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, July 31, 2015

#FridayReads: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The book everyone is talking about right now: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Go get it!
“This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.”

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. 
What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle. Coates has received the National Magazine Award, the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism, and the George Polk Award for his Atlantic cover story “The Case for Reparations.” He lives in New York with his wife and son.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Free Mp3 Download: Concha Buika's Latest "Vivir sin miedo"

Here's your chance to listen to a little Concha Buika,a Spanish singer who goes by the stage name Buika, you may not be familiar with but should be.

Her music will haunt you.

Her album Niña de Fuego was nominated for the 2008 Latin Grammy Award for Album of the Year and La Noche Mas Larga was nominated for Best Latin Jazz Album at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards in 2014.

Through Thursday, July 30, 2015, you can download and preview a single off her upcoming album here: Buika

Friday, July 10, 2015

Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League by Dan-el Padilla Peralta

Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League by Dan-el Padilla Peralta

An undocumented immigrant’s journey from a New York City homeless shelter to the top of his Princeton class


Dan-el Padilla Peralta has lived the American dream. As a boy, he came here legally with his family. Together they left Santo Domingo behind, but life in New York City was harder than they imagined. Their visas lapsed, and Dan-el’s father returned home. But Dan-el’s courageous mother was determined to make a better life for her bright sons.

Without papers, she faced tremendous obstacles. While Dan-el was only in grade school, the family joined the ranks of the city’s homeless. Dan-el, his mother, and brother lived in a downtown shelter where Dan-el’s only refuge was the meager library. There he met Jeff, a young volunteer from a wealthy family. Jeff was immediately struck by Dan-el’s passion for books and learning. With Jeff’s help, Dan-el was accepted on scholarship to Collegiate, the oldest private school in the country.

There, Dan-el thrived. Throughout his youth, Dan-el navigated these two worlds: the rough streets of East Harlem, where he lived with his brother and his mother and tried to make friends, and the ultra-elite halls of a Manhattan private school, where he could immerse himself in a world of books and where he soon rose to the top of his class.

From Collegiate, Dan-el went to Princeton, where he thrived, and where he made the momentous decision to come out as an undocumented student in a Wall Street Journal profile a few months before he gave the salutatorian’s traditional address in Latin at his commencement.

Undocumented is a classic story of the triumph of the human spirit. It also is the perfect cri de coeur for the debate on comprehensive immigration reform.


Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Dan-el Padilla Peralta came to the United States with his family at the age of four. He received his BA summa cum laude from Princeton University, where he was chosen salutatorian of the class of 2006. He received his MPhil from the University of Oxford and his PhD in classics from Stanford University. He is currently a Mellon Research Fellow at Columbia University.

Friday, July 03, 2015

#FridayReads: The Gods of Tango by Carolina De Robertis

From one of the leading lights of contemporary Latin American literature—a lush, lyrical, deeply moving story of a young woman whose passion for the early sounds of tango becomes a force of profound and unexpected change.

February 1913: seventeen-year-old Leda, carrying only a small trunk and her father’s cherished violin, leaves her Italian village for a new home, and a new husband, in Argentina. Arriving in Buenos Aires, she discovers that he has been killed, but she remains: living in a tenement, without friends or family, on the brink of destitution. Still, she is seduced by the music that underscores life in the city: tango, born from lower-class immigrant voices, now the illicit, scandalous dance of brothels and cabarets. 

Leda eventually acts on a long-held desire to master the violin, knowing that she can never play in public as a woman. She cuts off her hair, binds her breasts, and becomes “Dante,” a young man who joins a troupe of tango musicians bent on conquering the salons of high society. Now, gradually, the lines between Leda and Dante begin to blur, and feelings that she has long kept suppressed reveal themselves, jeopardizing not only her musical career, but her life. 

Richly evocative of place and time, its prose suffused with the rhythms of the tango, its narrative at once resonant and gripping, this is De Robertis’s most accomplished novel yet.


CAROLINA DE ROBERTIS was raised in England, Switzerland, and California by Uruguayan parents. She is the author of two previous novels, Perla and The Invisible Mountain (a Best Book of 2009 according to theSan Francisco Chronicle, O, The Oprah Magazine, and Booklist), the recipient of Italy’s Rhegium Julii Prize, and a 2012 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She has spent the past year living in Uruguay, but her permanent home is in Oakland, CA.
 
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