Friday, September 27, 2013

#FridayReads: The Beast by Oscar Martinez

One day a couple of years ago, 300 migrants were kidnapped between the remote, dusty border towns of Altar, Mexico, and Sasabe, Arizona. Over half of them were never heard from again. Óscar Martínez, a young writer from El Salvador, was in Altar at the time of the abduction, and his story of the migrant disappearances is only one of the harrowing stories he tells after spending two years traveling up and down the migrant trail from Central America to the US border in The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail


More than a quarter of a million Central Americans alone make this increasingly dangerous journey each year, and last year 18,000 of them were kidnapped.

Martínez writes in beautiful, lyrical prose about clinging to the tops of freight trains; finding respite, work and hardship in shelters and brothels; and riding shotgun with the border patrol. Here is the first book to illuminate this harsh mass migration in the age of the narcotraficantes.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Q&A with Chloe Aridjis, Author of ASUNDER

ASUNDER is a captivating novel, out now from Mariner Books, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, about two museum guards in London for whom life and art begin to overtake one another in unsettling and surreal ways.

It's written by Chloe Aridjis, a writer who's been praised by Junot Díaz, for her "hypnotic" prose. Chloe was born in New York and grew up in the Netherlands and Mexico, and now lives in London. She received her PhD in nineteenth-century French poetry and magic shows from Oxford, then lived in Berlin for five years. Her first novel, Book of Clouds, won the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger in 2009.

I had a chance to interview Chloe recently. Here's what she had to say:

On Home & Identity:

Chloe: England is very much home these days. Mexico is my other home of course, and I hope I'll never have to choose between the two. I still spend around two months a year in Mexico. For daily life, I prefer London to Mexico City, however -- as much as I love the latter, the soul-destroying traffic alone does me in each time I visit. I identify with each place in different ways: here, I love the tempo of the city, the weather, and the discretion. Mexico meanwhile has a tremendous dynamism and chaos that's unique and I always feel recharged. 

On the "Latina Writer" Label: 

Chloe: I don't take issue but have never identified with it myself. My mother is from New York but I definitely feel more Mexican/European since I've spent many more years in Europe than in the US and I suppose both my studies and movements have been more eurocentric. In general I believe identity should be fluid, and labels can be tricky. 

On her Dad:

Chloe: My father has always been an immense inspiration, as a writer and a human being. My mother's environmental work and her intelligence and humanity are also deeply inspiring. Together they introduced me, from an early age, to literature and museums: both changed my life. I learned to read and see in new ways. As for the poets in the novel, they are based on childhood observation, mostly from poetry festivals I was taken to, and later on my correspondence with some of the poets I met.  

On Writing:

Chloe: I write both from home and the British Library. It depends what stage I'm at, but I try to write from home in the morning and then head to the library by two or three. Different thoughts occur in different places, so it's important to move around and see what happens where. I often get ideas on the bus over to the library. But there's nothing quite like being here in my study, surrounded by my own books and objects and my young cat watching from the shelf behind me. 


ASUNDER traces the slow revolt against passivity of a female museum guard. After nine years working at London’s National Gallery, Marie starts to feel stirrings of violence as she focuses more and more on themes of decomposition in both the paint layer and the human. She is haunted by stories of the suffragettes who would attack works of art in the years leading up to WWI, and in particular by the slashing of Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus, which occurred at the Gallery in March 1914. 
Her best friend Daniel is a poet who works as a guard at the Tate Britain; their lives revolve closely around their collections, public and private (Marie crafts miniature landscapes at home, Daniel corresponds with poets overseas). When they go to Paris for the winter holiday their imaginary worlds come to life in startling ways, ultimately freeing them from their former confinement.

Reminiscent of Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station, ASUNDER is a short, powerful novel brimming with ideas and stop-you-in-your-tracks language, exploring materiality vs. spirituality, art vs. life, words vs. images, preservation vs. destruction, and those moments we all experience where we can either push something to crisis or take great pains to stop it in its tracks.


Read it and let me know what you think of it.

Friday, September 20, 2013

#FridayReads:Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island

Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island is memoir by Regina Calcaterra is a successful lawyer, New York State official, and activist.

It reminded me very much of one of my favorite books when I was young, Dicey's Song (of Tillerman Cycle, The) by Cynthia Voigt. It was a story that I could relate to very much, in having had a large role in raising my younger brothers and also having an absent father.

It speaks so very powerfully to how much damage can be caused not just by physical and sexual abuse but specifically neglect and verbal abuse and how children are often at a no-win situation in cases like such as this one.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hispanic Heritage Month Giveaway: Cuban/ Caribbean Foodie Gift Box

IMUSA and McCormick have been kind enough to offer one of my blog readers a chance at winning a Cuban/ Caribbean Foodie gift box filled with the following items:

1 IMUSA’s Wood Mortar and Pestle
1 IMUSA's Tostonera,
1 McCormick’s Black Pepper,
1 McCormick’s Garlic Salt,
1 McCormick’s Curry Powder,
1 McCormick’s Paprika,
1 McCormick’s Cinnamon,
1 McCormick’s Oregano,
1 McCormick’s Black Peppercorn Grinder,
1 packet of McCormick’s Chicken Bag ‘n Season,
1 Box of McCormick’s Black Beans & Rice Mix
1 Box of McCormick’s Paella Rice Mix

Enter to win below.

I received a package to review myself, see photo below, andwant to share the following easy baked tostones recipe to make and enjoy once you win your own tostonera and restock your kitchen. A very special thanks to our sponsors.


Baked Tostones altered from Skinnytaste
Servings: 4   Cook Time: 30 minutes
3 medium (3 cups) green plantains
2 tsp coconut oil
salt
Pam spray

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray. Peel plantains and slice into 1/2 thick slices. Place in a bowl and toss with oil and salt. Arrange slices on the baking sheet. Lightly coat with a little more oil spray on top and bake for 10 minutes or until slightly brown on the bottom. Remove from oven. 

Using a tostonera (a press), slightly mash each piece to about a quarter of an inch thick. If a tostonera is not available, insert the pieces between a folded piece of brown-paper and press down using a saucer or the bottom of a glass jar. Lightly re-spray the baking sheet and place the plantains brown side up onto the baking sheet. Lightly spray the top and bake for another 15 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Mojo

Garlic Dipping Sauce

 A pungent dipping sauce with garlic, cumin, oregano and sour orange juice or a combination of orange and lime juices. A little goes a long way.

Servings: 4 • Calories: 30.1

1/3 cup sour orange juice (or 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice + 1 tbsp lime juice)
2 tsp olive oil
1 large clove garlic, mashed
pinch oregano pinch
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp cumin

Heat a small sauce pan on low flame, when hot add oil. Saute garlic on low for about 2 minutes, do not brown. Add sour orange, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper and let it come to a boil. Shut off and set aside to cool to room temperature.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Literary Guide to National Hispanic Heritage Month

The kind folks at Open Road Media sent this great infographic over  guide you through the plethora of great reads, highlighting top picks in fiction, memoir, children’s, mystery, and more. spotlighting literature and stories that explore Hispanic themes. Don’t know where to begin?

"Gabriel García Márquez. Frida Kahlo. Christopher Columbus. Pablo Picasso. These are just a few of the countless men and women that have inspired and shaped American art, culture, and politics. Like their forbearers, Hispanic and Latino Americans continue to contribute to the rich fabric of the United States in innumerable ways, from the literature of Isabelle Allende to the music of Carlos Santana."


































See full size

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Kushyfoot Sandals Flats To Go: Worse for Wear(er)

I don't usually write product reviews, especially negative ones. But I felt compelled to share this one. In the past couple of years, I have found myself wearing high heels less and less often which is infuriating since I have a closetful of cute shoes that I rarely wear.

Nevertheless, the other day I threw cation to the wind and wore a pair of Vince Camuto booties to work. By the end of the day, I switched to a spare set of kitten heels I had in the office since I had to run around town doing errands.

A couple of hours later, limping, I headed over to a drugstore to see if I could find a pair of cheap flip flops to get me home.

I didn't find any. What I came across was a pair of Kushyfoot Sandals Flats to Go for $9.99. I've always been a fan of Kushyfoot stockings and although I couldn't see how much support the sandals offered in spite of the see-through packaging I thought myself what the heck and bought them.

I was quite dismayed when I went outside and ripped open the packaging in search of relief was that the sandals were literarily no better than paper held together by a few pieces of elastic.

Unsure and torn between returning them for a refund or limping home, I decided to just push forward since I was exhausted and too tired to hobble back to the long line inside.

I was terrified I would cut my feet open on the rough, dirty streets near Times Square, or that I would stub my toes or worse that some or hurried or careless soul would stomp on my naked feet.

I was really dissapointed with this purchase and felt that the paper booties they give you in  the hospital were basically the equivalent of this "sandal."

if you ever find yourself looking for respite for tired feet, do yourself a favor and skip these all together.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Reading Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane

A few weeks ago, I picked up The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman and read it one sitting. I have been a fan of Neil Gaiman and his wife Amanda Palmer for several years but I had never actually read one of his books.

I was curious about this one since it was getting so much buzz. I was not disappointed. Well, actually I was but only because it ended and I hadn't gotten enough.

There is something fantastically beautiful and otherwordly about this book. It reminded me of a few gems I have loved like Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, which is the story of Meg and her little brother Charles Wallace, the pain of immortality in Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, and lastly the magical struggle between love, life and death crafted by Ray Bradbury in From the Dust Returned.

Mostly, it reminds me of the latter in a very good way but I was left with a craving for more, especially more from the Hempstock women and with questions about what happened to Lettie.

I hope we get to revisit this wonderful family. What was your impression of what happened to Lettie?


Neil Gaiman Sign
Neil Gaiman Sign (Photo credit: lizohanesian)
Cover of "From the Dust Returned: A Novel...
Cover of From the Dust Returned: A Novel
Cover of "A Wrinkle in Time"
Cover of A Wrinkle in Time

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Aromatic Water: Rose Recipes & Agua Florida

Last week, I saw a post for 20 Unusual Uses for Rose Water and it reminded me of the recipes in Like Water for Chocolate by Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel, and also of the Agua Florida that my aunts splashed around the house (and everything else) back in the day - which my mom detested.

Cover of "Like Water for Chocolate"

Recipe: Rose Petal Sauce for Hens

* Makes 6 servings

12 red or pink organic roses' petals
1 cup chopped walnuts 
3 cups chicken broth, or as needed (I use the No Sodium, organic type)
2 tablespoons honey, or to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (I switched to Coconut Oil)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground anise seed
3 prickly pears (cactus fruit, Nopal), peeled and chopped (tasted like Watermelon)

Directions

- Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add garlic, and saute until fragrant, 2 or 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and anise, and cook for another minute to blend the flavors.
- In the container of a blender or food processor, combine the prickly pears, rose petals (reserving a few for garnish) and walnuts. Pour in just enough broth to cover. Cover, and process until smooth.
- Pour the rose petal mixture into the saucepan with the garlic. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring gently. If the sauce is too thick, add more broth as needed. Mix in the honey, then taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper or anise if desired. Serve poured over poultry, garnishing with a few rose petals.

Via AllRecipes

THE ONE AND ONLY: Agua de Florida - Murray y L...
 (Photo : youflavio)
For those of you not familiar with Agua Florida or Florida Water, I found this guide very interesting.

It's been around since 1808 and has been used for spiritual cleansing in addition to being used as fragrance just as long.

Do remember this in your house?

Monday, September 09, 2013

Me Before You – A Question for Jojo Moyes

I confess I had Me Before You in my eReader for a while before I finally was in the mental place to read it. I was urged on by a discussion with my coworkers. When I finally did read it, I read it in one fell swoop, over the course of 1-2 days during the weekend.

I remember a time when I read all the time. At night before I went to bed every day and sometimes throughout the day too. I have fond memories of breaking night in High School and reading books like the Witching Hour by Anne Rice in one night or sitting on a rooftop in Hunter College, or the Central Park Conservatory Garden and reading feminist or political nonfiction.

In light of that it's heartbreaking to think how it seems very hard now to dedicate time to reading at leisurely pace or even finishing a book. I read so many aggregated feeds a day, digest so much data from so many places that sometimes it feels like my head was spinning.

Anyhow, I did enjoy Me Before You, which will be made into a movie. I found it to be both unique and and resonated with me because I once was lost and forlorn very much in the same way. It was entertaining and offered a sense of comfort in both the traditional boy-girl save each other but also heartbreaking in a tragic sense. There was something very poetic about the liberation they both receive at the end of the story.


I was very curious the meaning behind the prominent feature of the biology book, The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley, in the story. You see, this is a book I read in college.

Honestly, it was such a good book that I wish Matt Ridley would go back and write an updated version every couple of years. In Me Before You, the main character "Lou" or "Louisa" is encouraged to read it by her adult charge, who has become a quadriplegic.

Cover of "The Red Queen: Sex and the Evol...
Cover via Amazon
If I had the chance to ask Jojo Moyes, I would love to know why the Red Queen has such a noticeble placement in the story and hear the backstory. What did you make of it?

* Full disclore: I received an eGalley for review from the publisher.

 
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