¡Mira Look!: Featured Author: Marie Arana

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¡Saludos a tod@s! This week I have the pleasure to introduce you all to this month’s featured author: Marie Arana, author of our featured work, American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood! Like many of our featured authors, Marie Arana is a multi-faceted professional, balancing different platforms ranging from biographies to book reviews, and professional titles such as: “Writer at Large,” “Editor-in-Chief,” and “Senior Advisor to the Library of Congress.” It is a great pleasure to discuss and write about an individual who has done so much for the literary community and beyond, so without further ado, let me share with you some of her background.

In her own words, according to the section titled “Marie’s Story” on Arana’s website:

Marie is a Peruvian-American author of both nonfiction and fiction, senior advisor to the U.S. Librarian of Congress, director of the National Book Festival, and a Writer at Large for the Washington Post. For many years, she was editor-in-chief of the Washington Post’s literary section, Book World. She has also written for the New York Times, the National Geographic, the International Herald Tribune, Spain’s El País, and Peru’s El Comercio, among many other publications. Her biography of Simón Bolívar won the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize; her memoir, American Chica, was a finalist for the National Book Award. She has also written two novels, Cellophane and Lima Nights.

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Book Review: American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood

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American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood

Written by Marie Arana
Published by Bantam Dell
ISBN: 978-0385319638
Age level: Adult

Amongst many other things, Marie Arana, author of American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood, is a brilliant storyteller. American Chica, her memoir, tells the story of a childhood, growing up with a Peruvian engineer and aristocrat for a father and an American musician as a mother. She begins with slowly discussing and dissecting her family structure: her perfect sister and her adventurous brother, her two parents who seem, at times, so different from each other, and her role. In the end, it’s not only a beautiful narrative of her background, it’s also a telling tale of the lineage of a family and the connection of two different cultures that offer distinctly divergent ideas of what it means to be “American.”

Wendy Gimbel, author of the New York Times book review for American Chica, stated:

“One of the many reasons the reader can’t put this memoir down is the author’s impressive command of her craft. “Storytelling,” the critic Walter Benjamin once wrote, “sinks the thing into the life of the storyteller, in order to bring it out of him again. Thus traces of the storyteller cling to the story the way handprints of the potter cling to the dry vessel.” Arana has left her own imprint on her material, while at the same time displaying virtuosity in the storyteller’s traditional gifts: sparseness, clarity and a passion for allegory.”

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¡Mira, Look!: Featured Author: Daniel Alarcón

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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. Continue reading

Book Review: Lost City Radio

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Written by Da
niel Alarcón
Published by Harper Perennial
ISBN: 0060594810
Age level: Adult

As many of you may know, we are really excited to be reading adult books every other month in the Vamos a Leer book group. Although we love(!) young adult novels, choosing older books allows us to expand our reading list and discussions. These books draw on many of the themes that we discuss for younger readers, but tackle them in more complicated and nuanced narratives. Personally, this serves as our own form of professional development, contributing to our own background knowledge. In the end, these novels can allow us as educators to be more empathetic and understanding as we extend ourselves to really connect with some of the students and issues with whom and which we work.

Our first adult selection, and the book I will be reviewing today, is the 2008 novel Lost City Radio from Peruvian-American writer Daniel Alarcón. I first read Lost City Radio nearly three years ago after I had read his then newly-released novel At Night We Walk in Circles. I think I can speak for many when I say after you read Alarcón for the first time, you don’t stop. Instead, you find his other novel, his short stories, his podcast and his news articles fluttering through some of the most respected spheres on the internet, and you devour them. He is an intoxicating author and writes with such a beautiful simplicity, a created simplicity, that puts the reader directly into an experience and makes reading almost effortless.

Lost City Radio is set in an unnamed capital city in an unnamed Latin American country, and here we encounter Norma, the voice of the unnamed nation. Unlike the magical realism sometimes associated with fictional settings in Latin American literature, this novel is painfully realistic and political. Although set in an unnamed Latin American country, it represents Alarcón’s Peruvian homeland and draws on the country’s history of conflict and civil war. To read more about how Alarcón’s novel responds to history, see the Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies, Spring 2007. In some ways, we can read the novel as an intimate narrative of Peru. Continue reading

Introduction to New Writer: Logan

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I’m Logan and I will be joining you monthly here on the Vamos a Leer Blog as your insider for information on the upcoming adult novels and authors we will be reading for our book group. I come to you from rural Wisconsin, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, in 2012, where I studied Literature and Creative Writing. Upon graduation, I accepted a nomination to volunteer for the United States Peace Corps in Panama. In Panama I lived in a rural, agriculture-driven community on the Costa Rican border and primarily worked in the sectors of youth development, sexual health education and English education. It was Panama that really got me interested in Latin America and more specifically, Latin American populations. The people I lived and worked with were so open, so sweet, so community-oriented that I was immediately attracted to the idea of studying about and working with Latin Americans, which has brought me to the Latin American & Iberian Institute (LAII) at the University of New Mexico. Continue reading