Friday, November 07, 2014

#FridayReads: The Heart Has Its Reasons by Maria Duenas

English: San Francisco harbor (Yerba Buena Cov...
 San Francisco harbor (Yerba Buena Cove), 1850 or 1851, with Yerba Buena Island in the background. Daguerrotype. . (Photo: Wikipedia)
Declared “a writer to watch” (Publishers Weekly, starred review), New York Times bestselling author María Dueñas pours heart and soul into this story of a woman who discovers the power of second chances.

With her debut novel The Time in Between, María Dueñas garnered outstanding acclaim and inspired a TV series, dubbed the “Spanish Downton Abbey” by the media. 

USA TODAY said of the book: “From a terrific opening line to the final page, chapters zip by at a pulsing pace.” Now Dueñas returns with a novel about a heartbroken woman’s attempt to pick up the pieces of her shattered world.

Blanca Perea is a college professor in Madrid who seems to have it all. But her perfect career and marriage start to unravel when her husband of twenty years suddenly leaves her for another woman. Devastated, Blanca is forced to question the life she once had and how well she truly knows herself. 

She leaves Madrid for San Francisco, where she becomes entrenched in the history of an enigmatic Spanish writer who died decades earlier. The more Blanca discovers about this man, the more she is enthralled by the ill-fated loves, half truths, and silent ambitions that haunted his life.

With lush, imaginative prose and unforgettable characters, The Heart Has Its Reasons is a journey of the soul that takes readers from Spain to California, between the thorny past and all-too-real present. It is a story about the thrill of creating one’s life anew.

Friday, October 24, 2014

#FridayReads: ¡Tequila!: Distilling the Spirit of Mexico by Marie Gaytán

Italy has grappa, Russia has vodka, Jamaica has rum. Around the world, certain drinks—especially those of the intoxicating kind—are synonymous with their peoples and cultures. For Mexico, this drink is tequila. 

For many, tequila can conjure up scenes of body shots on Cancún bars and coolly garnished margaritas on sandy beaches. Its power is equally strong within Mexico, though there the drink is more often sipped rather than shot, enjoyed casually among friends, and used to commemorate occasions from the everyday to the sacred. Despite these competing images, tequila is universally regarded as an enduring symbol of lo mexicano.

¡Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico traces how and why tequila became and remains Mexico's national drink and symbol. Starting in Mexico's colonial era and tracing the drink's rise through the present day, Marie Sarita Gaytán reveals the formative roles played by some unlikely characters. 

Although the notorious Pancho Villa was a teetotaler, his image is now plastered across the labels of all manner of tequila producers—he's even the namesake of a popular brand. Mexican films from the 1940s and 50s, especially Western melodramas, buoyed tequila's popularity at home while World War II caused a spike in sales within the whisky-starved United States. 

Today, cultural attractions such as Jose Cuervo's Mundo Cuervo and the Tequila Express let visitors insert themselves into the Jaliscan countryside—now a UNESCO-protected World Heritage Site—and relish in the nostalgia of pre-industrial Mexico.

Our understanding of tequila as Mexico's spirit is not the result of some natural affinity but rather the cumulative effect of U.S.-Mexican relations, technology, regulation, the heritage and tourism industries, shifting gender roles, film, music, and literature. Like all stories about national symbols, the rise of tequila forms a complicated, unexpected, and poignant tale. 

By unraveling its inner workings, Gaytán encourages us to think critically about national symbols more generally, and the ways in which they both reveal and conceal to tell a story about a place, a culture, and a people. In many ways, the story of tequila is the story of Mexico.

Marie Sarita Gaytán is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at the University of Utah.

Friday, October 10, 2014

#FridayReads: Voyage of Strangers by Elizabeth Zelvin

Taino symbol of a sun
Taino symbol of a sun (Photo: Wikipedia)
The year is 1493, and young Jewish sailor Diego Mendoza has returned from Columbus’s triumphant first voyage with tales of lush landscapes, rivers running with gold, and welcoming locals. But back home in Spain, Diego finds the Inquisition at its terrifying peak, and he must protect his spirited sister, Rachel, from betrayal and death.

Disguising herself as a boy, Rachel sneaks onto Columbus’s second expedition, bound for the new lands they call the Indies. As the Spaniards build their first settlements and search for gold, Diego and Rachel fall in love with the place, people, and customs. Still forced to hide their religious faith and Rachel’s true identity, the brother and sister witness the Spaniards’ devastation of the island in their haste to harvest riches.

This unflinching look at Columbus’s exploration and its terrible cost to the native Taino people introduces two valiant young people who struggle against the inevitable destruction of paradise.

Elizabeth Zelvin is a New York City psychotherapist and author of a mystery series featuring recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohler. Liz is a three-time Agatha Award nominee and a Derringer Award nominee for Best Short Story. 

She is currently working on the sequel to Voyage of Strangers. Liz is also an award-winning poet with two books of poetry and a singer-songwriter whose album of original songs is titled Outrageous Older Woman. After many years in private practice and directing alcohol treatment programs, she now sees clients from all over the world online. Her author website is at www.elizabethzelvin.com. 

Visit www.lizzelvin.com for Liz’s music and www.LZcybershrink.com for online therapy. Liz is a veteran blogger, posting weekly for seven years on Poe’s Deadly Daughters and, most recently, on SleuthSayers.

Friday, October 03, 2014

#FridayReads: Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free

This will be big:  Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free
When the San José mine collapsed outside of Copiapó, Chile, in August 2010, it trapped thirty-three miners beneath thousands of feet of rock for a record-breaking sixty-nine days. The entire world watched what transpired above-ground during the grueling and protracted rescue, but the saga of the miners' experiences below the Earth's surface—and the lives that led them there—has never been heard until now. 
     For Deep Down Dark, the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Héctor Tobar received exclusive access to the miners and their tales. These thirty-three men came to think of the mine, a cavern inflicting constant and thundering aural torment, as a kind of coffin, and as a church where they sought redemption through prayer. Even while still buried, they all agreed that if by some miracle any of them escaped alive, they would share their story only collectively. Héctor Tobar was the person they chose to hear, and now to tell, that story. 
     The result is a masterwork or narrative journalism—a riveting, at times shocking, emotionally textured account of a singular human event. Deep Down Dark brings to haunting, tactile life the experience of being imprisoned inside a mountain of stone, the horror of being slowly consumed by hunger, and the spiritual and mystical elements that surrounded working in such a dangerous place. In its stirring final chapters, it captures the profound way in which the lives of everyone involved in the disaster were forever changed.
Héctor Tobar is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and a novelist. He is the author of The Barbarian Nurseries, Translation Nation, and The Tattooed Soldier. The son of Guatemalan immigrants, he is a native of Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and three children.

Visit him hectortobar.com and follow him @TobarWriter


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sometimes The King is a Woman

Via JWT San Juan, this mini documentary explores boxing greats Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto talk about what it takes to win the Greatest Fight, and then turn the tables on preconceived notions of "strength."


Friday, September 26, 2014

#FridayReads: The Prince of los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood by Richard Blanco

A poignant, hilarious, and inspiring memoir from the first Latino and openly gay inaugural poet, which explores his coming-of-age as the child of Cuban immigrants and his attempts to understand his place in America while grappling with his burgeoning artistic and sexual identities.

Richard Blanco’s childhood and adolescence were experienced between two imaginary worlds: his parents’ nostalgic world of 1950s Cuba and his imagined America, the country he saw on reruns of The Brady Bunch and Leave it to Beaver—an “exotic” life he yearned for as much as he yearned to see “la patria.”

Navigating these worlds eventually led Blanco to question his cultural identity through words; in turn, his vision as a writer—as an artist—prompted the courage to accept himself as a gay man. In this moving, contemplative memoir, the 2013 inaugural poet traces his poignant, often hilarious, and quintessentially American coming-of-age and the people who influenced him.

A prismatic and lyrical narrative rich with the colors, sounds, smells, and textures of Miami, Richard Blanco’s personal narrative is a resonant account of how he discovered his authentic self and ultimately, a deeper understanding of what it means to be American. His is a singular yet universal story that beautifully illuminates the experience of “becoming;” how we are shaped by experiences, memories, and our complex stories: the humor, love, yearning, and tenderness that define a life. 

Richard Blanco was born in Madrid in 1968 and immigrated as an infant with his Cuban-exile family to New York, then Miami, where he was raised and educated, earning a BS in civil engineering and an MFA in creative writing. An accomplished author, engineer, and educator, Blanco is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow and has received honorary doctorates from Macalester College, Colby College, and the University of Rhode Island. Following in the footsteps of such great writers as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou, in 2013 Blanco was chosen as the fifth inaugural poet of the United States, becoming the youngest, first Latino, first immigrant, and first gay writer to hold the honor. 

His prizewinning books include City of a Hundred Fires, Directions to the Beach of the Dead, Looking for The Gulf Motel, and For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet's Journey. His awards include the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press, the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center, the Patterson Poetry Prize, and the Thom Gunn Award.
 
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