Wednesday, November 29, 2006

This Storyline Captivates Me!

The Translation of Dr Apelles: A Love Story by David Treuer

Washinton Post review

From Boldtype:


Does a story exist if no one reads it? In this remarkable novel, a Native American scholar finds himself intertwined in two stories: an obscure manuscript he's translating and his own neglected life.ReviewWhat becomes of an unread book? The US publishing industry alone produced 172,000 individual titles last year.

For its part, David Treuer's third novel has an Amazon sales rank — not the most scientific of indicators, but a harbinger of a book's commercial fate nonetheless— of 238,138, as of this writing.The anxiety of being unread lies at the heart of The Translation of Dr. Apelles, much of which takes place in a vast repository for forgotten books exiled from overflowing libraries. Dr. Apelles is a lonely bachelor, an Indian in a very white world, who catalogs the new arrivals so they can theoretically be retrieved should anyone wish to read them, though no one ever has. But Apelles is also a scholar and translator of Native American texts, who spends every other Friday in an archive of similarly unread stories, where he one day comes across a manuscript in a language that only he knows.

It is a love story, about two foundlings who grow to share one heart.The novel follows both Apelles's translation and his own love story, with his beautiful co-worker at the repository, Campaspe. But love, like a good novel, is never simple, and Campaspe's desire to know more of Apelles than he's giving her results in her stealing his translation. What had been a novel about stories becomes a book about itself — metafiction of the most effective, and affecting, sort.

David Treuer is Ojibwe, and his recent collection of essays implores that readings of Native American literature focus on the literature itself rather than notions of identity and authenticity. Treuer writes about Indians, but the only tradition he's concerned with is the literary one. The most appropriate reference points of this remarkable work are Borges, Calvino, and Classical myth; it paves the way for a new type of Great American Novel, one that doesn't care about being “Native,” or even “American.” But will anyone read it?- Chris Parris-Lamb

How About Some Books for Our Sons?

Sorry, I know this is quite a long article but I read this article a couple of months ago in Esquire magazine and it just speaks so well to the problems in our society with young men. Especially, since our sons are getting locked up and dropping out of school at epidemic proportions!

I think his point about very little new literature for boys is so on point. I know from experience that shopping for books for young boys is truly hard, with the exception of the fantasy genre there are hardly any good books out there for boys/young men.


The Problem with Boys ...

Is actually a problem with men. We've ignored all the evidence of male achievement and ambition deficits and stood aside as our sons have notched a growing record of failure and disengagement. It's time we did something about it. A call to action.

By Tom Chiarella

I HAVE TWO SONS. One is sixteen, the other thirteen. Like any boys, they are a little too muscular in their expectations from life. In a single evening, they can be sullen, sweet, hurtful, gentle, distant, funny, and full of grit. Tonight I dropped the younger one at soccer practice dressed all in yellow. Yellow sweatshirt, yellow jersey, yellow shorts, yellow kneesocks. "I just wish I had yellow shoes," he told me when he got out. "That would be the topper." Both spend hours watching reruns of Jackass. One likes shooting baskets; the other likes watching anime. One goes to summer camp; the other doesn't. Lately, they both have begun to talk about bands that I have never heard of. They murmur to each other so that I am just out of earshot. They want their laundry done for them. They never clear their dishes or make their beds. They love their grandparents, but they never send them thank-you notes. They both still expect me to kiss them goodnight. They are boys. They know I am writing this article. I've been wanting to write it for years. Here's what I tell them: I am worried about boys.

I'VE TAUGHT AT THE SAME MIDWESTERN liberal-arts college for the past seventeen years. I was chair of one of the largest departments on campus for five years. I like working there. It has a distinguished faculty and an excellent academic program; it's a fine little school. I say this because I want to be clear that I am not a malcontent, that I am not some tenured jackass dying to bite the hand that feeds me. I'm just a little worried about boys. About ten years ago, university GPA statistics started crossing my desk, because I was the department chair, and I wondered aloud why men at our college generally received lower grades than women. The pattern was consistent, almost lockstep. Women's average GPA was as much as a quarter of a point higher than men's some semesters. Were just smarter? Did they just work harder? It made a certain amount of sense.

Female students have always seemed more focused to me, more comfortable with interpretation, more fluid in their ability to enter discussion. When it came to boys, I could often see their disengagement in the classroom. They fidgeted. They slouched. They sat in the back of the room, hidden behind the brims of their baseball caps.

About this same time, I began to notice something else. The enrollment of men at our university was slipping. It is a fact of life at colleges today that women outnumber men. It certainly is at my school, where last year's freshman class was 42 percent male. In any given year, I would call this small potatoes. In 1979, when women surpassed women in college enrollment, I would have called it a triumph. More than twenty years later, as the numbers pile up, it begins to feel as if something, somewhere, is out of balance. I'm often told that there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for this, that the larger share of women in colleges today reflects, in part the imbalance in the larger population. I looked that one up.

There are indeed more woman around than men, but it turns out males make up 51.5 percent of the population of eighteen-to-twenty-four-year-olds - the college-going age. They just die faster. The shift I noticed reinforced itself in subtler ways. I watched as my colleagues expressed an increasing disdain for men in the classroom. I listened as they moaned about seminars that happened to be made up mostly of men. I went to faculty lunches dealing with disruptive students, only to realize that what we were talking about was primarily male behavior, that men themselves were in some fashion perceived to be the disruption. Men who seemed to have an answer for every question. Men who didn't listen. Men who radiated indifference. Men who griped about reading lists sometimes dominated by women authors. Men who resisted the authority of the teacher.

In the middle of one of these lunches, I leaned over and told a friend, "What we're talking about here is boys." I meant the students weren't men yet, that they hadn't yet figured out what mattered. My friend shook her head. "Not really," she said. "Some of these are girls who act like boys." I watched as nearly every significant social problem was laid at the feet of the male student population: sexual violence, binge drinking, hazing, anti-intellectualism, homophobia, bullying. I have to say it didn't seem unfair to talk about the role of boys in these issues. High time, actually. I was on board. On the whole, boys do seem unfocused to me, a whole lot dimmer in their sense of their path in the world. Everything about them that is male- their physicality, their hunger for stimulation, their propensity to argue-seemed clipped by the academic world I lived in. I was not waiting for the birth of a men's movement so much as I was looking for a little discussion, a chance to engage boys in the same way women engaged girls forty years ago.

What did my university do in the face of these problems? It formed a task force on the status of women. Its finding? That the university needed a women's center to augment its twenty-year-old women's-studies program. THERE IS SOMETHING ODD and forbidden about the word boy. Typing it feels a little creepy, almost pornographic. Boy. A little word, naked and weak, an iconic expression of smallness, of vulnerability. The boy alone. Scraggled hair, upward glance, the smear of ketchup on his chin. Cute maybe, but defenseless, naive, insulated, and unaware. A boy doesn't have a clue. There's something equally forbidden about arguing the ongoing boys crisis. It's a loser. It doesn't sell. It doesn't translate as much more than a hobbyhorse for conservative think tanks.

But here's the deal if you are a boy in this country right now: You're twice as likely as a girl to be diagnosed with an attention-deficit or learning disorder. You're more likely to score worse on standardized reading and writing tests. You're more likely to be held back in school. You're more likely to drop out of school. If you do graduate, you're less likely to go to college. If you do go to college, you will get lower grades and, once again, you will be less likely to graduate. You'll be twice as likely to abuse alcohol, and until you are twenty-four, you are five times as likely to kill your self. You are more than sixteen times as likely to go to prison. "As long as ten years ago, we started seeing the data that showed boys were slipping behind," says Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust, an advocacy group for low-income and minority students. "People were still arguing: We don't have a boys problem, we have a girls problem. It just didn't match what these data say. There's still a lot of resistance among rank-and-file educators."

The growing achievement gap between boys and girls has landed in our laps. Fueled by slim percentages in some cases, the numbers are stacking up over time. We're faced with the accrual of a significant population of boys who aren't well prepared for either school or work. "The problem," says Haycock,"is what this will add up to in twenty years."

THERE'S A BOY NAMED QUINN who lives on my street who just turned eighteen. I've known him since he was three. These days, he's preparing to go to college. By most measures, he's been well served by his education. He's in the top 10 percent of his class, and his board scores are excellent. He is a talented, self-taught guitarist, a decent basketball player, and a national-caliber high jumper. Last week he cleared six feet nine inches, higher than the doorjambs in my house. I sometimes look at those doors and picture Quinn sliding over the top of them. By most measures, he's a boy who wouldn't show up as any sort of alarming statistic: no disciplinary issues; he doesn't drink or use drugs. He's what you would call a good kid.

When I ask him how school is in these final days, he gives me the same answer he's given me since first grade: "Okay." He stretches the word out, long o, resigned k. It's always like this when I talk to boys. He is enduring it, waiting it out. I'm always interested in what boys are reading. Last time I asked, he sighed. "Jane Eyre." I cringe and try to think of something to say. It's a great book that meant nothing to me until I was thirty-three and teaching it for the third time. "I wrote a paper in college about Jane Eyre," I say out loud, but that's before I can locate in my memory what that paper was about. Then it comes to me. "About a chestnut tree," I say. "I remember that much." Quinn hold his hands out, palms up. What can he do?

His father shakes his head. They are readers, this family. "It's a good book," he says. The idea is to stick with it. To finish. He's role-modeling. It's what men do. "But you'd think they'd stick a little Slaughterhouse-Five in there." Quinn stares at us and shrugs. He has nothing more to say. His face is not blank. The kid has a heart. He likes standing there with us. When he gets out of school, I tell him, he'll be able to read the things he loves. We are silent then. Three men with Jane Eyre hanging between us.

BEFORE JUNIOR HIGH, I always liked school. It felt like a place that belonged to me, was set up for me, a place that I owned in some fashion. Sitting in a classroom now with Joel Klein, the chancellor of New York City schools, it occurs to me that he must really feel that way. The room sits in the Tweed Courthouse in lower Manhattan, his office two floors above. Classes from around the city rotate in and out every two weeks. Klein, a former antitrust lawyer for the Clinton administration who took over the city's schools in 2002, visits often. "People try to separate out how much of this is a general boy- girl thing versus how much resides in subgroups," Klein says. "

In New York City, it's quite clearly a boy-girl thing. Eleven percent more women graduate than men, consistent across the major racial and ethnic groups. It's a huge number. That's a lot of kids." He's ready to show me charts reflecting different achievement rates at different grade levels. We run through them, one column to the next, but it feels rote to me. The numbers are enervating. A couple percentage points here, a couple there. I stop him. I want to take a look at the classroom library, so we walk. Once I'm turning the pages of a book on Lewis and Clark, I hook a finger back toward the pile of charts.

"What does it all add up to?" I ask. Klein picks up a book on Peter the Great and tilts his head. "What you see is a story about problems with literacy, with reading, that develop into a consistent increase in dropouts and lower graduation rates." The numbers, he says, show a literacy gap between boys and girls from fourth grade through twelfth. "We need to find things they will read."

Klein sighs: "I remember how I read. It was very powerful. I read all of John R. Tunis's books about baseball. I went forward with that. I took it to Jude the Obscure and Dostoyevsky. That's the kind of connection you cannot predict. Sports led me to literature." He speaks of the way he pictured himself as a boy, then a man. "I thought of myself as a ballplayer. Then as a ballplayer/lawyer. Then, finally, just a lawyer. That was the way I went. We have to find paths."

I'm thinking about Quinn then, how happy he seemed when he talked about reading articles about music, about how much he liked the books he chose for himself, like Get Shorty. "When I was a kid," Klein says, "we had this view of education that the teacher stood up there, taught, and tried to keep each kid in the same place. Boys and girls. All the same. Each grade was a sort of franchise, with the same product. We've learned that we have to tailor to the individual student. Boys are different. We have to get comfortable with that difference. Quickly."

It occurs to me that it must be odd for Klein to have come from the world of intellectual property rights, a world where meetings were surely overpopulated by men, to parent meetings like the one he describes to me: "A school auditorium. A room of forty people. Two men. Very typical. I told both men, You have to go out and find two more men to come to the next meeting, then they tell two more. I give people an assignment. It's how I work. Two more men. I just start with two more men."

THERE'S A BOY NAMED GERALD who's twenty-two who lives in West Lafayette, Indiana, with my girlfriend's daughter. He's had his own set of grim struggles: drugs, alcohol, an absent father. In some ways, he's like most boys at first-withdrawn, a little sullen, his eyes on the horizon. When he can separate his anger from the gist of what he's feeling, I've known him to be witty, intelligent, kind. But how long can that last? He did not return to high school after being expelled his junior year and now scrambles from one gig to the next. Sometimes he makes panels for car doors or takes a job roofing for a few weeks or hangs drywall.

Every time he gets hired, they lay him off before he gets benefits, or he fails a drug test, or he just gets fired. I worry. If he doesn't have a car, he can't get to work. If he can't get to work, he can't keep a car. He can't do any better than a job where they hire him for a week or two, tease him with belonging, then toss him out. This gives him no chance to advance, no chance to supervise, no chance to grow in any sort of trade. He's got no way to grab on to the culture of work. Nowhere to go, except Iraq maybe. They keep raising the bonus for enlistment; they keep tempting him to put himself in the mix. I always think he's a bag of flesh to them, a bullet stopper. But it must cross his mind. He's got to be mad. He's got to be hurting. I'm always afraid to ask. I'm always afraid of what my own advice would be.

I AM IN KANSAS CITY, Missouri, on my way to see the commanding general of the U. S. Army Combined Arms Center. I'm staying at the airport Radisson, eating room service during a tornado warning, watching Kundun, the story of the Dalai Lama's childhood in Tibet. It's like that these days. Everywhere I look, there's another boy staring back at me. The Dalai Lama was a wildly curious boy-about cars, movies, machines, traveling. He laughs, he fidgets, he stares off into the distance. I imagine he farts for pleasure. He hungers for other places. And I'm thinking about how much the monks seemed to like him, to tolerate him as a boy. They were both his followers and his leaders. And how being a boy, just being allowed to prosper as a boy, made him the greatest man-gentle and smart, kind and ballsy. I can still see the boy inside the man I know now. Then the electricity goes out.

The next morning I drive to Fort Leavenworth, where Lieutenant General David Petraeus waits for me. I've never been to a military base in my life, although I took military-history courses in college, only because I wanted to squeeze money out of ROTC. I'm not sure what I was expecting. Dust, I guess. Huge lots where men and women march in formation. But the base looks more like a turn-of-the-last-century college campus, replete with cottages and dormitories. There is an order to the comings and goings that one might expect but an inclusiveness I find surprising. Men shake hands. People wave. Guys in camouflage push strollers. "There's a kind of embrace to the military," General Petraeus says after hearing what I felt coming in. "Done right, the connections are similar to a family."

This man has six pages of handwritten notes and twenty pages of research, all balanced on his knee. He reads through his comments precisely but fields my questions as they come. He's an academic, too, having taught international relations at West Point for two years. He had a meeting on this subject with several staff members before I arrived. "I wanted to do a little thinking before we talked. It's urgent, but I can't say I have a simple answer." I tell him about the boys I know, about how I'm concerned that the Army may be the only option for a kid like Gerald. "That's the problem," he says. "It may not be an option for him. We have a profile we're looking for; we need high school graduates who are physically fit and driven by the desire for self-improvement. We need men who are prepared to be better soldiers.

"I see the same things you do. The numbers are declining among boys," he says, clearing his throat. "I always call them men. I'm concerned in three respects: as a citizen, as an educator, as a military officer. As a citizen, there's a keen recognition that our competitiveness is defined by the education of our workforce. Beyond that, as a teacher, I can see that it's not just economic growth we're talking about; it's overall quality of life, the balance of the society itself. I always keep in mind that quality of political discourse depends on an educated electorate. You have to try to construct a culture with great care. That's what we do in the military. There is the sense here that every individual can be the decisive person in a key point, in a key situation. It's a sense of ownership and connection that isn't provided elsewhere." I ask him about a solution, about a direction for boys.

He corrects me: "It's men." I think for a moment that he means using the term to refer to boys, but he doesn't. The answer, he means, is men. "What boys need," he says, "are role models, parental supervision, encouragement to pursue excellence in all that they do, especially in education, where we must do whatever is necessary to keep them in school. They need direction to stay on the straight and narrow, a push to participate in athletics and extracurricular activities, help to pursue a healthy lifestyle, recognition that they must be accountable for their actions, and reinforcement of good performance."

But how do we do that? The adults. The men. What's our end? "We have to embrace mentoring," he says, "and we have to be conscious role models. Parents, teachers, coaches, bosses all have to do what leaders do-give energy and encouragement to those who soldier for them. And young men undoubtedly need that more than any other group in America. Indeed, if we can get them through the years during which they're particularly vulnerable, they often will flourish." I shrug. I'm a little skeptical. Mentoring seems more like a buzzword than a real practice. "It has to be very conscious," he says. "I have dozens of young officers I mentor. I typically call several each month on Saturday mornings and e-mail the others.

We actually schedule the Saturday-morning calls." When I ask if he has role models of his own, in this embrace he speaks of, he snaps off a list of ten names. Generals, teachers, coaches. There is not one among them I recognize, but he clearly knows each one for a different reason, for a different aspect of his own need. "I have to trust people who've been there before me," he says. "It's not a hard thing to learn because of its inherent value. But it's not a part of the larger culture of boys. They don't ask for help enough to know that it's there."

ONE MORNING LAST WEEK, two of the senior boys in my class came in with bandages on their hands. When I asked, as is my way, what happened, they smiled wryly. "Bloody Knuckles," said one. The other one laughed and peeled back his Band-Aid. "I was bleeding pretty bad," he said. I started in on them, haranguing them about the stupidity of potentially breaking bones in their hands weeks before they took jobs. As I was saying this stuff, I was thinking it was my own version of mentoring. But I can remember playing Bloody Knuckles. It was risky and fun. It felt good in the marrow just to think about it again. "I think we should have an Olympics of games guys play," said one.

They immediately started making a list. Two of them gathered, then three, then four. I watched as they listed out the events: Towel Battle. Leg Wrestling. King of the Buckets. Bloody Knuckles. Human Jousting. Six-Inch Punching. Indian Wrestling. Knee Football. Hand Slapper. Rock, Paper, Scissors. Slap Boxing. Pelts. I both know these games and don't. I remember playing them but can't remember the rules. We laughed as we read the list aloud, as the boys in the class demonstrated each event. These are the games you weren't allowed to play at recess, the games your mother warned you about. Each involves some measure of violence, some risk. The point is always to make the other guy fall or hurt, bleed or flip over, lose. Boys do this.

They knock one another down. They hurt one another. Then they laugh and shake it off. Their joy in relating each game was tangible. Soon they came up with a notion that this should be a campus-wide event: the Brolympics. And the idea had currency for a moment, the filling of some anomalous need that no man in the room could put a name to. But it was an absurdity, mostly, to consider this. We laughed at the audaciousness of it, the ludicrousness of letting boys be boys, of ramping up maleness in the center of campus, where maleness is only tolerated. They made up a poster, but the idea died under our laughter. This is a school after all. A college. We know how things go.

I'M A LITTLE WORRIED about boys, so lately I've been thinking a lot about what can be done to help them. I've been griping, to my friends mostly, for a decade about something I've felt in my gut. Every time an article on a perceived boys crisis appears, there is a backlash, a rehashing of the numbers, a recasting of the crisis.

Get this much straight: Things are much worse for black boys, for Latino boys, than they are for white ones. And for poor boys as well. I see that clearly. But why such great resistance to the idea that the problem may be that boys-all boys-have lost their foothold, their sense of a linear future, a path in the world? Why does maleness even matter if all we do is resist and undermine it in our schools? "The masculine impulse is limits testing, even self-destructive. We don't want to extinguish it," Camille Paglia, feminist critic and cultural provocateur, told me when I called. "In the age of terrorism, who will defend us? Young jihadists sure aren't tempering their masculinity. Americans are in unilateral gender disarmament."

I don't think there is a gender war. I don't think there is any war on boys really. It's not that conscious. It's more like a great forgetting. The women's movement was about making room for women, and the numbers show, in schools at least and in the workplace to some extent, that we have. The gains of girls, Kati Haycock points out, are "the result of a couple of generations of advocacy on the part of women, and girls getting the message that anything is possible. It's a result of women constantly being reminded that they have to watch out for their financial well-being, and they could do this through schools.

Women got that message. They are still getting it. That's what's owed the boys. It's a matter of generational focus. We have no goals asking educators to pay attention to boys, nothing really concrete. The record shows that when we really concentrate on something like this, we tend to have progress." We don't have to feel threatened by the gains girls have made. We need to study them, to use them as a model for boys. The solution may be to grab on to that which is male and use it as a means to fix the problem rather than as a symptom of it. In the classroom, there's ample evidence that certain changes could help boys prosper. They like to do their work in bite-sized chunks. They need differing levels of activity, often tied to some element of competition or short-term goal. They tend to gravitate toward nonfiction in their reading-more facts, shorter pieces. They need physical activity, too, up to four recesses a day, to stay focused. We also have to think about the way boys put the world together outside the classroom.

In England, gaps in achievement have been attributed, in part, to what is known as laddishness. Since boys tend to run in packs, their values are defined by the boys who lead them. There's a sort of antiestablishment disaffection passed from boy to boy, a sense that school doesn't matter. Educators there used that pattern as a means to reinvent it. They used intensely focused mentorship, aimed at the pack leaders, to break down these attitudes, cracking into the structures that keep boys distant from school. Women forced the issue with girls. Men have to do the same with boys. As it is now, men don't even have the language to discuss what it means to be male. Forget the Right and the Left. I am as skeptical of character training, championed by conservatives as the answer to the crisis, as I am scornful of sensitivity training, which put our classrooms in their current posture. We don't need a new orthodoxy.

We need a deeper sense of involvement. Men have to be willing to care about the way boys are being treated, taught, and cared for in this country and advocate for them. Find the books that boys read-they are out there-and make sure they are in the libraries and under the Christmas trees. If the classrooms don't work, men must be in the schools-at the PTA meetings, at parent-teacher conferences, in front of school boards, in classes teaching or just talking about their jobs. Young men, men without children, must take a stake and volunteer to coach, to counsel, to read to kids. You can't wait for fatherhood to hit you in the face. Men whose children are grown must mentor a new generation of children. Select two boys, the ones who need it, the ones you know are hurting.

Take a lesson from Joel Klein and convince two more men to do the same. Two more men: That's your assignment. Go talk to boys. You don't have to use baby talk with them or buy them things. You just have to listen to them. Ask them who they are. The answers they give may not always make sense, but talk to enough of them and you will surely realize that boys themselves are not the problem. And it sure as hell isn't women or girls. The problem is men.

Who's Doing Something?

Not everyone has turned a blind eye to the boys crisis. Here are four organizations devoted to fixing the problem.

Guys Read

Jon Scieszka, a children's-book author and former elementary school teacher, wants to make reading interesting and fun for boys. His engaging Web site recommends guy-friendly books to young readers.

The Boys Project

Organized this year by a University of Alaska psychology professor, this consortium of educators and researchers hopes to spur federal and state-funded initiatives to increase boys' academic skills and increase their ambition.

Raising and Educating Healthy Boys Project

The Educational Equity Center of the Academy for Educational Development created this program to study gender expectations, raise awareness among educators and parents of how they may be inadvertently limiting boys, and brainstorm solutions.

Citizen Schools

Though not targeted just to boys, this organization, operating in twenty-two middle schools nationwide, seeks to engage students through the kind of experiential learning, such as apprenticeships with volunteers, that males tend to respond to. Victor Ozols contributed to the reporting of this story and provided invaluable analysis.

© 2006 by Hearst Communications Inc.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Bas Bleu Online Warehouse Sale

A Savings Explosion...just in time for your holiday shopping.

Our Online Warehouse Sale has just been packed full of new bargains...many of them are your Bas Bleu favorites, now at terrific reductions.

Save 25% to 50% on fiction, nonfiction, children's books, readers' gifts and accessories.But don't delay: these new low prices expire on December 20, 2006.

NYC: Dec. 2nd-3rd Don't Miss It!

Nineteenth Annual Independent and Small Press Book Fair Register Now

Schedule of Events

Saturday, December 2nd
10:00 am: Fair Opens

11:00 am to 12:45 pm; assembly room


11:00 Deanna Shapiro/PRA Publishing
11:15 John Fiske/Black Spruce Media
11:30 Ellis Avery/Impassio Press
11:45 Linda LeBlanc/Ama Dablam, Inc.
12:00 Stephen Kaufman/Hanshi Warrior Press
12:15 Robert Dunn/Coral Press
12:30 Rebecca Shumejda/sunnyoutside

11: 00 am to 12:00 pm; Room 208
What is it About Cupcakes? We’ve loved them since childhood—and now it seems they’re everywhere. Cupcakes: Why do we love them so? There are lines forming outside of bake shops and thousands of cookbooks devoted to these sweet little treats; people even blog about them. Join this panel of cupcake experts as we sing the praises of the cupcake and discuss just why they have remained so popular for so long (did you know that Hostess first started making them in 1919?). Along the way you’ll learn where to find the best cupcakes in the city and pick up a baking tip or two.

Panelist are: Elaine Cohen, author of Super-Duper Cupcakes: Kids’ Creations from the Cupcake Caboose; Isa Chandra Moskowitz, author of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World; and Rachel Kramer Bussel, writer and co-founder of the blog All Cupcakes, All The Time. Moderated by Marisa Bulzone, editorial director of Hearst Books.

12:00 pm to 1:00 pm; Room 208
The recent publication of two anthologies, This Is Chick Lit, and This Is Not Chick Lit, has generated a lot of debate about a genre that is both beloved and hated. Join Sarah Mlynowski, author of See Jane Write: A Girl’s Guide to Writing Chick Lit, Lauren Baratz-Logsted, editor of This Is Chick Lit, and authors Caren Lissner, Rachel Pine, and Karen Siplin for a lively discussion of the phenomenon.

1:00 pm to 2:00; Room 208
The age of the powerless disappointed author is over. In a panel moderated by maverick publishing consultant Stephanie Gunning, celebrity therapist/author Donna LeBlanc, award-winning self-published novelist Carol Hoenig, and Free Press assistant publicity director Jill Siegel reveal their special strategies and tools for effective book promotion developed inside and outside the publishing firm.

2:00 pm to 3:00 pm; Room 208
Leading liberal/progressive political bloggers Lindsay Beyerstein (Majikthise), Jeffrey Feldman (Frameshop), Bob Geiger ( and Bill Scher (Liberal Oasis, author Wait! Don't Move to Canada) discuss the progressive blogosphere's rise to power, and how this newly emergent political force will remake not only the Democratic Party, but the entire American political landscape.

2:00 pm to 3:00 pm; Assembly Room
American literary culture echoes the ambivalences, arguments and conviction at play in our society. It follows that, rightly or wrongly, ethnic identity becomes entwined in discussion of literature produced by writers of color. Noted writers Luis Francia, authors Monique Truong, Martha Southgate and Jaime Manrique will explore this topic. Luis Francia will be moderating this panel.

3:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Michael Cunningham, acclaimed author of Specimen Days, The Hours, Flesh and Blood, and A Home at the End of the World, will discuss his life and career as a writer. The interviewer will be Nora Rawlinson, former editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly.

4:00 pm to 5:00 pm
In an era of corporate consolidation and bottom-line mandates, how do fiction writers negotiate their careers? Indie hit novelist Joe Meno, elusive best-selling writer T Cooper, and San Francisco renegade Peter Plate discuss their approaches in a conversation moderated by the editor of the Believer, Ed Park.

5:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Internationally renowned poet Anne Waldman, and acclaimed poet and novelist Eileen Myles, will engage in a conversation with emerging poets Jen Benka and Matthea Harvey. These writers will discuss the importance of poetry as a medium of social and political engagement, and how women poets across generations have responded to and written against the trials and tribulations of their times. The panel will be moderated by Erica Kaufman of Belladonna.

Sunday, December 3rd

11:00 am: Fair Opens

12:00 am to 12:45 pm; Assembly room


11:00 Mary Ellen Sinclair/Zenga Publishing
11:15 Francine L. Trevens/GNYIPA
11:30 George Robert Minkoff/McPherson & Company
11:45 Sandra Sanchez/The Wessex Collective

11:30 am to 1:00 pm; Room 208
With numerous examples of fraud and voter disenfranchisement having taken place in Ohio during the 2004 presidential election, join Steve Freeman, Mark Crispin Miller, Greg Palast, and Paul Robeson, Jr. as they examine what happened in Ohio in 2004 with an eye toward preventing it from happening again in 2008. Dan Simon, publisher of Seven Stories Press, will moderate.

1:00 pm to 2:00 pm; Room 208
Nation columnist Katha Pollitt will be joined by Third Wave feminist crusader/author Jennifer Baumgardner and journalist Eyal Press in a discussion of the frontline battles to protect women's rights in the coming year. The discussion will be moderated by Sara Nelson, editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly.

1:00 pm to 2:00 pm; Assembly Room
They look so easy. They’re short. Not a lot of text. Simple, straightforward prose. Anyone can do it, right? Wrong. Picture books are deceptive in their simplicity. Writing, illustrating and editing them is a craft. Join author Emily Jenkins, illustrator Tomek Bogacki, author/illustrator Meghan McCarthy, and editor Erin Clarke as they share their experiences and advice.

2:00 pm to 3:00 pm; Room 208
In a Nation Books Panel, a conversation with Tom Engelhardt, author of Mission Unaccomplished, and Elizabeth Holtzman, former NY Congresswoman and author of The Impeachment of George W. Bush, who will discuss the new congress and the potential for impeachment.

2:00 pm to 2:45 pm; Assembly Room
Author of Some Holy Weight in the Village Air and a weekly appearance on The Saturday Early Show for CBS, Ira Joe Fisher, will be doing a reading, Q&A and book signing at the Fair.

3:00 pm to 4:00 pm; Room 208
Literary anti-hero Amiri Baraka and best-selling Jamaican writer Colin Channer will discuss books, politics, history and the future of literature.

3:00 pm to 4:00 pm; Assembly Room
A reading and discussion with Relentless Aaron, one of the most successful self-published authors, who in 2006 went on to sign a 14-book contract with St. Martin’s Press; Relentless Aaron will be doing a reading, followed by a discussion and Q&A about his career, first as a self-publisher and later as an author publishing a record number of titles with a major press.

4:00 pm to 5:00 pm; Room 208
This panel will discuss the subculture of graffiti in New York, an art movement that is largely undocumented and often misunderstood, with graffiti artists Savager, Lady Pink & Smith & photographers James & Karla Murray. Graffiti techniques, forms, and styles will be examined so that the public can begin to understand its complexity and underlying messages. Its continued influences on the arts and media will be revealed and insight will be given on graffiti art's future and its documentation.

4:00 pm to 5:00 pm; Assembly Room
A panel discussion on the importance of book culture with David Levi Strauss, Jonas Mekas, Dore Ashton, and Dan Simon. Panel moderated by Phong Bui, publisher of The Brooklyn Rail. We would like to thank our sponsors:

"The Complete Idiot's Guide to Mary of Nazareth"

All about Mary of Nazareth

Norman woman's book offers
complete guide to knowing Jesus' mother

From,by Carla Hinton,
Religion Editor

Blessed Virgin. Queen of Heaven. The Madonna.

The Bible identifies Mary of Nazareth as the mother of Jesus, thus she
has been given many titles of honor.

Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda of Norman
wants everyone to get to know her namesake as she has: Mother of the Church.
Friend. The first Christian.

In her book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to
Mary of Nazareth" (Alpha, $18.95), Scaperlanda has written extensively about
Mary. The book, released earlier this year, presents Mary of Nazareth as the
world's most popular mother figure.

"I know some people may be turned
off by the title, but to me, it's perfect," Scaperlanda said. "I want people to
get to know Mary."

She predicted many Christians will focus on Mary as
the feature film "The Nativity Story" makes its debut Friday in theaters

"Somebody said we only bring her out at Christmas, but she's
here all year. She's an intricate part of the story. She was the one who said
‘yes.' She is the heart of what we believe in."

Two Marys point the
Scaperlanda, 46, considered it an honor to write about Mary,
particularly since her original contract called for her to write about several
women from the Bible. The publishers of the "The Complete Idiot Guide" series
opted instead to have Scaperlanda focus all of her attention on Jesus' mother.
And she had just three months to complete the book.

To write,
Scaperlanda drew on her research skills, Roman Catholic upbringing and her
education. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of
Texas and a master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. Plus,
she had written several books, including "The Seeker's Guide to Mary" and "The
Journey: A Guide for the Modern Pilgrim" with her husband, Michael, an OU law
professor. In addition to her books, Scaperlanda is a columnist for Catholic
Parent and Catholic Digest.

Immersed in the project, the Cuban-born
Scaperlanda said she was not surprised to feel a deep connection with Mary. She
said she has felt that way all her life, perhaps because of her roots in
Catholicism. Also, she said, with her Hispanic heritage, where family is very
important and huge gatherings of family members are a tradition, it's easy for
her to identify with Mary as what she was: a young woman, particularly a young
mother. A mother of four children, now grown, Scaperlanda said she can easily
imagine Mary with her beloved son.

"She was completely human like you
and I. I envision her as a mom — up at night with her baby, rejoicing when that
baby starts to walk, then seeing that child grow and walk in wisdom, which it
says in the Bible."

Mary's humanity is a critical element in the
Christian faith story, "but she always points us to Jesus. She wants us to get
to know Him," Scaperlanda said.

Scaperlanda said she considers Mary to
be the first Christian, "because she was the first one to say Jesus was the
Christ, the son of God.

"Even as frightened as she must have been, she
still acknowledged it. She accepted it."

Lessons from

Standing in the sanctuary of Our Lady's Cathedral in Oklahoma
City, it is as if Scaperlanda is surrounded by the Mary she calls mother and
friend. The stained-glass windows around the church, which show scenes in Mary's
life, are featured in Scaperlanda's book.
On a sunny day, Mary's face beams
as light filters through the windows.

There are many lessons to be
gleaned from Mary of Nazareth — not just for Catholics, but all Christians,
Scaperlanda said.

"She was a regular Jewish girl who did the most
extraordinary thing. We all hear about ordinary people who do the

Scaperlanda said seeing "The Nativity Story" may help
people get a glimpse of what it was like for Mary when an angel's pronouncement
signaled an end to life as she knew it and a new journey of faith.

does she do it? She completely relies on God to show her the way," Scaperlanda

"She refers to Him as ‘the Most High,' ‘the Holy One.' She was
able to get through it because she trusted Him completely. That is my prayer for
everyone, whatever their Christian tradition, or even non-Christians.

"She is a woman who literally changed the course of history by being
part of this plan of God's. "

It might just be me, but these "idiot" guides have always turned me off. I would never have The Idiot's Guide to anything on my bookshelf.

One of my favorite college professors told me once, you can tell a lot by how many books a person has in their home, not to mention the quality of those books. I so agree, Dr. Gilbert!

Book News: From the Co-Founder of the Milagros Foundation

Get your own signed copy of Space Between The Stars by Deborah Santana.

- Deborah Santana is best known for her marriage to music icon Carlos
Santana–a thirty-year bond that endures to this day. But as a girl growing up in
San Francisco in the 1960s, daughter of a white mother and a black father–the
legendary blues guitarist Saunders King–her life was charged with its own drama
long before she married.In this beautiful, haunting memoir, Deborah Santana
shares for the first time her early experiences with racial intolerance, her
romantic involvement with musician Sly Stone and the suffering she endured in
that relationship, and her adventures in the freewheeling 1960s. Yet it is her
spiritual awakening that is the core of this story.

Space Between the Stars is a moving account of self-discovery,
rendered in raw, beautiful prose, by a woman whose heart has remained pure even
in times of despair. As Deborah Santana talks frankly about her lifelong fight
against racial injustice and her deep-seated loyalty to her family, ultimately
it is the struggle to remain a spiritual and artistic force in her own right, in
the shadow of one of the world’s most revered musicians, that shines through as
her most indomitable pursuit.

“Tightly crafted, colorfully written, and surprisingly honest…[The] reader
can’t help but speed through ther pages.”-San Josey Mercury News

Monday, November 27, 2006

From One of the Bestselling Authors of the Spanish-Speaking World

The Secret Supper: A Novel by Javier Sierra, debuted earlier this year but in case you or your favorite bibliophile haven't read it yet, it might make a great gift (the best kind: that keeps giving) for the holidays.

From Publishers Weekly:

Set in the late 15th century, Sierra's first book translated into English revolves around a papal inquisitor's investigation into Leonardo da Vinci's alleged heresies and offers a new way of interpreting The Last Supper. After receiving a series of cryptic messages from "the Soothsayer," who warns the 15th century church that "art can be employed as a weapon," the Secretariat of Keys of the Papal States dispatches Father Agostino Leyre on a twofold mission to Milan: identify the Soothsayer and discover what, if any, messages da Vinci is hiding in the painting.

Leyre, who narrates, views the in-progress Last Supper at the Santa Maria delle Grazie and becomes fascinated.

He makes a series of sometimes muddled discoveries about the painting, leading up to his interpretation of the painting's true meaning (not revealed until the last line of the last page). Those not well versed in Catholic history may have trouble following the many subplots involving factionalism and dissent within the church. The combination of code breaking, secrecy, chicanery within the Catholic Church and a certain artist is by now a familiar one, but Sierra's book, already a bestseller in Europe, is a fresh contribution to the da Vinci industry.

I hate the Holidays!

You know, I never thought this would happen but I guess it's all part of becoming a full grown adult. One day you wake up and realize that the holidays suck, the marketing and stores suck for placing all this pressure on you to buy things, YOU are the one buying ALL the presents, all the birthdays in your family seem to band around the holidays, and not even the smell of Mami making pasteles can make all of the anxiety and bitterness go away. Bah Humbug!

Some People are Just Weird

Sometimes, I feel like I just live in a city of weird people.

Like the guy sitting in front of me on the Express Bus, who decided he was going to hold on to the overhead compartment during the entire bus ride, even though he was fully seated.


The lady who went on a completely frenetic rant, spewing at everyone on line in Pathmark, because she only had one item and there were six people ahead of her.


People who think it's okay to eat nasty, greasy food on a crowded subway train, or who do not remove their bags from their shoulders and let them swing into you.

Honestly, sometimes I think what the hell is wrong with people.

Because Roses Sometimes Smell Like Do-doo

As if our children didn't already lack role models or have enough issues to contend with, a Brooklyn judge has put out a children's book that promotes hatred against immigrants. He compares immigrants to weeds growing in your garden.

From the NY Daily News:

"Hot House Flowers" warns of "effects of unregulated immigration" in a plot line about beautiful flowers that wither when dandelions sneak into their greenhouse."

It's intended to describe defense of home and defense of country, and the reasons for that defense," said Wilson, who self-published the book, listed on at $15.99.

The story tells of jealous weeds that hog all the water and soil in the greenhouse. The other flowers suffer, but don't do anything until it's almost too late - because they don't want to appear intolerant.

This is one book, I definitely won't be urging anyone to buy. I think the fact that someone with his credentials had to self-publish speaks for itself. I can't see anyone but hatemongers reading this "religious" tome to their kids.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Mexican editor found dead in Pacific resort city

ZIHUATANEJO, Mexico — A newspaper editor who recently had run stories about organized crime and city government corruption was found dead Friday in a hotel room in this Pacific resort city. An acquaintance who was with him the last time he was seen alive remained missing.

Misael Tamayo Hernandez, editor of "El Despertar de la Costa," was found nearly naked, with his hands tied behind his back, in a room of the Venus Motel on a highway, Zihuatanejo police officials said.

He was lying on a bed, covered only with a sheet, and investigators found three puncture marks on his body, one in his right hand and two others in a forearm. The cause of death was a heart attack, forensic investigators said.

Authorities did not know the whereabouts of a businessman who left the newspaper with Tamayo Hernandez to have breakfast Thursday morning.

Tamayo Hernandez, who was well-respected in the local journalistic community, had published a story on Thursday alleging that city officials had given illegal discounts on water services to individuals and businesses. Thursday's edition also contained stories on organized crime.

Workers at the motel said they saw the editor arrive in a gray Volkswagen Jetta about 1:25 a.m. Friday, and that the car then left again at 2:30 a.m. It was not clear if the witnesses were able to see who was with him when he arrived or who was driving when the car left. The body was found about 7:30 a.m., said area District Attorney Raciel Gonzalez.

Numerous journalists have been attacked or killed in recent years in Mexico, presumably as revenge for unfavorable reports on criminals, including drug traffickers and corrupt government officials.

The state of Guerrero, which includes Zihuatanejo, and the neighboring state of Michoacan also have suffered in recent months from a wave of violence characterized by decapitations, shootings and grenade explosions that authorities attribute to warring drug trafficking gangs.

News: Found in translation

The days of Spanish-language authors' anonymity in U.S. are coming to an end.

From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, By Tal Abbady

Raquel Roque was sitting in her vendor's booth at the Miami Book Fair International when he shuffled by, unnoticed in the crowd: Guillermo Cabrera Infante, the Cuban exile author of Tres Tristes Tigres (Three Trapped Tigers), a 1967 novel about Havana's pre-Fidel cabaret and gangster life that drew comparisons to the works of James Joyce.

For Roque, owner of the Spanish-language Miami bookstore Downtown Book Center, it was the ultimate celebrity sighting.

"He was walking by like a regular Joe and he looked kind of lost," she said of the London-based author who died last year. "I said, `Oh my God. That's Cabrera Infante.'"

When Roque glimpsed him in 1997, the Miami Book Fair International was a coveted but small stage for Spanish-language authors, both the celebrated and translated like Cabrera Infante, as well as lesser-known names.

But in the past decade, the fair's Ibero-American Authors Program has become a who's who in the Spanish-language literary scene. It has grown dramatically to reflect the Hispanic population's boom and the proliferation of Spanish-language publishing imprints in the United States.

60 Hispanic authors

This year's program includes 60 Hispanic authors, more than in any previous year, according to Adriana Salas, who helped coordinate the event.

Mega-sellers like Chilean Isabel Allende (who will speak in English and Spanish) are scheduled to present their works alongside writers including Miami-based Cuban novelist Daína Chaviano (La Isla de los Amores Infinitos/The Island of Infinite Loves, 2006), Chile's Jorge Edwards (Persona non grata, 1973; El Inutil de la Familia/The Worthless One in the Family, 2004), Nicaraguan Gioconda Belli (El Pergamino de la Seduccion/The Scroll of Seduction, published in 2005 in Spanish and 2006 in English) and Argentine Marcos Aguinis (¿Que Hacer?/What To Do?, 2005).

Exile and the political consciousness that often defines Latin American literature will be among the themes discussed in this year's presentations, along with the subjects of immigration and Cuba's future. On a lighter note, readers can attend talks on Latin American soccer and the controversy surrounding Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, a best seller across borders.

Also noteworthy, Maria Kodama, the widow of Jorge Luis Borges, will lead a tribute to her late husband on the same day -- Saturday -- that a panel called Tinta Fresca (Fresh Ink) will celebrate the works of new or relatively unknown writers and poets.

"We're trying to encourage a Spanish-language literary scene in South Florida," Salas said of the growing numbers of Hispanic authors who swamp Miami every November.

Growing demands

As more publishers launch Spanish-language imprints and major booksellers like Barnes & Noble and Borders cater to a growing bilingual Hispanic clientele, the Spanish-language and Anglo book worlds have begun to intersect.

The Miami Book Fair International, says Roque, who volunteers at the fair yearly, is an important bridge between the two.

"A lot of publishing companies have established offices here in Miami. We have a huge Hispanic population, and these are readers who contribute to the fair. They go to it. They listen to the authors speak. They buy the books," said Roque, whose Cuban exile family has operated Downtown Book Center, Inc. since 1965.

The fair draws some of the best-known players in Spanish-language publishing, including Silvia Matute of Miami-based Santillana, Marla Norman of the Spanish publisher Planeta's Miami office, and Ulises Roldan of the Colombian publisher Grupo Editorial Norma's San Juan office.

They go to capitalize on the growing demands of Hispanic readers.

According to a recent Publishers Weekly report, Barnes & Noble's Spanish-language sales have tripled since 2000. In the past year, HarperCollins Publishing's Spanish-language imprint, Rayo, launched in 2000, saw its sales increase by about 150 percent through two distributors that supply books to Wal-Mart and Target.

Reflecting English-language trends, many best-selling titles are self-help tracts, or how-to books and cookbooks. Roque's own cookbook, Cocina Cubana, will be published by Random House in the fall of 2007 in Spanish, and there is interest in an English-language version.

After a 2001 merger with Italian publisher Mondadori, Random House expanded its overseas divisions, which now include such prestigious Spanish-language imprints as Plaza & Janes of Mexico, Grijalbo of Spain and Sudamericana of Argentina. All three typically send representatives to the Miami Book Fair International.

New readers

Roque predicts that the days of authors who enjoy a large fan base at home but trudge through Miami's book fair in ghostly anonymity are fast waning as Spanish-language books sales and publishing in the United States take off, and more writers see their work translated into English.

Still, she has seen her share of Latin American authors stumped by the relative lack of adoration in Miami.

"When they arrive, they're just like any other Juan Gonzalez and that might come as a shock to them. They'll be wondering, `Why didn't 2,000 people show up at my reading?' The United States is a virgin market for them, and there's always the illusion of being known here. Once it happens, it's a thrill," she said.

Award-winning Cuban exile writer Daína Chaviano, whose work blends political themes with science-fiction, has participated in the fair for the past six years. Two years ago, she was invited to be the guest speaker at the annual conference of the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, a literary and academic gathering.

"I was shocked to learn I was known in the English-language world," she said.

Chaviano's work has been translated into more than 20 languages. But English had not been one of them until now. Riverhead, a subsidiary of Penguin, will publish an English-language edition of her novel La Isla de los Amores Infinitos in early 2008.

Does she see the English-language translation as a big break?

"The important thing is that contact with the public -- to meet readers, whether in China or America, and have them tell you they see themselves reflected in your characters," she said. "My hope is for that to happen in as many languages as possible."

News: Concubines, queens inspire writers Allende, Belli

Allende's latest novel, 'Ines of My Soul,' tells the tale of a real life Spanish seamstress, Ines Suarez, who wielded the sword as well as the needle, beheading her enemies, pulling arrows from soldiers' flesh, divining water in the desert and captivating the heart of Chilean conqueror Pedro de Valdivia

MIAMI - The Associated Press

Chilean author Isabel Allende's 1982 best-seller "House of Spirits" helped generate a wave of Latin American literature featuring heroines who dared cross geographic, political and social boundaries.

Now, the grande dame of Latina lit, whose books have been translated into 27 languages, is going back -- way back -- to the 16th century.

Her latest novel, "Ines of My Soul," tells the tale of a real life Spanish seamstress, Ines Suarez, who wielded the sword as well as the needle, beheading her enemies, pulling arrows from soldiers' flesh, divining water in the desert and captivating the heart of Chilean conqueror Pedro de Valdivia.

Like Allende's last novel, "Zorro," her new work is an action-packed view of the New World, closer in style to "Treasure Island," than the magical realism of "House of Spirits." It is being published this month in Spanish and English by Harper Collins.

Allende is not alone in her voyage back in time to the Spanish Conquest.

In September, Harper Collins' Rayo division released the English version of Nicaraguan poet and author Giocanda Belli's "The Scroll of Seduction," the story of the 16th century Spanish Queen Juana of Castile. Belli mixes the tale of the queen, better known as Juana the Mad, with the obsessive love story between a modern day history professor and a teenage orphan.

Earlier this year, Simon & Schuster's Atria Books published "Malinche," by Laura Esquivel, author of "Like Water for Chocolate," about the Aztec woman who helped Hernan Cortez conquer Mexico.

"People say, 'Why is everyone writing historical novels?"' joked Allende, who will present her book at the Miami Book Fair International this week along with Belli. "We don't call each other and say 'Hey, I'm writing about this.' It just happens to be in the air."

Mitchell Kaplan, the Miami fair's co-founder and owner of the four-store Books & Books chain, says the latest releases by Allende and Belli highlight the growing interest of major U.S. publishing houses in Hispanic literature both in English and Spanish. The authors will be reading in English from their books, a reminder that their influence now reaches far beyond the niche of "Latin American literature."

Both Allende and Belli see parallels in the Spanish conquerors' search for gold and today's tensions over oil in the Middle East.

"Greed has been the great motivation in history -- greed and power and sex are the great driving forces of men," Allende said.

Belli adds another theory.

"When one is in a situation in a world so convoluted as this one is, it's difficult to get distance and write about the situation. It's a way to get perspective and decipher what is happening," she said.

Juana's story highlights how little the situation has changed for many women, Belli said. The queen is locked away for 40 years and manipulated first by her husband, then by her father and eventually her son, the Emperor Charles V.

"In some Arab countries, women are still kept in the home. What happens under the Taliban isn't much different from what Juana faced. It seems unbelievable that 500 years later, women are still punished for their passion and for not following the rules," Belli said.

The two novels show the flip side of women's lives during the Spanish conquest. In Spain, Juana is called crazy when she refuses to choose between love and power.

"She is the opposite of Elizabeth I, who had to renounce her sexuality and femininity to succeed as a ruler," Belli said.

Juana's struggle is internal.

"I waged war for all those whom I loved. It was for me that I did not fight for," Juana says from her prison cell. "So much have I lost that I no longer care. Yet I have one last endeavor: to win myself for myself."

Allende shows what it took for a woman to survive on the other side of the castle walls -- and the world.

During one battle in Chile, Ines describes coming face-to-face with an Indian tribal leader.

"I remember that we faced each other -- he with a short lance and I with the sword I had to lift with both hands -- each crouched in identical postures, each furiously yelling terrible war cries, each with eyes boring into the other's..."

Ines, too, is betrayed by Valdivia, but in the New World, at least, it seems a woman could still carve out her own identity. Ines eventually discovers love and marriage with the Chilean governor, while Valdivia falls victim to his own avarice -- forced to drink the molten gold he fought for.

Allende refuses to gloss over the brutality of the soldiers while still drawing them as compelling characters. She describes the Mapuche, Inca and other tribes with detail but avoids whitewashing their violent acts.

"I tried not to be partial to anyone and not to idealize anyone," Allende said. "I come from a Mestizo culture. We may not like it, but we would not be who we are without the Spanish conquest."

Like their characters, Allende and Belli share more than a few similarities. Both were born to wealthy, educated families and sympathized with leftist political elements. Allende, 64, was a journalist who fled Chile after Agusto Pinochet's 1973 military coup toppled her uncle Salvador's government, eventually marrying an American and settling in San Francisco.

Belli, 58, joined Nicaragua's Sandinistas in the 1970s and held political posts while writing poetry before eventually becoming disillusioned with the party. She married an American, too, and splits her time between Los Angeles and Managua, serving as a spokeswoman for the splinter party, the Sandinista Renewal Movement.

But ultimately, both authors say it was the women's stories, waiting to be told, not politics, that inspired them to write.

As Ines says when she discovers water in the Chilean desert, "I can find water only where there is water. ... I can't create it."

Friday, November 10, 2006

Not to miss!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 07:00 PM

Isabel Allende, will be promoting Ines of My Soul
Appears on/at:

33 East 17th Street
New York, NY 10003
(212) 253-0810

Thursday, November 09, 2006

AOL Teams with PW

AOL has inked a deal with Publishers Weekly to feature selected portions of the magazine's content on its Books Channel. The licensing agreement will allow AOL to post PW book reviews, author interviews, bestseller lists and selected feature stories. Through the deal, AOL will also link to PW's consumer site,

Jennie Baird, executive director of AOL Coaches & Books, said PW will be providing content that "will be a solid addition to the features currently hosted on the site."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Latina Sylvia Plath: Julia de Burgos


Julia de Burgos
1914-1953Poet, nationalist

"Writing in the 1930s through the 1950s, de Burgos was ahead of her time in grasping connections between history, the body, politics, love, self-negation and feminism that would later prove to be the foundations for writers like [Adrienne] Rich and [Sylvia] Plath." — Publishers Weekly

Julia de Burgos was one of the foremost poets to come out of Puerto Rico in the first half of the twentieth century. Her poverty-stricken background and African heritage were factors in the evolution of the revolutionary politics de Burgos espoused as part of the independence movement in Puerto Rico. She also attracted attention for her unconventional lifestyle: she divorced her first husband and lived openly with her lover at a time when such behavior was virtually unthinkable for most Puerto Rican women. "A woman of great sensibility, rebellious spirit, and exceptional intelligence, Julia de Burgos no doubt felt imprisoned by circumstances," explained Notable American Women contributor Carmen Delgado Votaw. "Her discomfort with social ills, her love for Puerto Rico, and her preoccupation with justice and death, all come out in the torrents of her poetry with its richly emotional metaphors."

Poverty and Education
De Burgos was the oldest of 13 children born to Paula García de Burgos and Francisco Burgos Hans. Although her father worked for the National Guard and farmed near the town of Carolina, Puerto Rico, when she was born, the family later removed to the barrio of Santa Cruz. De Burgos grew up on the banks of a major branch of the Rio Grande de Loiza and attended the University of Puerto Rico High School thanks to donations from local townspeople. After graduation in 1931, she entered the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan and obtained her certification as a teacher two years later. She began her teaching career working at the Barrio Cerdo Arriba in Naranjito, a provincial town some distance from the capital.

In Naranjito, de Burgos became reacquainted with the social problems and poverty that had haunted her own childhood. "From early on..." after her high school career, related Votaw, "... she was committed both to learning and to social change." In 1934, however, she married Ruben Rodrigues Beauchamp, a match that essentially ended her teaching career. During the three years of her marriage, de Burgos sharpened her social conscience by working at a publicly-run day-care center managed by the Puerto Rico Emergency Reconstruction Administration. At the same time she honed her writing skills by writing educational plays and songs for radio broadcast by the Puerto Rico Department of Education's Escuela del Aire.

In 1937, the same year her marriage to Beauchamp ended in divorce, de Burgos saw her first volume of poetry, Poemas exactos a mi misma, privately published.

De Burgos published two more volumes of poetry, Poema en veinte surcos (1938) and Canción de la verdad sencilla (1939), which won a prize from the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature, before she left Puerto Rico in 1940. She spent part of that year in New York City working as a journalist. Late in the year, however, de Burgos fled the city with her new love, Dr. Juan Isidro Jimenes Grullón, for Cuba, where she began writing for newspapers. For the next two years she lived in Cuba, writing and enrolling as a graduate student in literature and philosophy at the University of Havana. In 1942 she went back to New York, where she found support for her poetry from the Circle of Ibero-American Writers and Poets.

She also married again, choosing for her second husband a fellow poet, Armando Marín. Most of the work she published during this period was journalism, especially editorials and interviews. In 1946 the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature awarded her another prize for "Ser o no ser la divisa," an editorial she wrote for the journal.

Lyrical Poetry
Modern critics believe that de Burgos's poetry anticipated the work of feminist writers and poets as well as that of other Hispanic authors. "Writing in the 1930s through the 1950s," declared a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, "de Burgos was ahead of her time in grasping connections between history, the body, politics, love, self-negation and feminism that would later prove to be the foundations for writers like [Adrienne] Rich and [Sylvia] Plath." "Her poems," stated Votaw, "reveal her gift for lyricism, while their erotic content and their cosmic symbolism provide autobiographical glimpses into a troubled and pagan soul which often felt itself lost and abandoned."

De Burgos combined these themes with a use of her native language that critics compare to that of Carlos Fuentes or Jorge Luis Borges. Colleen Kattau in Symposium, noted de Burgos's use of ambivalent language to describe a "Julia de Burgos" that was in some ways like the writer and in others very different. In one of de Burgos's best-known poems, "A Julia de Burgos" (originally published in Poema en veinte surcos ), the poet depicted "...a feminine subject who transgresses the borders of predetermined standards of behavior." "While `Julia de Burgos' is severely criticized for conforming and thus leading an existence devoid of meaning," Kattau continued, "the other ... `I' of the poem advances a totality of existence and meaning" that places it outside normal standards of behavior.

"In 'A Julia de Burgos,'" stated Votaw, "and in `Yo misma fuí mi ruta,' de Burgos calls attention sharply to the restrictions imposed on women by a society that forces them to live by laws and by social and ethical patterns not of their making."

This concern with proper standards of behavior reflected elements in de Burgos's own life. In the 1930s she joined other Caribbean writers in a literary protest against European colonialism and its denigration of African culture. Négritude, as the movement was called, promoted the idea that artists of African descent must look to their African heritage for inspiration rather than relying on Western traditions and aesthetics. The Négritude movement was not as big in New York as it was in Paris, but it gave de Burgos a cause to identify with and injustices to speak out against. "Because she was dedicated to the cause of social change," wrote Votaw, "de Burgos may often have felt that what she had to say was more important than how she said it; literary craftsmanship thus gave way at times to her impulse to speak out."

De Burgos's poetry also used images of love, sex, and death in a way similar to that of other Latin American poets, including Pablo Neruda. However, she mixed these images with the pain that her own life and upbringing brought her. In "Río Grande de Loíza," one of her most anthologized works, for example, she begs the river to absorb her, both body and soul:

"Muy señor río mío. Río hombre. Unico hombre / que ha besado en mi alma al besar en mi cuerpo." In her last years, which were marked by depression, alcoholism, and despair, the poet revealed an ever darker concept of life. She wrote in "Farewell from Welfare Island," one of her last poems, "The past is only a shadow emerging from / nowhere. // Life was somewhere forgotten / and sought refuge in depths of tears / and sorrows; / over this vast empire of solitude and darkness. // Where is the voice of freedom, / freedom to laugh, / to move / without the heavy phantom of despair?"

Decline and Death

The mid- to late 1940s marked an important period in de Burgos's life. In 1940 and 1941 her poetry was performed in New York City and had been honored by several organizations, including the Asociación de Periodistas y Escritores Puertorriqueños. In 1942, however, the relationship between de Burgos and her lover, Dr. Juan Isidrio Jimenes Grullón, fractured and she returned to New York. The breakup of her relationship greatly depressed de Burgos and she neglected her writing in an attempt to find work. She found temporary employment working for an optician and as a secretary before meeting and marrying Armando Marín, her second husband, in 1943. During the last years of World War II, she lived and worked with her husband in Washington, DC, serving in the office of the Coordinator of Interamerican Affairs. In 1946, de Burgos was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, the result of years of alcoholism. She also developed a papilloma on her vocal cords and had to seek treatment in a variety of hospitals.
De Burgos's mental and physical health continued to degrade and made her almost a recluse during the late 1940s.

She continued to be hospitalized for treatment of her alcoholism and her liver problems. Even the acceptance for publication of a new collection of poetry, El mar y tú y otros poemas, failed to raise her spirits. The papilloma in her throat was removed in December 1952, but her health was so poor that she had to stay in Goldwater Memorial Hospital in New York City through the first months of 1953. Letters that she wrote to her relatives in Puerto Rico during this period show that de Burgos was obsessed with death and dying. Her poem "Farewell from Welfare Island," written in English in February of 1953, indicates that she was deeply depressed and possibly suicidal:

"It has to be from here, / forgotten but unshaken, / among comrades of silence / deep into Welfare Island / my farewell to the world."

Toward the beginning of May 1953, de Burgos was finally released from the hospital and went to live with friends in Harlem. The last letter her family received from her was dated June 28, 1953. In July, she disappeared. Later it was revealed that she had been discovered unconscious on the street and taken to the Harlem Hospital where she died. The coroner's certificate indicated that the cause of death was a pulmonary condition. Because de Burgos had no identification on her when she died, her body was buried in a public cemetery. A month after her death, the coroner's photograph of her body finally led to her identification.

Posthumous Recognition

De Burgos's husband and her friends from the Circle of Ibero-American Writers and Poets immediately launched an effort to have her body moved back to Puerto Rico for burial. Many important Puerto Rican officials, including Margot Arce Vázquez and Juan Avilés, formed a committee to expedite the process. De Burgos's body finally returned to the island of her birth on September 6, 1953. She received last honors from the Sociedad de Periodistas and was given a Christian burial in the municipal cemetery at Carolina.

Public praise for de Burgos and her work began almost immediately after her funeral. In November 1953, the journal Artes y Letras produced a special issue entitled Homenaje a Julia de Burgos: su vida y su obra. The issue featured articles and literary criticism by many prominent Hispanic writers, who honored de Burgos for her poetry, and political figures, who honored her for her social activism. They included Antonio J. Colorado, Margot Arce de Vázquez, Nilita Vientos Gastón, Angel M. Arroyo, César Calvo Araujo, Samuel R. Quiñones, Juan Avilés, Emilio Pagán Garcia, Juan B. Pagán, Adela Alvelo, Violeta López Suria, and Armando Rivera. Her final original collection of poems, El mar y tú y otros poemas, was published in 1954.
Since de Burgos's death several collections of her work have been published. An anthology entitled Obra Poética appeared in an edition published by the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña in 1961.

Another collection, entitled Antología poética, was published in 1967 by the Puerto Rican publishing house Editorial Coqui. That same year Editorial Coqui brought out the first major full-length study of de Burgos's work, Julia de Burgos: vida y poesía, by Ivette Jiménez Báez. In 1987 the University of Puerto Rico awarded de Burgos the posthumous degree of Doctor Honoris Causa in recognition of her contribution to the island's literary culture. The poet's devotion to social causes was recognized in the 1980s when Public School 9 was renamed the Julia de Burgos School and an experimental bilingual Spanish-English curriculum was introduced.

Poemas exactos a mi misma.
Poema en veinte surcos. San Juan, PR: Imprenta Venezuela, 1938.

Canción de la verdad sencilla.
San Juan, PR: Baldrich, 1938.

El mar y tú y otros poemas.
San Juan, PR: Printing and Publishing Co., 1954.

The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos, Obra Completa Poetica, translated by Jack Agueros, Willimantic, CT: Curbstone, 1997.


Monday, November 06, 2006

A couple of things...

- Listen to the “Release Your Inner Loca” podcast by

Latina work and life coach, Nancy Marmolejo:

* * *

From the Catalina Magazine Newsletter:

Latina Author, Lara Rios Offers At-risk Girls Hope, and Invites You to Join Her

Lara Rios is an author on a mission. The nationally- published writer is not only challenging Latina at-risk girls in her new thought-provoking novel, Becoming Americana, but she’s taking her powerful message on the road too.

Starting this month, Rios will be motivating young women at Latina events, colleges, book stores and more. “I think it's important to provide help and opportunities to young people who may not have many advantages,” Lara explains.

“We all benefit as a society by making sure our youth do well and reach their potential.”Lara invites you to join her mission by getting involved with organizations that support at-risk girls.

Her favorite groups include: The Women’s Sports Foundation’s GoGirlGo program, Junior Achievement, Stand Up, and America’s Promise, and the Why Try Organization.

For more information, including links and tips, visit Lara’s new web site for at-risk girls or

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Free 10-issue digital subscription to Hispanic Business

A full one-year digital subscription to Hispanic Business has been purchased on your behalf. NEWS - FINANCE - CAREER
No Purchase Necessary! No Credit Card Required!

Click here to find out how to get your complimentary 10-issue digital subscription to Hispanic Business plus see what trade magazines you could receive absolutely free! And, you can get IMMEDIATE ACCESS to your first issue as soon as you complete your subscription request.Please respond by November 16, 2006. Quantities are limited.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Casual Friday? (Off-topic)

Um, I don't know the idea of the office "casual Friday" thing doesn't make sense to me.

Shouldn't it be "casual Monday" and "dress-up Friday?" I like to dress fierce on Saturdays & Fridays since I usually don't have a chance to change outfits from day to night.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

For those of you in the NYC area:

Join Literanista's alma mater, Hunter College for its:

Distinguished Writers Series
Monday, November 6, 2006
6:30 PM

Ian McEwan

Booker Prize-winning novelist Ian McEwan will read from his upcoming novel, On Chesil Beach, due out in June 2007. His new work is the story of a wedding night in 1962 and how a moment's silence transformed the fate of the two young lovers.

Hunter College Campus
The 68th Street Main Campus
Located at East 68th Street and Lexington Avenue
Faculty Dining Room
West Building, 8th Floor

Literanista is backed up!

So my good people, Literanista has gone and gotten herself a new job!

Not that her old one was bad, it was just well...old. Stale, uninspiring and just plain routine.

I'm still doing editorial work, but with more of a research and tech angle and I even get to write. I'm very excited about that indeed.

Anyhow, I wanted to let all my readers know that I haven't forgotten about all of the book reviews I promised and they're on their way. I'm just trying to do too many things at once as usual. I need a weekend retreat!

Upcoming reviews:

Sex and the South Beach Chicas by Caridad Pineiro
Happy Hour at Casa Dracula by Marta Acosta
The Heiress of Water: A Novel by Sandra Rodriguez Barron
The Scroll of Seduction: A Novel by Gioconda Belli
Dirty Little Lies by Julie Leto
Provocaciones; Letters from the Prettiest Girl in Arvin by Rafaela G. Castro

Soon to come!

Update: Fixed all the typos, I was really tired!

Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy


'One Book, One Philadelphia' picks Cuban refugee's memoir
By Natalie Pompilio, Inquirer Staff Writer

One Philadelphia business owner makes his views known with a sign reading, "This Is America. When Ordering Please Speak English." Two towns in the region have laws intended to drive out illegal immigrants. On the statewide political trail, two Senate candidates swap heated words about immigration issues.

The question of who belongs here and who doesn't, who is American and who isn't, is dominating much local and national debate.

Which makes the latest selection for "One Book, One Philadelphia" all the more appropriate.

Carlos Eire's Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy is the citywide reading program's featured book for 2007.

The memoir, winner of the 2003 National Book Award, describes how Eire went from a privileged life with his his extended family in pre-Castro Cuba to years of rootlessness in the United States as he and his brother moved from foster home to foster home.

Eire was one of more than 14,000 Cuban boys and girls airlifted off the island without their parents in the 1960s as part of Operation Pedro Pan. Funded in part by the U.S. government, the program allowed parents - afraid the new leadership of Fidel Castro meant they'd lose their children to Communist indoctrination or Soviet work camps - to send their offspring to America.
The book is "a universal narrative, so people could identify how every child on earth... yearns to be free and not have their future dictated to them," Eire said yesterday during an event at the Free Library of Philadelphia. "We all yearn for freedom. We all deserve it."

The One Book selection committee designated two other books - Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan and Coming to America: The Story of Immigration by Betsy Maestro - as companion works suitable for children and teenagers.

Now in its fifth year, the One Book program aims to promote reading, literacy and the libraries.
It started with about 50 community partners - like civic groups and businesses - and now has more than 300. The selections are often timely: A biography of Benjamin Franklin was the 2006 choice, selected to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding father's birth.

Library director Elliot Shelkrot predicted an immediate run on the chosen book. The system's 54 branches will have 800 copies in circulation and more than 4,000 others will be given to schools and community groups.

On top of that, Shelkrot said, "tens of thousands" of people have attended related discussion groups, lectures and performances since the program's initiation.

"But the best thing you see is people on buses and subways and they're talking about it," he said. "It builds readers and it builds community."

Previous One Book titles include The Price of a Child by Lorene Cary, The Color of Water by James McBride, The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, and Franklin: The Essential Founding Father by James Srodes. Companion titles were introduced last year.
Has anyone read this one? Another one for my list!
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