Our Next Good Read. . .He Forgot to Say Goodbye

he forgot to say goodbyeJoin us March 2nd at Bookworks from 5:00-7:00 pm to discuss our next book.  We are reading He Forgot to Say Goodbye (ages 12 and up) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Here’s a sneak peek into the book: (from Goodreads)

Ramiro Lopez and Jake Upthegrove don’t appear to have much in common. Ram lives in the Mexican-American working-class barrio of El Paso called “Dizzy Land.” His brother is sinking into a world of drugs, wreaking havoc in their household. Jake is a rich West Side white boy who has developed a problem managing his anger. An only child, he is a misfit in his mother’s shallow and materialistic world. But Ram and Jake do have one thing in common: They are lost boys who have never met their fathers. This sad fact has left both of them undeniably scarred and obsessed with the men who abandoned them. As Jake and Ram overcome their suspicions of each other, they begin to move away from their loner existences and realize that they are capable of reaching out beyond their wounds and the neighborhoods that they grew up in. Their friendship becomes a healing in a world of hurt.

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Book Giveaway!! He Forgot to Say Goodbye

Book-Giveaway-Seal_DraftWe’re giving away a copy of He Forgot to Say Goodbye (ages 12 and up)written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz-our featured novel for March’s book group meeting!! Check out the following review from Publishers Weekly:

Setting this wise and trenchant coming-of-age story in El Paso, Tex., Sáenz (Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood) alternates between two teenage narrators from very different backgrounds who nonetheless share the same disfiguring pain—their fathers walked out on them years ago. Soft-spoken Ramiro Lopez is the responsible son of a hardworking single mother, a role that intensifies when his bitter younger brother overdoses on heroin; Ram’s high school is next door to that of combative Jake Upthegrove, who’s disgusted with his mother and stepfather’s shallow, materialistic values. As the characters endure traumatic events…the author shows them developing redemptive friendships—all the while preserving their highly individuated voices. The protagonists and their friends seem so real and earn the audience’s loyalty so legitimately that it will be hard for readers to part from them.

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Local Event! Benjamin Alire Sáenz in Santa Fe

SaenzIt’s no secret we’re huge fans of Benjamin Alire Sáenz at Vamos a Leer.  Last year our book group read Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood, and this past February we read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.  We absolutely loved both of them.  So you can imagine how excited we were when we found out he’s going to be in Santa Fe!!

Named one of 2010’s “Fifty of the Most Inspiring Authors in the World” by Poets & Writers magazine, Sáenz studied philosophy and theology and was a Wallace E. Stegner fellow in poetry at Stanford University. Born in Old Picacho, New Mexico in 1954, Sáenz has been a member of the faculty at the University of Texas at El Paso since 1992. Continue reading

¡Mira, Look!: Benjamin Alire-Sáenz

benjamin alire saenzThis week, we turn our attention to the author of this month’s Book Group, Benjamin Alire-Sáenz. Sáenz was born in 1954 in Old Picacho, Mexico just approximately forty miles short of the U.S.-Mexico border. He was raised in a traditional Mexican-American Catholic family. In fact, upon graduating from Las Cruces High School, Sáenz entered seminary to become a priest. After being ordained and serving three years as a priest, Sáenz decided to leave the priesthood.

Then, Sáenz attended the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) where he studied English and creative writing. Here, he received his Master’s degree. Sáenz began work on his Ph.D. at Stanford, but he returned to El Paso and began teaching prior to earning this degree. At UTEP, he started teaching in the bilignual Masters of Fine Arts program. Currently, Sáenz is a faculty member at UTEP and he continues to write. Continue reading

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle-and-DanteWe had another great book group meeting on Monday night! We so appreciate all of you who come out and spend the evening talking about literature with us! Sáenz latest was another book group favorite.  With the multiple themes covered in this beautiful novel, it’s the perfect book to consider bringing into your classroom for February.  Neoshia has been sharing different books and resources appropriate for focusing on various ways of teaching about civil rights, and this book offers one more way to integrate civil rights lesson plans into the classroom.  In our Educator’s Guide we’ve included a number of lesson plans and resources for teaching about sexuality, gay history, and gay rights.  As I discuss in more detail below, it’s also a unique love story that goes beyond just romantic love but touches on the love shared between friends and the love between parents and their children–perfect for this Valentine’s Day month!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012
ISBN: 978-1442408920
Age Level: 12 and up

Description (From GoodReads):

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

My thoughts:

It’s no secret that we love Benjamin Alire Sáenz here at Vamos a Leer.  He’s been a favorite author of mine since I discovered Sammy and Julianna in Hollywood two summers ago.  This past summer our book group took a break from young adult literature and read Saenz’s Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club.   I remember starting it with some hesitancy, fearing that I would be disappointed because there was no way it could be as moving as Sammy & Juliana.  I was wrong.  It was amazing.  Despite this, I was hesitant again when I heard about Aristotle and Dante.  All the reviews said it was excellent.  It was continually placed on lists of award winning books.  I put off reading it, afraid it wouldn’t live up to my expectations.  Of course, my fears were completely unfounded.  It is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read.  It may be cliché to say that it is achingly beautiful, but I can’t come up with another way to describe it.  While I cried through at least the last third of the book, I absolutely loved every minute of reading it.  Continue reading

Our Next Good Read. . .Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Join us February 3rd at Bookworks from 5:00-7:00 pm to discuss our next book.  We are Aristotlereading Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secretes of the Universe (Ages 12 and up) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Here’s a sneak peek into the book: (from Goodreads)

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Continue reading

Book Giveaway!! Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

From The Librarian who doesn't say shhhh @ http://busyteacher.wordpress.com/tag/realistic-fiction/

From The Librarian who doesn’t say shhhh @ http://busyteacher.wordpress.com/tag/realistic-fiction/

We’re giving away a copy of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universewritten by Benjamin Alire Sáenz–our featured novel for February’s book group meeting!! Check out the following from L. Lee Butler at NPR:

“Two Mexican-American teens living in El Paso in the 1980s, Dante and Ari could scarcely be more different. But through their years of growing up, apart and together in the pages of this lyrical novel, they are able to become more to each other than either could have imagined. While most young adult novels are confined to a small, urgent window of time, Benjamin Alire Saenz’s book is expansive, taking in the whole of an adolescent friendship, through momentous turning points and casual disintegrations. Ari’s voice is powerful and the perspective is specifically Mexican-American without being exclusively Mexican-American. If you’re anything like me, your heart will be in your throat through the final third of the book, hoping against hope for the joy that these characters deserve with each other.”
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¡Mira, Look!: Américas Award Commended Titles

Hello, all,

In the past few weeks I’ve shared the winner and honorable mention for the 2013 Américas Award. This week I complete these announcements by sharing the titles from the final award category: commended titles.

Each of the commended titles is worthy of extended discussions.  They’re all remarkable books and as such I find it difficult to narrow the conversation down to a single post.  For the time being I’ll keep it brief, but only so as not to spoil future posts.  Spoiler alert: in the future, look for longer posts from us regarding Sáenz and Lake. Continue reading

Summer Reading: Vamos a Leer Book Group

As I mentioned before, our Vamos a Leer book group has decided to keep meeting over the summer, but we’re going to take a short break from our typical young adult literature novles and read some books written for an audience a little older than the k-12 student.  We’d love to have you join us, even if you haven’t come before.  Since it’s the summer you may have a little more free time than during the school year.  Come by and join us for some conversation and coffee–we’ll meet Monday June 3rd and Monday July 1st from 5:00 to 7:00 at Bookworks.  Below I’ve included some information about our two book picks.

For Monday June 3rd we’re reading Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.  If you’ve been around Vamos a Leer much, you know that Kentucky  ClubSáenz is one of our favorite authors, so we’re incredibly excited to read his new collection of short stories which recently won the 2013 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Click here to be taken to an interview with Sáenz about the book. Continue reading

En la Clase: “In the Wake of Juárez–Teaching Politics, Art, and Poetry”

El cholito

El Cholito by Alice Leora Briggs

Our most recent event was the professional development workshop for educators, “In the Wake of Juárez: Teaching Politics through Art.”  Held at the UNM Art Museum, the workshop had two purposes: first, to engage with Alice Leora Briggs’ exhibit “In the Wake of Juárez” and then to discuss how to implement it in the classroom.  We’ll be posting a link to our entire curriculum guide for the workshop soon, but I wanted to share part of our curriculum with you today, as it is a poetry based lesson that would be perfect for National Poetry Month. Continue reading