knows that it has grown
the root pictures the flower
and the pollen’s eyelids finally open.

All this done by a simple bird
on a green branch.

Here at Vamos a Leer we’re heartily embracing the sentiment of spring and poetry. In the coming weeks, we’ll share resources that highlight both, from children’s books that look at the natural world in a variety of ways to poetry for younger and older readers alike.

We hope you enjoy our findings as much we’ve enjoyed discovering them.

Cheers,
Keira