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.

Friday, September 19, 2014

#FridayReads: The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami

In this stunning work of historical fiction, Laila Lalami brings us the imagined memoirs of the first black explorer of America—a Moroccan slave whose testimony was left out of the official record.

In 1527, the conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez sailed from the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda with a crew of six hundred men and nearly a hundred horses. His goal was to claim what is now the Gulf Coast of the United States for the Spanish crown and, in the process, become as wealthy and famous as Hernán Cortés.

But from the moment the Narváez expedition landed in Florida, it faced peril—navigational errors, disease, starvation, as well as resistance from indigenous tribes. Within a year there were only four survivors: the expedition’s treasurer, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca; a Spanish nobleman named Alonso del Castillo Maldonado; a young explorer named Andrés Dorantes de Carranza; and Dorantes’s Moroccan slave, Mustafa al-Zamori, whom the three Spaniards called Estebanico. These four survivors would go on to make a journey across America that would transform them from proud conquis-tadores to humble servants, from fearful outcasts to faith healers.

The Moor’s Account brilliantly captures Estebanico’s voice and vision, giving us an alternate narrative for this famed expedition. As the dramatic chronicle unfolds, we come to understand that, contrary to popular belief, black men played a significant part in New World exploration and Native American men and women were not merely silent witnesses to it. In Laila Lalami’s deft hands, Estebanico’s memoir illuminates the ways in which stories can transmigrate into history, even as storytelling can offer a chance for redemption and survival.

Laila Lalami was born and raised in Morocco. She is the author of the short story collection Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award, and the novel Secret Son, which was on the Orange Prize long list. Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, The Guardian, and The New York Times, and in many anthologies. She is the recipient of a British Council Fellowship and is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside. She lives in Los Angeles.

Friday, September 12, 2014

#FridayReads: A Cup of Water Under My Bed by Daisy Hernandez

A coming-of-age memoir by a Colombian-Cuban woman about shaping lessons from home into a new, queer life

In this lyrical, coming-of-age memoir, Daisy Hernández chronicles what the women in her Cuban-Colombian family taught her about love, money, and race. Her mother warns her about envidia and men who seduce you with pastries, while one tía bemoans that her niece is turning out to be “una india” instead of an American. Another auntie instructs that when two people are close, they are bound to become like uña y mugre, fingernails and dirt, and that no, Daisy’s father is not godless. He’s simply praying to a candy dish that can be traced back to Africa. 

These lessons—rooted in women’s experiences of migration, colonization, y cariño—define in evocative detail what it means to grow up female in an immigrant home. In one story, Daisy sets out to defy the dictates of race and class that preoccupy her mother and tías, but dating women and transmen, and coming to identify as bisexual, leads her to unexpected questions. In another piece, NAFTA shuts local factories in her hometown on the outskirts of New York City, and she begins translating unemployment forms for her parents, moving between English and Spanish, as well as private and collective fears. In prose that is both memoir and commentary, Daisy reflects on reporting for the New York Times as the paper is rocked by the biggest plagiarism scandal in its history and plunged into debates about the role of race in the newsroom.

A heartfelt exploration of family, identity, and language, A Cup of Water Under My Bed is ultimately a daughter’s story of finding herself and her community, and of creating a new, queer life.

Daisy Hernández grew up in Fairview, New Jersey in a Cuban-Colombian family. She's worked at the New York Times, Jenny Craigs, McDonald's, and ColorLines magazine (though not in that order) and has made home in Virginia, Florida, California, England, and the Upper East Side (though again not in that order). She is the author of "A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir" (Beacon Press, 2014) and coeditor of the anthology "Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism" (Seal Press, 2002). 

Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, bitch magazine, Ms. magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, Fourth Genre, and Bellingham Review. A former editor of ColorLines magazine, she has an MFA in fiction from the University of Miami and an MA in Latin American Studies and Journalism from New York University.
 
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