¡Mira, Look!: Author’s Corner: Edwidge Danticat

edwidge danticat

Saludos todos! As many of you know, once a month we like to take the time to give special attention to our featured authors and their writing. This week we are featuring Edwidge Danticat, the prolific, inspiring author of many children’s, young adult, and adult books, whom many of you may also recognize from several of my previous ¡Mira, Look! posts. Danticat is originally from Haiti and her books often deal with the culture of Haiti and the immigrant experience, providing a wealth of information on the country’s history, culture and current events.

Here is a short synopsis from Goodreads of Danticat’s life and her abundant accomplishments:

Edwidge Danticat was born in Haiti and moved to the United States when she was twelve. She is the author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection; Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist; and The Farming of Bones, an American Book Award winner. She is also the editor of The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States and The Beacon Best of 2000: Great Writing by Men and Women of All Colors and Cultures

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¡Mira Look!: Author’s Corner: Margarita Engle

MargaritaMargarita Engle is a prolific Cuban-American author who writes children’s, young adult and adult books. Many of her books have Latin American protagonists or touch upon themes of Latin American culture and society. Although she tackles complicated and difficult topics, from abolitionism and slavery to racist exploitation and destruction of the natural world, she makes her work accessible by writing in a poetic, free verse prose — a style which readers young and old alike can readily enjoy and understand. For these reasons and more, she remains one of our treasured and most frequent authors here at Vamos a Leer.

As we do for many of our featured authors, we like to take the time to celebrate that author and his or her collective body of work. Previously, we’ve enjoyed discussing several of Engle’s young adult novels, including The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom, Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck, and Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist. This month we are reading Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings, Engle’s poetic memoir which, though recently published, is already award-winning and acclaimed. In part, we return again and again to Engle’s work because it offers teachers a unique opportunity to engage students around lesser-studied histories. The books are relatively short, with an informative free verse writing form that is at once accessible to struggling readers and inspiring for older readers. Continue reading

¡Mira Look!: Author’s Corner: Daniel José Older

Daniel Jose OlderSaludos, todos! This week we will be showcasing the life and work of Daniel José Older, author of this month’s Featured Book, Shadowshaper. Shadowshaper has been hailed as one of the best new urban fantasies, and lauded for its diverse protagonists. However, Older is a man of many trades and, aside from his career as a young adult novelist, he is also a musician and composer. Older also spent nearly a decade working as a New York City paramedic, and he has turned some of the dispatches and memories from those years into creative non-fiction pieces, or “Ambulance stories.” Older’s time spent as a paramedic exposed him to a variety of social conditions and narratives, which, presumably, have influenced the political and sociological aspects of his creative work. His imaginative fantasy is grounded by real-world social critiques and commentaries. Older lives in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, which is also where his most recent novel, Shadowshaper, takes place.

According to a review of Shadowshaper by The New York Times, “In the best urban fantasy, the city is not just a backdrop, but functions as a character in its own right, offering up parallels between personal histories and histories of place. That is certainly true in Daniel José Older’s magnificent ‘Shadowshaper,’ which gives us a Brooklyn that is vital, authentic and under attack.” Indeed, Older’s own Brooklyn hometown emerges as a dynamic character full of artistic wonders and sociopolitical complexities, such as gentrification and racism. Continue reading

¡Mira Look!: Featured Author: Marie Arana

¡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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¡Mira, Look!: Featured Author: Sonia Nazario

Featured Author: Sonia Nazario | Vamos a Leer“Although I often felt exhausted and miserable, I knew I was experiencing only an iota of what migrant children go through…The journey gave me a glimmer of how hard this is for them.”
-Sonia Nazario

Saludos, everyone! This week I will be showcasing journalist Sonia Nazario, author of last month’s featured book, Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite With His Mother.

Sonia Nazario is an award-winning journalist who has dedicated years to exposing the trials and tribulations of South American immigrants in the United States. She specifically works on cases of immigrant children, highlighting the daily obstacles and injustices that they face. Nazario’s work has been a call for justice in defense of the defenseless. Continue reading

¡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

¡Mira, Look!: Featured Author: Isabel Quintero

Vamos a Leer | ¡Mira, Look! Featured Author: Isabel QuinteroIsabel Quintero is the author behind the now relatively well-known Gabi, A Girl in Pieces. If you haven’t heard of it yet, just check out some of the award lists from the School Library Journal, the Tomás Rivera Book Award, YALSA, Booklist Best Books, and the Américas Award, among others.

Despite being a new author to the publishing world writ large, Quintero is not new to the field of writing. As she describes on her blog, she has been dedicated to writing poetry and fiction throughout her life. Writing is, in her words, “not a luxury. It is a necessity for my being, for my happiness. It makes me whole.” Not surprisingly, this fascination and dedication to the writing process seems to have permeated Quintero’s professional life. Cinco Puntos Press explains in her biography that she is
“an elementary school library technician and loves sharing her passion for the written word with students. She also teaches community college part time and works as a freelance writer for the Arts Connection of San Bernardino. Quintero works as events coordinator for Orange Monkey Publishing and assistant editor for Tin Cannon, a literary journal.”  Certainly a literary theme seems to run throughout her various roles in life. Continue reading

¡Mira, Look!: Featured Author: Judith Ortiz Cofer

JudithHey there readers, this week I am honored to introduce Judith Ortiz Cofer, the author of our last featured YA book for this academic year, The Meaning of Consuelo. Ortiz Cofer was born in Hormingueros, Puerto Rico, where she spent her formative years until her father’s job in the Navy had them move to Paterson, New Jersey. Ortiz Cofer, though, returned repeatedly to the island, often staying for months at a time with her grandmother. Her passion for story telling was inspired by the many stories she heard from her grandmother during these visits.

In her writing, she deals with issues that have been themes in her own life, such as having experienced the opposing world views of her parents who disagreed about living on the island. While her mother wanted to maintain strong ties to her tradition and heritage, her father wished to disassociate himself and his children from the stigmas and lack of opportunity of being from the island. In an interview done by the Annenburg Foundation, she states, “I now know that it was my heritage; this is my material, this is what I can write about because I have intimate knowledge of it. So in a lot of my books, beginning with my early poetry and then on to my novels…my theme is: When you are always between cultures and between languages, how do you negotiate the world? And I think that is a very contemporary theme because America is constantly being populated and repopulated by new immigrants, and that is what makes this country unique.” This theme is evident throughout our featured novel, The Meaning of Consuelo, in particular.

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¡Mira, Look!: Featured Author: Ann E. Burg

Ann BurgThis month we are featuring Ann E. Burg and her YA novel-in-verse, Serafina’s Promise (ages 10 and up). This is her second novel-in-verse after the highly acclaimed All the Broken Pieces.

Burg’s parents were artists, thus her childhood was enriched with music and poetry, setting up a foundation for her creative form of writing. She started exploring her local libraries at a young age, and knew that she wanted to write books since she was four years old. Burg worked as an English teacher for ten years before shifting the majority of her attention to writing novels, though she wrote many poems and stories before her first publication in 2003.

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¡Mira, Look!: Featured Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz and A Perfect Season for Dreaming

Writer, poet, young adult novelist, and children’s book author Benjamin Alire Sáenz was born in 1954 in a farming village outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico, close to the U.S. -Mexico border. Author of this month’s Vamos a Leer featured novel, He Forgot to Say Goodbye, Sáenz was brought up in a traditional Mexican-American family.

As a child Sáenz grew up speaking only Spanish until he entered elementary school. As a way of obtaining educational opportunities, he became a Catholic priest, a calling that lasted only three years. His future belonged to writing. His education eventually took him to the St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, Colorado; the University of Louvain in Louvain, Belgium; the University of Texas at El Paso; the University of Iowa; and Stanford University. He has studied philosophy, art history, theology, creative writing, and literary studies with a focus on twentieth century American poetry.

In 1993, he resettled in the border region between Texas and New Mexico to teach in the bilingual MFA program at The University of Texas at El Paso. Themes and issues involving this region, immigration, and the Mexican-American experience remain central to his writing.

Sáenz’s writing career blossomed earlier with his award-winning poetry collections, but has received wide commendation most recently for his novels, and short stories.

PerfectSeasonforDreaming_cover_72dpiHis first young adult novel, Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood, won the 2004 Américas Book Award. He Forgot to Say Goodbye, his second young adult novel, won the Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award in 2009. His most recent and celebrated work, YA novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, tackles issues of identity and homosexuality. Saénz has also published four bilingual children’s books, one of which is A Perfect Season for Dreaming/Un tiempo perfecto para soñar.

Even as we feature his young adult work this month with He Forgot to Say Goodbye¸ we also want to draw your attention to A Perfect Season for Dreaming/Un tiempo perfecto para soñar as an example of his children’s literature. Whether he’s writing for younger or older readers, Sáenz always narrows in on our common humanity and the beauty of our world. Continue reading