Showing posts with label Mexico. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mexico. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Q&A Michael Nava, Author of The City of Palaces

The City of Palaces published earlier this year won Best Latino Novel at the 2015 International Latino Book Awards. I had a chance to ask its author Michael Nava a few questions myself and here's what he shared:

Lit: What inspired you to write this book? 

MN: Of course, any book has many sources of inspiration. In this case, my immediate inspiration was my own family history. Like millions of other Mexican-Americans, I am descended from refugees from the Mexican revolution; my great-grandparents who fled in 1920 for California.

The Mexican Revolution is, along with the Russian Revolution, one of the two greatest 20th century revolutions and yet it is almost unknown in this country where it had a direct impact that continues through to this day; the first great wave of Mexican migration to the US. It's as if Irish-Americans knew nothing of the potato famine that drove their ancestors to this country. I wanted to tell that story because it is one that Americans, Latino and non-Latino, need to know.

Lit:Where do you draw inspiration from? 

MN: I draw my inspiration largely from my desire to tell the story of the disenfranchised, the outsiders and all those people -- whether, for example, LGBT or Latino/a -- whose histories have been suppressed or ignored. I am in the broadest sense a political writer. My politics don't get in the way of the story, but the stories I tell reflect my politics.

Lit: What's your writing routine like? 

MN: I write in the morning before going to my day job as a staff attorney at the California Supreme Court.

Lit: Which books have had a great effect on you? 

MN: As a young writer I read almost no fiction because I intended to be poet so until I was in my early 20s I really only read and studied and wrote poetry, everyone from Shakespeare (the sonnets) to modernists like Wallace Stevens, Eliot and Auden as well as a healthy dose of poets in translation from Pablo Neruda to CP Cavafy. From the poets I learned compression and the love of language which, as it turns out, are valuable tools for a novelist.

Lit: What advice do you have for young Latinos/as based on your own experiences? 

MN: Except for token figures, the mainstream literary establishment continues to ignore us. The City of Palaces was turned down by 13 New York publishers who said the same thing -- good book, but whose going to buy it. Since there are 33 million Mexican-Americans in this country what statement reveals is provincialism and ignorance. So, you must persevere, find ways to get your stories out the rest.


Friday, August 07, 2015

#FridayReads: Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera

I came across Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera in Flavorwire's 15 Best Fiction Books of 2015 So Far
Signs Preceding the End of the World is one of the most arresting novels to be published in Spanish in the last ten years. Yuri Herrera does not simply write about the border between Mexico and the United States and those who cross it. He explores the crossings and translations people make in their minds and language as they move from one country to another, especially when there’s no going back. 
Traversing this lonely territory is Makina, a young woman who knows only too well how to survive in a violent, macho world. Leaving behind her life in Mexico to search for her brother, she is smuggled into the USA carrying a pair of secret messages – one from her mother and one from the Mexican underworld. 
In this grippingly original novel Yuri Herrera explores the actual and psychological crossings and translations people make—with their feet, in their minds, and in their language as they move from one country to another, especially when there's no going back. 
Born in Actopan, Mexico, in 1970, Yuri Herrera studied in Mexico and El Paso and took his PhD at Berkeley. Signs Preceding the End of the World (Señales que precederán al fin del mundo) was shortlisted for the Rómulo Gallegos Prize and is being published in several languages. After publishing Signs Preceding the End of the World, And Other Stories will publish his two other novels in English, starting with The Transmigration of Bodies (La transmigración de los cuerpos) in 2016. He is currently teaching at the University of Tulane, in New Orleans. 
 

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.

Monday, June 16, 2014

#FridayReads: Bulletproof Vest: The Ballad of an Outlaw and His Daughter by Maria Venegas

Bulletproof Vest: The Ballad of an Outlaw and His Daughter by Maria Venegas:

The haunting story of a daughter’s struggle to confront her father's turbulent—and often violent—legacy

After a fourteen-year estrangement, Maria Venegas returns to Mexico from the United States to visit her father, who is living in the old hacienda where both he and she were born. While spending the following summers and holidays together, herding cattle and fixing barbed-wire fences, he begins sharing stories with her, tales of a dramatic life filled with both intense love and brutal violence—from the final conversations he had with his own father, to his extradition from the United States for murder, to his mother’s pride after he shot a man for the first time at the age of twelve.

     Written in spare, gripping prose, Bulletproof Vest is Venegas’s reckoning with her father’s difficult legacy. Moving between Mexico and New York, between past and present, Venegas traces her own life and her father’s as, over time, a new closeness and understanding develops between them. Bulletproof Vest opens with a harrowing ambush on Venegas’s father while he’s driving near his home in Mexico. He survives the assault—but years later the federales will find him dead near the very same curve, and his daughter will be left with not only the stories she inherited from him but also a better understanding of the violent undercurrent that shaped her father’s life as well as her own.

Maria Venegas was born in the state of Zacatecas, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was four years old. Bulletproof Vest was excerpted in Granta and The Guardian. Venegas’s short stories have appeared in Ploughshares and Huizache. She has taught creative writing at Hunter College and currently works as a mentor at Still Waters in a Storm, a reading and writing sanctuary for children in Brooklyn. She lives in New York City.

Friday, June 06, 2014

#FridayReads: Faces in the Crowd By: Valeria Luiselli

About Faces in the Crowd By: Valeria Luiselli
A multi-layered story told by two narrators: a 21st-century Emily Dickinson living in Mexico City who relates to the world vicariously through her children and a past that both overwhelms and liberates her, and a dying poet living in a run-down apartment in Philadelphia in the 1950s. 
While she tells the story of her past as a young editor in New York City desperately trying to convince a publisher to translate and publish the works of Gilberto Owen-an obscure Mexican poet who lived in Harlem during the 1920s and whose ghostly presence constantly haunts her in the subway-she also relates the slow but inevitable disintegration of her present family life.
Luiselli's novel stands apart from most Latin American fiction. She avoids worn-out narratives about drug wars and violence, and her downbeat supernaturalism feels quite different from the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez. Concerned, above all, with literature's ability to transcend time and space, Faces in the Crowd signals the appearance of an exciting female voice to join a new wave of Latino writers. Via The Guardian

Friday, February 14, 2014

#FridayReads: Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement

Book list material:

Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement

A haunting story of love and survival that introduces an unforgettable literary heroine

Ladydi Garcia Martínez is fierce, funny and smart. She was born into a world where being a girl is a dangerous thing. In the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico, women must fend for themselves, as their men have left to seek opportunities elsewhere. Here in the shadow of the drug war, bodies turn up on the outskirts of the village to be taken back to the earth by scorpions and snakes. School is held sporadically, when a volunteer can be coerced away from the big city for a semester. In Guerrero the drug lords are kings, and mothers disguise their daughters as sons, or when that fails they “make them ugly” – cropping their hair, blackening their teeth- anything to protect them from the rapacious grasp of the cartels. And when the black SUVs roll through town, Ladydi and her friends burrow into holes in their backyards like animals, tucked safely out of sight.

While her mother waits in vain for her husband’s return, Ladydi and her friends dream of a future that holds more promise than mere survival, finding humor, solidarity and fun in the face of so much tragedy. When Ladydi is offered work as a nanny for a wealthy family in Acapulco, she seizes the chance, and finds her first taste of love with a young caretaker there. But when a local murder tied to the cartel implicates a friend, Ladydi’s future takes a dark turn. Despite the odds against her, this spirited heroine’s resilience and resolve bring hope to otherwise heartbreaking conditions.

An illuminating and affecting portrait of women in rural Mexico, and a stunning exploration of the hidden consequences of an unjust war, PRAYERS FOR THE STOLEN is an unforgettable story of friendship, family, and determination.

Jennifer Clement's new novel Prayers for the Stolen was awarded the NEA Fellowship in Literature 2012 and will be published by Hogarth (USA and UK) in February 2014. The book has also been purchased by Suhrkamp, (Germany), Editions Flammarion, Gallimard (France), De Bezige Bij (Holland), Cappelen Damm (Norway), Hr Ferdinand (Denmark), Bonniers Förlag (Sweden), Laguna (Serbia), Euromedia (Czech Republic), Ikar (Slovakia) Lumen (Spain/Mexico), Guanda (Italy), Like (Finland), Libri (Hungary), Bjartur (Iceland),Rocco (Brazil),Israeli Penn Publishing (Israel, Muza (Poland) and Sindbad (Russia).

Jennifer Clement studied English Literature and Anthropology at New York University and also studied French literature in Paris, France. She has an MFA from the University of Southern Maine.

Clement is the author of the cult classic memoir Widow Basquiat (on the painter Jean Michel Basquiat) and two novels: A True Story Based on Lies, which was a finalist in the Orange Prize for Fiction, and The Poison That Fascinates.

She is also the author of several books of poetry: The Next Stranger (with an introduction by W.S. Merwin); Newton's Sailor; Lady of the Broom and Jennifer Clement: New and Selected Poems. Her prize-winning story A Salamander-Child is published as an art book with work by the Mexican painter Gustavo Monroy.

Jennifer Clement was awarded the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) Fellowship for Literature 2012. She is also the recipient of the UK's Canongate Prize. In 2007, she received a MacDowell Fellowship and the MacDowell Colony named her the Robert and Stephanie Olmsted Fellow for 2007-08. Clement is a member of Mexico's prestigious "Sistema Nacional de Creadores."

Jennifer Clement was President of PEN Mexico from 2009 to 2012. She lives in Mexico City, Mexico and, along with her sister Barbara Sibley, is the founder and director The San Miguel Poetry Week.

via Amazon

Friday, February 07, 2014

#FridayReads: Quesadillas by Juan Pablo Villalobos

Add this to your book list, Quesadillas by Juan Pablo Villalobos:

It’s the 1980s in Lagos de Moreno—a town where there are more cows than people, and more priests than cows—and a poor family struggles to overcome the bizarre dangers of living in Mexico. The father, a high-school civics teacher, insists on practicing and teaching the art of the insult, while the mother prepares hundreds of quesadillas to serve to their numerous progeny: Aristotle, Orestes, Archilochus, Callimachus, Electra, Castor, and Pollux. Confined to their home, the family bears witness to the revolt against the Institutional Revolutionary Party and their umpteenth electoral fraud. This political upheaval is only the beginning of Orestes’s adventures and his uproarious crusade against the boredom of rustic life and the tyranny of his older brother.

     Both profoundly moving and wildly funny, Juan Pablo Villalobos’s Quesadillas is a satiric masterpiece, chock-full of inseminated cows, Polish immigrants, religious pilgrims, alien spacecraft, psychedelic watermelons, and many, many "your mama" insults.

Juan Pablo Villalobos was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1973, and lives in Brazil, where he writes for various publications and teaches courses in Spanish literature. He has written literary criticism, film criticism, and short stories. Villalobos is the author of Down the Rabbit Hole (FSG, 2012), which has been translated into fifteen languages.

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, June 21, 2013

5 Classic Mexican Horror Films You Can Watch Online

I've been meaning to share this list here for almost a year now since writing about my uncle, the movie projectionist.

While researching Mexican films, for the Macario post, I came across a bounty of full length, black and white, scary movies that you can watch online. Perfect for a stormy movie night!

The very first Mexican horror movie was based in what is definitely Mexico's best known ghost story:1933's "La Llorona", the crying woman

 

"La Llorona" begins in modern day Mexico (in the 30s), at the birthday party of the son of Dr. Ricardo De Acuna (Ramón Pereda) and his wife Ana (Virginia Zurí). Everything is fun for the kids, but Ana and her father Don Fernando De Moncada (Paco Martínez) are worried about an ancient curse that hangs over their family, in which is stated that the first son of a Moncada will die horribly as a child, victim of "La Llorona". 

As a man of science, Ricardo doesn't believe in this, so Don Fernando begins to narrate the dark origins of the legend, beginning with the story of Ana Xicontencatl (Adriana Lamar), a noble princess of Aztec heritage who gets romantically involved with a womanizing Spaniard named Rodrigo De Cortéz (Alberto Martí) in the times of Colonial Mexico. However the Moncada curse goes beyond the years of Spanish rule over Mexico. via W-Cinema




The Hell of Frankenstein is an odd four-part TV mini series stitched together into the story of a mad scientist, who creates a remote-controlled monster and sends it to terrorize the city.




Mysteries of Black Magic: A stage magician, pitted against woman in peril; her lover is the hero. In a crypt, a woman and her assistant keep the revered body of their contemporary warlock-master whose sexual jealousy triggers the climax as the witch falls for the Hero and abducts him.



The Skeleton of Mrs. Morales is a 1960 Mexican black comedy film based on Arthur Machen's 1927 short story "The Islington Mystery". It is regarded by critics as one of the ten best Mexican films of all time. via Wikipedia



Macario is a 1960 Mexican supernatural drama film directed by Roberto Gavaldón and starring Ignacio López Tarso. It was the first Mexican film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film in a Foreign Language. The story centers on Macario, a poor indigenous woodcutter, during Colonial Mexico, who lives enraged for being so poor.It is based off of the story of brothers Grimm Godfather Death. via Wikipedia

Monday, June 10, 2013

New Book: Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies & Q&A with Dr. Seth Holmes

I recently had an opportunity to interview Dr. Seth Holmes, an assistant professor of public health and medical anthropology at UC Berkeley, about his upcoming book Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States.

Here's what Dr. Holmes told me:

Dr. Seth Holmes
I would say the most interesting finding from the field research, from my perspective, was how social inequalities and health inequalities come to be taken for granted in society and in health care.  For example, indigenous undocumented Mexican migrant farm workers live and work in very poor conditions and, as a result, have many related health problems.  

However, their living conditions, working conditions, and health are considered normal and natural by many people in society at large and in health care due to different framings of them as deserving these conditions.  Some of these framings relate to understandings of ethnic body differences, including people saying that indigenous Mexicans are perfect for picking strawberries "because they are lower to the ground", etc.  

Perhaps the most interesting part of the field work from a journalistic perspective would be the border crossing.  I accompanied several undocumented Mexican men as they trekked through the border desert from Mexico into the United States.  We were all apprehended by the border patrol, they were deported to Mexico and I was kept in border patrol jail for one day and then released with a fine for "entry without inspection."  During this experience, it became clear to me that the understanding of Mexican migrants as voluntarily choosing to cross the border was incorrect.  

My Mexican migrant companions experienced this crossing very much as something they were forced into by large social, economic, and political structures.  Thus, the common understandings of some migrants being voluntary versus forced does not hold up when it is considered in the context of the actual experience of the migrants most often categorized as voluntary.  

This is important because the understanding of their crossing as voluntary can often be used to blame them for the crossing (and sometimes even to blame them subtly for their death if they die trying to cross the desert).  

He received his PhD in Medical Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco, and his M.D. from the University of California, San Francisco.

About Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies:

This book is an ethnographic witness to the everyday lives and suffering of Mexican migrants. Based on 5 years of research in the field (including berry-picking and traveling with migrants back and forth from Oaxaca up the West Coast), Holmes, an anthropologist and MD in the mold of Paul Farmer and Didier Fassin, uncovers how market forces, anti-immigrant sentiment, and racism undermine health and health care. 

Holmes' material is visceral and powerful--for instance, he trekked with his informants illegally through the desert border into Arizona, where they were apprehended and jailed by the Border Patrol. After he was released from jail (and his companions were deported back to Mexico), Holmes interviewed Border Patrol agents, local residents and armed vigilantes in the borderlands. He lived with indigenous Mexican families in the mountains of Oaxaca and in farm labor camps in the United States, planted and harvested corn, picked strawberries, accompanied sick workers to clinics and hospitals, participated in healing rituals, and mourned at funerals for friends. The result is a 'thick description' that conveys the full measure of struggle, suffering and resilience of these farmworkers.

Monday, September 10, 2012

New Book: Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman

English: Close up of Sabina Berman Español: Cl...
Sabina Berman (Photo: Wikipedia)

A transporting and brilliant novel narrated by an unforgettable woman: Karen Nieto, an autistic savant whose idiosyncrasies prove her greatest gifts.

As intimate as it is profound, and as clear-eyed as it is warmhearted, Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World marks an extraordinary debut by the award-winning Mexican playwright, journalist, and poet Sabina Berman.

Karen Nieto passed her earliest years as a feral child, left alone to wander the vast beach property near her family's failing tuna cannery. But when her aunt Isabelle comes to Mexico to take over the family business, she discovers a real girl amidst the squalor. 

So begins a miraculous journey for autistic savant Karen, who finds freedom not only in the love and patient instruction of her aunt but eventually at the bottom of the ocean swimming among the creatures of the sea. Despite how far she's come, Karen remains defined by the things she can't do—until her gifts with animals are finally put to good use at the family's fishery. 

Sabina Berman, translated by Lisa Dillman
Her plan is brilliant: Consolation Tuna will be the first humane tuna fishery on the planet. Greenpeace approves, fame and fortune follow, and Karen is swept on a global journey that explores how we live, what we eat, and how our lives can defy even our own wildest expectations.

Sabina Berman is a four-time winner of the Mexican National Theatre Prize for her plays; she also writes filmscripts, poetry, prose, and journalism, and has published several novellas. Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World, which will be published in twenty-five territories, is her first novel. She lives in Mexico.

Lisa Dillman teaches in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Emory University and has translated numerous works of fiction by Argentine, Mexican, Catalan, and Spanish writers. She lives in Decatur, Georgia.

Monday, September 03, 2012

New Book: Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America by Maricel E. Presilla

I can remember a conversation I had a few years back with my then mentor, Michael Pietsch, Executive Vice President and Publisher of Little, Brown and Company, about cookbooks. I had expressed my concerns that the web was changing consumers' needs for buying cookbooks since it was so easy to just get them online. I remember him furrowing his brow and internally cringing at the thought that that perhaps I had been too frank. I don't think publishers need to be worried anymore though.

Lately, however, I've noticed a trend toward the objectification of things and especially vintage items, like books and vinyl. I think cookbooks, especially the most eye pleasing will fall into this category and they will always have a place on a shelf or a coffee table.

During my early twenties, I collected cookbooks, which I dreamed I would one day display in my kitchen, in the home of my future. When I came across Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America by Maricel E. Presilla, I felt that old knee jerk shopaholic/collector pull: have-to-have-it!

I think you might feel this way too...

How to cook everything Latin American. 

W. W. Norton & Company (October 1, 2012)
Gran Cocina Latina unifies the vast culinary landscape of the Latin world, from Mexico to Argentina and all the Spanish-speaking countries of the Caribbean. In one volume it gives home cooks, armchair travelers, and curious chefs the first comprehensive collection of recipes from this region. 


An inquisitive historian and a successful restaurateur, Maricel E. Presilla has spent more than thirty years visiting each country personally. She’s gathered more than 500 recipes for the full range of dishes, from the foundational adobos and sofritos to empanadas and tamales to ceviches and moles to sancocho and desserts such as flan and tres leches cake


Detailed equipment notes, drink and serving suggestions, and color photographs of finished dishes are also included. This is a one-of-a-kind cookbook to be savored and read as much for the writing and information as for its introduction to heretofore unrevealed recipes. Two-color; 32 pages of color photographs; 75 line drawings.


Maricel E. Presilla is the co-owner of Zafra and Cucharamama, two Latin restaurants in Hoboken, New Jersey. She holds a doctorate in medieval Spanish history from New York University and lives in Weehawken, New Jersey.




Monday, August 27, 2012

New Book: The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo By F. G. Haghenbeck

In The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo: A Novel by F. G. Haghenbeck, he keeps her alive, if only in our fancy.

One of Mexico’s most celebrated new novelists, F. G. Haghenbeck offers a beautifully written reimagining of Frida Kahlo’s fascinating life and loves.


Portrait of Diego Rivera and Malu Block and Fr...
Portrait of Frida Kahlo de Rivera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
More than half a century after her death, Frida Kahlo continues to inspire a devoted following. Her paintings command more money than any other female artist, and her work was the first by a Mexican artist to be purchased by the Louvre. Now her fascinating life is the basis for a brilliant novel in Frida Kahlo’s Secret Book.


 Acclaimed Mexican novelist F. G. Haghenbeck was inspired to write this book after a series of notebooks and sketchbooks were recently discovered among Frida’s belongings in Casa Azul, her home in CoyoacÁn, MÉxico City. Although her family never confirmed their authenticity, Haghenbeck imagines that one of the notebooks was a gift from her lover Tina Modotti after Frida nearly died. Frida called the notebook “El Libro de Hierba Santa” (“The Sacred Herbs Book”) and filled it with memories, ideas, and recipes for The Day of the Dead, the Mexican holiday that commemorates deceased friends and family through the cooking of a delicious feast of exotic dishes.


English: Statues of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rive...
Statues of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in the courtyard of the Casa de Cultura Jesus Reyes Heroles in Coyoacan, Mexico City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 In a rich, luscious style bordering on magical realism, Haghenbeck takes readers on an intriguing ride through Frida’s life, including her long and tumultuous relationship with her lover Diego Rivera, the development of her artistic vision, her complex personality, her lust for life, and her existential feminism. The book also includes stories about the remarkable people who were a part of her life, including Georgia O'Keeffe (with whom she had an affair), Trotsky, Nelson Rockefeller, Hemingway, Dos Passos, Henry Miller, and DalÍ.


F. G. Haghenbeck, a native of Mexico, is an award-winning novelist and screenwriter. His novel Frida Kahlo’s Secret Book has been translated into ten languages. He lives in TehuacÁn, Mexico.


Monday, August 13, 2012

New Book: The Distance Between Us: A Memoir By Reyna Grande

My coworker who is a graphic designer walked by my desk as I was writing this one late evening and stopped short to tell me she loved the cover of The Distance Between Us: A Memoir By Reyna Grande. Now if that's not a compliment to one designer from another, I don't know what is. 


Reyna Grande is the author of two award-winning novels. Across a Hundred Mountains received an American Book Award, and Dancing with Butterflies was the recipient of an International Latino Book Award. Reyna lives in Los Angeles.



Mago pointed to a spot on the dirt floor and reminded me that my umbilical cord was buried there. “That way,” Mami told the midwife, “no matter where life takes her, she won’t ever forget where she came from.”


Then Mago touched my belly button . . . She said that my umbilical cord was like a ribbon that connected me to Mami. She said, “It doesn’t matter that there’s a distance btween us now. That cord is there forever.”


When Reyna Grande’s father leaves his wife and three children behind in a village in Mexico to make the dangerous trek across the border to the United States, he promises he will soon return from “El Otro Lado” (The Other Side) with enough money to build them a dream house where they can all live together. His promises become harder to believe as months turn into years. When he summons his wife to join him, Reyna and her siblings are deposited in the already overburdened household of their stern, unsmiling grandmother.


The three siblings are forced to look out for themselves; in childish games they find a way to forget the pain of abandonment and learn to solve very adult problems. When their mother at last returns, the reunion sets the stage for a dramatic new chapter in Reyna’s young life: her own journey to “El Otro Lado” to live with the man who has haunted her imagination for years, her long-absent father.


In this extraordinary memoir, award-winning writer Reyna Grande vividly brings to life her tumultuous early years, capturing all the confusion and contradictions of childhood, especially one spent torn between two parents and two countries. Elated when she feels the glow of her father’s love and approval, Reyna knows that at any moment he might turn angry or violent. Only in books and music and her rich imaginary life does she find solace, a momentary refuge from a world in which every place feels like “El Otro Lado.”


The Distance Between Us captures one girl’s passage from childhood to adolescence and beyond. A funny, heartbreaking, lyrical story, it reminds us that the joys and sorrows of childhood are always with us, invisible to the eye but imprinted on the heart, forever calling out to us of those places we first called home. 


Become a Fan on Facebook or follow Reyna via Twitter @reynagrande.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Mexican Film Macario & My Uncle the Projectionist

When I was a little girl, my uncle worked as a cinema projectionist, operating the movie projector in a local New York City movie theater. Whenever, I visited my grandparents, especially during the holidays, he would bring out his old movie projector and show films right onto the back wall of the house for all of us, young and old, to see together. It was great and I have so many happy memories of these special private screenings.

One movie we saw that has always stuck in my head was Macario (Mexico, 1960).


The story of Macario, a poor starving mexican woodcutter, who dreams of eating a whole roast turkey by himself. It weaves a tale of magical realism, in which encounters with the Devil, God, and Death with unexpected results. It is based on the novel The Third Guest by the writer known as B. Traven. The first Mexican film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film in a Foreign Language, Macario is a must-see.


It's funny because I never thought these private family screenings out of the ordinary or especially cool back then but now I look back and see how my upbringing shaped me (my love of the arts, culture and media, technology, and foreign language cinema) and how very lucky I am.


 
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