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


Book Review: Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood–Our Mexican Graffiti

"Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood," written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood is the story of one teenage boy’s coming-of-age, but at the same time, it’s so much more than that.  Denise Chávez explains, “Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood is our American Graffiti. No, that’s not right. It’s our Mexican Graffiti.”  It’s a statement about life—life as a Mexican teenager living in a small town in the United States in the late 1960s.  Sammy Santos lives in the Hollywood barrio of Las Cruces, New Mexico.  The novel is the story of his senior year of high school—the year he must deal with the violent death of his girlfriend, the reality of the enduring poverty of his family, the racist policies of his high school, and the consequences of the Vietnam War.  While set in the 1960s, it’s a book that I believe will speak strongly to our students today.  In fact, I wish I had read this book sooner, before my years as a middle school teacher.  I saw older versions of my students in its pages. Continue reading

Sammy & Juliana Give Away Winners!!

Thanks so much to all of you who have visited our blog and shared your thoughts with us!! We included everyone who commented since July 1st in the drawing.  These are our five lucky winners–Florence, Monica, Martha, Doris and Ylena!  I’ll be emailing you to find out where you would like us to ship the book, so be on the lookout for that!

Congratulations! Hope you enjoy the book!

Our next give away starts today!! We’ll continue to do a drawing for 5 copies of each book we feature in our book group each month, so keep checking back and sharing with us!

Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood: Resources, Blogs, and other Thoughts

As you’ve probably read, we’re highlighting Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood for our August book group meeting.  The winners of our Book Give Away will be announced later this afternoon!! We’ll be posting our own review and our Educator’s Guide in the next two weeks, but I thought I’d share what other reviewers and bloggers have said about the book below.

Reading in Color is a great blog.  What makes it even better, is that it is written by a teen!! To give you a better idea of the purpose of the blog, I’ve shared the author’s own words below–

“Reading in Color is a book blog that reviews YA/MG books about people of color
(poc). There is a serious lack of books being reviewed by teens that are YA/MG
about people of color, I hope my blog is one step closer to filling in this
I started Reading in Color after I discovered the wonderful
world of book blogs. I loved being able to discuss books with fellow book
lovers. But I soon noticed that very few books about POC were being reviewed. I
wanted recommendations of YA books about POC, sometimes I got tired of reading
about the white norm. So I started this blog to get recommendations about YA
POC and share them with others. After all, I couldn’t be the only teen of color
who felt this way? Since starting my blog, I’ve been including MG that features

How often do we wish we’d know what our teen readers think about a book before we use it in class the first time? Here you can! Reading in Color reviewed Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood! Check it out to see what they said!

Three other blogs I really like also reviewed the book, so I’ve linked to them below. I hope these will give you a better sense of the book and it’s potential value if you’re considering reading it and/or using it in your classroom.

Book Give Away for Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood

We’re giving away 5 copies of Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood–the first featured novel for this year’s book group!! All you have to do is comment on any post on the blog by THIS FRIDAY July 20th. We’ll put all the names of those of you who have commented between July 1st and July 20th into a ‘hat’ and draw five names.  If your name is chosen, we’ll email you ASAP about getting the book to you.

Good luck! Hope to see you August 6th at Bookworks!

Our next good read. . .Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood

Vamos a Leer is back! Join us August 6th at Bookworks from 5:00-7:00 to discuss our first book of the 2012-2013 school year.  We are reading Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.   It’s quite an amazing novel set in Las Cruces, New Mexico–our home state.   Here’s a sneak peek into the book. . .

The Hollywood where Sammy Santos and Juliana Ríos live is not the one on the West Coast, the one with all the glitz and glitter. This Hollywood is a tough barrio at the edges of a small town in southern New Mexico. The year is 1969 and Sammy and his fellow citizens of Hollywood attend Las Cruces High School where they face a world of racism, dress codes, the war in Vietnam and the everyday violence of their own barrio. In the summer before his senior year begins, Sammy falls in love with Juliana, a girl whose tough veneer disguises a world of hurt.

In Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, Benjamin Alire Sáenz captures the essence of what it meant to grow up Chicano in Small town America in the late 1960s. He creates a cast of characters that embody humor, toughness, innocence and survival—and in doing so, he evokes the bitter-sweet ambience found in such novels as Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show.” (Taken from http://www.cincopuntos.com/products_detail.sstg?id=85).

We hope to see you there!