The 'Not New York Times' summer reading list
If you are person who loves books, you've probably already seen the famed New York Times summer reading list which Janet Maslin posted May 21.
If you are a person who loves social media, you've probably seen the ruckus that ensued.
"NYT Summer Reading List Finally Achieves 100 Percent Whiteness" squawked Gawker's headline on May 24, and soon many others followed suit. Salon piled on two days ago, saying the only-white-authors aspect of the list wasn't its only problem.
If Maslin hadn't known it before, she knows now that everyone is a critic.
The thing is ... the NYT list is glaringly white.
As it happens, many of my favorite authors fit into that demographic (hi, Barbara Kingsolver — when's your next book coming out?), but an equal or greater number of my favorite authors do not (waves at Junot Díaz and Jhumpa Lahiri).
But, let's not beat up on the NYT exclusively. The Guardian recently published a study from the U.K. that revealed that girls read more than boys and that Black girls read most of all. No mention of Latinos or Latinas, of course, because we are commonly believed neither to read nor write.
So here is the selection of recent releases and soon to be released books I'm looking forward to reading this summer. All of them — unapologetically — by Latino writers.
Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-García
"Mexico City, 1988: Long before iTunes or MP3s, you said 'I love you' with a mixtape. Meche, awkward and fifteen, has two equally unhip friends -- Sebastian and Daniela -- and a whole lot of vinyl records to keep her company. When she discovers how to cast spells using music, the future looks brighter for the trio. Mexico City, 2009: Two decades after abandoning the metropolis, Meche returns for her estranged father’s funeral. It’s hard enough to cope with her family, but then she runs into Sebastian, and it revives memories from her childhood she thought she buried a long time ago. What really happened back then?"
The Guardian said it was "haunting and beautifully nuanced ... a magical first novel."
Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination. Moreno-García's first collection, This Strange Way of Dying, was a finalist for The Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Signal to Noise has been available from Amazon since February 2015.
Leonora: A Novel Inspired by the Life of Leonora Carrington by Elena Poniatowska
"Born in Lancashire as the wealthy heiress to her British father's textiles empire, Leonora Carrington was destined to live the kind of life only known by the moneyed classes. But even from a young age she rebelled against the strict rules of her social class, against her parents and against the hegemony of religion and conservative thought, and broke free to artistic and personal freedom. Today Carrington is recognised as the key female Surrealist painter, and Poniatowska's fiction charms this exceptional character back to life more truthfully than any biography could. For a time Max Ernst's lover in Paris, Carrington rubbed elbows with Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miro, Andre Breton and Pablo Picasso. When Ernst fled Paris at the outbreak of the Second World War, Carrington had a breakdown and was locked away in a Spanish asylum before escaping to Mexico, where she would work on the paintings which made her name."
Poniatowska is Mexico's greatest living novelist. She currently lives in Coyoacan, a quiet suburb of Mexico City where the likes of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and an exiled Leon Trotsky famously resided. Fluent in English, French and Spanish, Poniatowska has published novels, non-fiction books and essays and been translated into over twenty languages. She is one of the founders of La Jornada, the feminist magazine Fern, publishing house Siglo XXI and Mexican national film institute Cineteca Nacional. For over 50 years she was a close friend of Leonora Carrington's, until the latter's death in 2011. Leonora: A Novel Inspired by the Life of Leonora Carrington, in a translation by Amanda Hopkinson, has been available from Amazon since March 2015.
Dreamers: An Immigrant Generation's Fight for Their American Dream by Eileen Truax
"Of the approximately twelve million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, as many as two million came as children. They grow up here, going to elementary, middle, and high school, and then the country they call home won’t—in most states—offer financial aid for college and they’re unable to be legally employed. But recently, this young generation has begun organizing, and with their rallying cry “Undocumented, Unapologetic, and Unafraid” they are the newest face of the human rights movement. In Dreamers, Eileen Truax illuminates the stories of these men and women who are living proof of a complex and sometimes hidden political reality that calls into question what it truly means to be American."
Booklist: “Compelling, honest, and personal, this is a must-read for anyone interested in the immigration debate.”
Originally from Mexico, Eileen Truax is a journalist and immigrant currently living in Los Angeles. She contributes regularly to Hoy Los Angeles and Unidos and writes for Latin American publications including Proceso, El Universal, and Gatopardo. Dreamers has been available from Amazon since March 2015.
Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera
"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."
According to Francisco Goldman (author of Say Her Name), the book "delivers a darkly mythological vision of the U.S. as experienced by the 'not us' that is harrowing and fierce. The profoundly dignified, mind-boggling Makina, our guide and translator, is the heroine who redeems us all: she is the Truth."
Born in Actopan, Mexico, 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 has being published in English in a translation by Lisa Dillman. Herrera's The Transmigration of Bodies (La transmigración de los cuerpos) will be published in 2016. Signs Preceding the End of the World has been available from Amazon since March 2015.
The Water Museum: Stories by Luis Alberto Urrea
"From one of America's preeminent literary voices comes a new story collection that proves once again why the writing of Luis Alberto Urrea has been called 'wickedly good' (Kansas City Star), 'cinematic and charged' (Cleveland Plain Dealer), and 'studded with delights' (Chicago Tribune). Examining the borders between one nation and another, between one person and another, Urrea reveals his mastery of the short form. This collection includes the Edgar-award winning 'Amapola' and his now-classic 'Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses,' which had the honor of being chosen for NPR's "Selected Shorts" not once but twice. Suffused with wanderlust, compassion, and no small amount of rock and roll, The Water Museum is a collection that confirms Luis Alberto Urrea as an American master."
From NPR: "All 13 stories are realistic and unsparing, as unflinching and hard-hitting as they are beautiful."
A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Urrea is the bestselling author of The Devil's Highway, The Hummingbird's Daughter, Into the Beautiful North, and Queen of America, among others. He has won the Lannan Literary Award, the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize, an American Book Award, the Christopher Award, and an Edgar Award, among other honors. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother, he lives outside of Chicago. The Water Museum has been available from Amazon since April 2015.
Sofrito by Phillippe Diederich
"Frank Delgado is no thief. He co-owns a failing Cuban restaurant in Manhattan's Upper East Side. The restaurant, like Frank, is rudderless. Lost. He decides he'll save the restaurant by traveling to Cuba to steal the legendary chicken recipe from the famed El Ajillo restaurant in Havana. The recipe is a state secret, so prized that no cook knows the whole recipe. But Frank's rationale is ironclad—Fidel stole the secret from his family, so he will steal it back. He will triumphantly bring that recipe back to Manhattan and turn his fortunes around."
Cristina García, the acclaimed author of Dreaming in Cuban has called it, "a love letter to the deepest recesses of nostalgia’s heart."
Diederich is a Haitian-American writer and photographer born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Mexico City and Miami. His award-winning short fiction has been published in various literary journals. Sofrito is his debut novel and will become available from Amazon June 23, 2015.
Okay, the following book is a late release for "summer" reading but ... my column, my rules. Anyway, I am greatly anticipating diving into it. The publishing house, Shade Mountain Press, was established by Rosalie Morales Kearns (an award-winning writer of Puerto Rican and Pennsylvania Dutch descent) and is committed to publishing literature by women, especially women of color.
White Light by Vanessa García
"Just before her father's sudden death, Cuban- American artist Veronica Gonzalez is offered her first gallery exhibit, a real chance to break into the art world. Torn between the need to mourn and the pressure to create new artwork, Veronica is propelled into a fever-dream of productivity and grief, amidst memories of her tumultuous relationship with her colorful but infuriating Cuban émigré father, a volatile man of outsize appetites and passions who never stopped longing for his homeland."
Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka called it "a subtly woven network of relationships, it seduces with its lyrical pace and texture, tender and poignant, yet unsentimental."
Born in Miami to Cuban parents, García is a multidisciplinary writer and artist whose paintings and installations have been exhibited through the United States and the Caribbean.
White Light will be available at Amazon September 23.
Next list: YA Summer reads.