Archive for the ‘Latino/a’ Category

The Rag Doll Plagues

November 28, 2012

Title: The Rag Doll Plagues

Author: Alejandro Morales

Genre: Fiction, magic realism, historical, sci-fi, Chicano lit

Publisher: Arte Publico Press: Houston

Number of Pages: 200

Date of Publication: 1992

Geographic Setting: Spain, Mexico, California, Lamex

Time Period: 1788-1792, modern day, 2050

Summary: The plague called La Mona (what we would call AIDS today) is sweeping through Mexico during its colonial period, and no one knows what to do. The King of Spain sents his physician, Dr. Gregorio Revueltas, to try and help the colonists. Interwoven is the story of a doctor in California who falls in love with a woman who contracts AIDS from a blood transfusion; and the future story of Lamex, a collaborative state combining Mexico and the Southwest USA: where the people who once lived in Mexico City may finally develop the cure for the plague. The whole book is one cycle, as the main characters of books two and three are descended from the physician of the first, and that the spirit of the doctor returns to help guide them to the cure.

Subject Headings: communicable diseases–fiction

Appeal: drama, disease study, dystopian world, suspense, contemporary, Chicano, alternative history, deep, detailed, culture study, folk medicine, terse writing

My Three Appeal Terms: culture, detailed, disease study

Recommended Nonfiction Authors:

Santeria:The Religion: Faith, Rites, Magic by Migene Gonzales-Wippler. World Religion and Magic Series, 2002.
An in-depth look at Santeria, a religion that combines Catholicism and Yoruba African deities into a spell-binding package. Chosen because it plays a major role in Dreaming in Cuban.

The Wisdom of Whores by Elizabeth Pisani. Norton W. W. & Company. 2008.
An unconventional look into AIDS from angles people might not have considered, including political and autobiographic viewpoints. A little graphic in parts, but not meant to be gratuitous. Chosen because it deals with the main subject of Rag Doll.

Tales from Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino and the Bronx by Sam Quinones. University of New Mexico Press, 2001.
A book of nonfiction vignettes about contemporary Mexico collected while reporting in the area. Chosen for subject area and general format, as well as for setting, which ties it to the other recommended books.

Recommended Fiction Authors:

Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia. Ballatine Books: New York. 1992.
A family split by the revolution in Cuba and each takes their own way in life. Chosen because it falls under Latin American literature and history. It also is cyclically written and detailed in its settings like Rag Doll. Recommended for those who want another view on Hispanic culture, modern history or religion.

Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. Perfection Learning 1995.
The youngest daughter of a Mexican woman in the 20th century tries to find true love and independence from her overbearing mother and the rule that the youngest daughter cannot marry. Chosen because it is cyclical, deals with family and is extremely detailed. Recommended for those who like cooking, romance, history, culture and for those who like to get angry when they read ( trust me, you will!)

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. Harper Perenial Modern Classics: New York. 2006.
A cyclical view of the mythical town of Macondo, as told by the Buendia family. Chosen for being in the canon of Latin American Literature and lush, detailed settings. For those who like drama, family and Latin American culture studies.

Name: Jennifer

Gonzalez and Daughter Trucking Co.

August 1, 2012

Author: Escandón, María Amparo

Title: Gonzalez and Daughter Trucking Co.: A Road Novel with Literary License

 Genre: Women’s Lives and Relationships

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 304 p.

Geographical Setting: Mexico and United States.

Time Period: Contemporary


Plot Summary: At the Mexicali Penal Institute for Women in Mexico, a more or less laidback jail, female prisoner Libertad creates a library club. She is unwilling to reveal her crime. Instead, she starts reading for her fellow inmates the story of Joaquin, a former literature professor and fugitive of the Mexican government, who escapes to the United States, becomes a truck driver, and falls in love. Joaquin unexpectedly finds himself alone with his young daughter and has no other option that to make their 18-wheeler their home. As the daughter grows their strong relationship get affected by Joaquin paranoid and controlling attitude. The tension intensifies after the girl’s random encounter with a man which eventually causes the conflict that separates them.  During her time at prison, Libertad bonds with a group of peculiar inmates. They build friendships and camaraderie while discussing the readings. The prisoners become very intrigued by the story and after discussing the twists and turns of the tale they soon realize that the story is Libertad’s own. The story ends with a surprising, compelling and joyful twist.

Subject Headings: Women prisoners; Fathers and daughters; Fugitives; Trucking; Prisons for women; Book discussion groups; Mexico.

Appeal: Emotionally-charged, heartwarming, hopeful, humorous, optimistic, engaging, eccentric and sympathetic characters, family-centered, plot-centered, details of trucking live style, details of women prisoners, conversational, jargon language, psychological, domestic.


3 appeal terms that best describe this book:  Emotionally-charged, engaging, domestic.


Similar Fiction Authors and Works:

Across a Hundred Mountains by Reyna Grande. This story is about love, loss, migration and discovery. Two women meet in desperate circumstances and develop a strong connection at a jail in Tijuana. This book also deals with Latina prisoners, their emotional domestic situations, and friendship.

Last Exit in New Jersey by C. E. Grundler. This suspenseful story features a strong young woman determined to uncover the mystery of her cousin’s and their tractor trailer disappearance. Along with her trucker father, Hazel becomes target of death threats and decides to take matters into her own hands. Just like Escandón’s novel, this story presents a courageous female protagonist and her father-daughter relationships within a trucking frame full of humorous tones.

Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig. A young revolutionary socialist and a middle-age homosexual build a strong relationship while sharing a cell in an Argentine prison. This book not only takes place in jail, but also shares elements of compelling and psychological dialogue, as well as story-telling as part of the plot.

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. This autobiographical work recounts the author’s experience in a correctional facility after being convicted for drug trafficking. An interesting reading with real insight about the criminal justice system and the lives of women in prison.

CB Slanguage Language Dictionary – The Official by Lanie Dills. A New York Times Best Seller about Citizens Band (CB) radio lingo, the standard reference for CB radio jargon. A lot of readers enjoy the trucking slang references in the book. It may come handy for (CB) radio enthusiasts or when encountering a big rigger on the expressway.

The Book Club Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to the Reading Group Experience by Diana Loevy. According to the publishers, this is a resource full of ideas to entertain reading group members and enrich their book club experience. Libertad Gonzalez, the protagonist, starts a library club in prison engaging her fellow inmates through her story telling. This could be a helpful guide for those who become inspire to start their own reading group.

Fanny Camargo

The Hummingbird’s Daughter

July 16, 2012

Author: Luis Alberto Urrea

Title: The Hummingbird’s Daughter

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 495

Geographical Setting: RuralMexico

Time Period: Late 19th Century

Series: Though not a series,there is a sequel – Queen of America, published in 2011

Plot Summary: Teresa Urrea is the illegitimate daughter of Don Tomás Urrea, a wealthy Mexican rancher, and a young Indian girl, Cayetana Chávez, known as The Hummingbird. Teresa is born in 1873 into desperate poverty and suffers abuse at the hands of her aunt, who raises Teresa after her mother abandons her. In spite of this, Teresa is a bright and engaging child. Teresa is rescued by Huila, the medicine woman, and learns the mystical ways of nature and healing. When Teresa is older, Don Tomás, defying contemporary conventions, takes her in and raises her as his own. A horrific event befalls Teresa when she is sixteen, miraculously transforming her into the Saint of Cabora, although Teresa dismisses the label. Pilgrims, hoping she will heal them, arrive at the ranch by the thousands, as do vagabonds, soldiers and revolutionaries. Insurrection is contemplated within the crowd and it is rumored that Teresa is fomenting revolution. Teresa and her father are arrested and sentenced to be shot as seditionists, though the sentence is later commuted to exile in the United States.This is a thoroughly researched, yet fictional account of a woman related to the author, known as the Saint of Cabora.

Subject Headings: Teenage girls – fiction; Woman healers – fiction; Illegitimate children – fiction; Near-death experiences – fiction; Mexico – History – 1867-1910 – fiction;

Appeal: Sweeping, atmospheric, authentic, measured pacing, engrossing,  gritty, humorous, evocative, mystical, detailed characterizations, strong characters, interwoven perspectives, accessible, thought-provoking, well-researched

3 terms that best describe this book: Expansive, dramatic, anddetailed in both characterization and setting

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Cookson, Catherine, The Glass Virgin. This is a character driven and dramatic coming-of-age story of a young girl who learns the truth and accepts the consequences of her true lineage in Edwardian England.

Le Guin, Ursula, Malafrena. This historical fiction title reflects an atmospheric and dramatic tale of a young man who becomes a revolutionary and forsakes his homeland.

Rice, Luanne, The Edge of Winter. This is a character-driven coming-of-age story about a mother and daughter facing the unforgiving realities as well as the beauty of life in a bird sanctuary in Rhode Island.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Gilly, Adolfo,The Mexican Revolution. This book recounts the peasant revolts against the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz and the inauguration of Álvaro Obregón in 1920.

Porterfield, Amanda, Healing in the History of Christianity. This title examines how healing is a central theme in the history of Christianity.

Shapiro, Marcy, Transforming the Nature of Health: A Holistic Vision of Healing That Honors Our Connection to the Earth, Others, and Ourselves. This title explores how our health is connected to love, meaning and respect between ourselves and nature.

Name: Patty Daniel

House on Mango Street

April 11, 2012

Author: Sandra Cisneros

Title: The House on Mango Street

Genre: Coming of age stories; Mexican-American women’s fiction; Novels in verse

Publication Date: 1994

Number of pages: 134

Geographical Setting: Chicago

Time Period: Contemporary

Series (if applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: This novel, written by a poet, is a series of short vignettes told by 12-year-old Esperanza, which weave into an over-arching story. Esperanza’s family has just moved to Mango Street, in Chicago’s Hispanic district. Although they now live in a house instead of an apartment, it still isn’t the kind of house Esperanza’s parents have always promised, with bedrooms for everyone and stairs that aren’t just hallway stairs. All four children and two parents still have to sleep all in one room. Through Esperanza’s eyes we get short character sketches of her family, her annoying sister, Nenny, her new friends, and all her neighbors, both beautiful and eccentric. Esperanza longs to leave the neighborhood and someday have a beautiful house of all her own, but she is reminded not to forget where she comes from.

Appeal:character-driven, moving, reflective, strong sense of place, spare, stylistically complex, compelling, engaging, lyrical, bittersweet, introspective, thought provoking

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character-driven, strong sense of place, stylistically complex

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?): 3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.) When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago This memoir chronicles a young girl’s childhood in Puerto Rico, and the jarring experience of moving to New York as an adolescent. Written in a lyrical prose, this book echoes the poetry that Cisneros is famous for.

2.) Chicanas of 18th Street: Narratives of a Movement from Latino Chicago by Leonard G. Ramirez, Yenelli Flores, Maria Gamboa and Isaura Gonzalez Following six different women who are active in their communities, Chicana’s of 18th Street illustrates the desire to raise one’s community and fight for gender, race and class equality.

3.) Mexican Chicago (Images of America) by Rita Arias Jirasek This book documents the Mexican community in Chicago from 1900 to present day, and explores neighborhoods such as Pilsen, Little Village and South Deering. Told from a first person voice and studded with photographs from family archives, museums and university collections, the stories of Mexican-Americans comes alive for the reader.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.) Girl by Blake Nelson Although this book is different in that it’s a coming of age story about a girl growing up in the lily-white suburbs of Portland, 16-year-old Andrea still feels the pull to experience something outside of her narrow community, and uses the burgeoning music scene to escape. Like Mango Street, this book is much more about the language it is written in than it is about the plot.

2.) How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez Four sisters from the Dominican Republic come of age in New York. What makes this book a little different is that the girls grow down instead of up…it starts when they are adult and continues backward in time until they are small girls in the Dominican Republic.

3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie Like Esperanza, Junior also longs to leave the reservation and make something better of himself. He begins this journey by transferring from the high school on the rez to the local white high school, where he is the only Indian. Beautifully illustrated by Ellen Forney, this story also deals with the struggle of wanting to leave the community you grew up in, but not wanting to forget where you came from.

Name: Jessica

The Hummingbird’s Daughter

April 11, 2012

Author: Luis Alberto Urrea

Title: The Hummingbird’s Daughter

Genre: Historical fiction

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 499

Geographical Setting: Mexico

Time Period: 1880s

Series: n/a, but story is continued in Queen of America.

Plot Summary: The Hummingbird’s Daughter is the historic story of Urrea’s great aunt. After researching his Aunt Teresita for twenty years, Urrea recreated the magical stories of the People’s struggle and his aunt that were passed down to him. Teresita is born into hardship, her young mother abandons Teresita early on and with no idea of who her father is Teresita is forced to move in with an abusive aunt. However the small-village life opens up new possibilities for Terestia as she makes friends with a healing woman named Huila. It is soon discovered that Teresita also inherited skills in healing. Urrea uses a strong sense of place and nature writing to give Teresita the power to heal with herbs and plants. As Teresita becomes a young woman, it becomes obvious to the People that her ability to heal is more than earthly and they deem her to be a Saint. Crowds gather as she heals and sends a message that the Mexican government sees as rebellious and threatening. Through poetic language and a witty undercurrent an inspiring story is woven through historic details creating a dramatic and thoughtful image of Saint Teresita.

Subject Headings: Teenage girls – fiction. Young women – fiction. Mexican Civil War – fiction. Nineteenth century – fiction. Women healers – fiction. Women saints – fiction. Ranchers – fiction. Family – fiction. Paternity – fiction. Near-death experience – fiction. Faith – fiction. Revolutions – fiction. Midwife – fiction.

Appeal: magical, compelling, well-developed characters, faithful characters, character-driven, thought-provoking, political, atmospheric, historical details, descriptive language, poetic, inspiring, witty, strong sense of place, strong sense of nature, relaxed pace.

3 Appeal Terms that Best Describe the Book: magical, poetic, well-developed characters

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:
Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard – A collection of writings about nature and spirituality, written with a poetic style.

Infusions of Healing: A Treasury of Mexican-American Herbal Remedies by Joie Davidow – Just as Huila taught Teresita the power of plants, you can learn too. 200 herbs, their descriptions, and their healing uses are explained in this book.

The Big Book of Women Saints by Sarah Gallick – It was her People that gave Teresita the title of being a Saint, we saw her own understanding of the situation, her inner desires, and her sense of purpose. Read about the lives of other Saintly women.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Sacred Ground by Barbara Wood – In this character-driven, moving, and compelling novel, a young female healer is cursed by another person in her village. The curse affects and radiates through her life and her family relationships.

Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain – Through Twain’s witty writing style, moving tone, with a strong sense of place, he explores the life of Joan of Arc in this historical fiction.

Malafrena by Ursula K. Le Guin – Like The Hummingbird’s Daughter, this is a historical fiction and a coming-of-age story combined, with a relaxed pace and an atmospheric tone the story of a man who leaves his town to join a revolution.

name: Jaymie

Kiss of the Spider Woman

November 15, 2011

Author: Manuel Puig, translated from the Spanish by Thomas Colchie

Title: Kiss of the Spider Woman

Genre: Latin American Fiction, GLBTQ

Publication Date: 1978

Number of Pages: 281

Time period: Late 1970’s

Plot Summary: Perhaps one of the best-known works by Argentine novelist Manuel Puig, Kiss of the Spider Woman is a compelling look at love, sexuality, and human desire, as well as the manipulation and victimization of others that can result from this. Told almost entirely in back-and-forth dialogue between two characters, the story takes place in an Argentine prison where two men are incarcerated together. One is Molina, a gay window dresser convicted of sexual relations with a minor. He is self-absorbed, somewhat self-hating, yet still charming and sympathetic. The other is Valentin, a well-spoken and well-educated political prisoner who has dedicated his life to “the cause”. The two slowly, but guardedly, become attached to each other as they bond over Molina’s retellings of fantastical and romantic movies until their feelings result in sexual attraction. Interspersed throughout the novel are moments of stream-of-conscious prose and Puig’s plot twists and revelations exposed through brief dialogues between prison guards and wardens. There are also, seemingly at random, academic footnotes that recite the development of theories discussing the nature and “origination” of homosexuality.  This is a thoughtful, engaging, character-centered novel that is extremely moving and thought-provoking and, ultimately, about friendship and loyalty.

Subject Headings: Gay prisoners, Torture—Argentina, Prisoners—Argentina, Friendship, Loyalty.

Appeal Terms: Compelling, Moving, Thoughtful, Thought-provoking, Controversial, Romantic, Character-driven, Leisurely Paced, Complex, Literary, Emotional, Issue-oriented, Sparse, Engaging, Dark.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Romantic, Controversial, Character-driven

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

West, D.J. Homosexuality.  This is the work that is frequently cited in the footnotes contained in the book.  The footnotes are such that a reader is intrigued by the practice of psychoanalysis, even if they do not agree with it, and may want to learn more, starting with the book that Puig cites throughout the novel.

Freud, Sigmund. Three Case Histories.  Despite the controversy surrounding Freud’s theory, he is still the founding father of psychoanalytic theory, and he is featured prominently in Kiss of the Spider Woman.  This particular work is both fascinating and easy to read.  Freud should be read at least once by anyone, and this novel makes the reader want to pick up Freud’s work and see what it’s all about.

Chasteen, John Charles. Born in Blood & Fire: A Concise History of Latin America (3rd Ed.).  Readers may want to learn more about the history of Latin America after reading this novel.  It alludes to the political climate of the time but only in the way it affects the two main characters.  This is perhaps on purpose, for the novel leaves the reader wanting to learn more about the history of Latin America, specifically Argentina.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Borges, Jorge Luis. Collected Fictions.  Borges is considered to be one of the most influential Argentine authors and is known for his short fiction.  NoveList calls him “a seminal figure in the magical realism movement”, Borges blends fantastical elements with reality.  This is similar to the way Molina in Kiss of the Spider Woman tells fanstastical and romantic stories to pass the time in prison.  Molina’s stories are as much a part of the novel as the story of the two men in prison, so readers may also enjoy Borges’ magical realism.

Llosa, Mario Vargas.  The Feast of the Goat.  This Peruvian author, much like Puig, explores the darker side of human nature, but thoughtfully and with insight.  Also like Puig, his novels are often political and violent and contain elements of magical realism.  A little more stylistically complex than Kiss of the Spider Woman, this author writes thoughtful and haunting books that readers who liked Kiss of the Spider Woman will appreciate.

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia.  Any of the novels written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez will attract readers of Kiss of the Spider Woman.  A Colombian novelist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982, Marquez is also a writer of magical realism and lush descriptions of Latin America.  His work is strongly character-centered and his storytelling techniques are unique and imaginative.

Rebecca C.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

August 17, 2011

The House on Mango Street

Author:Sandra Cisneros
Title:  The House on Mango Street

PublicationDate: 1984

Pages:  110

Genre:  Non-fiction.

Available: Spanish, Audio

Geographical Setting:  Chicago, Illinois

Time Period:  1980

Subject Headings:  Latina Women; Short Stories; Vignettes; Esperanza Cordero; Sandra Cisneros; Hispanic Americans; Mexican American; Illinois (Chicago)

Appeal: easy, unhurried, atmospheric, poignant, lifelike, strong secondary characters, authentic, character-centered, detailed setting, intimate, conversational, lyrical

Plot Summary:   Sandra Cisneros (Esperanza Cordero) uses lyrical vignettes while retelling her youth as a poor Hispanic American in Chicago, Illinois.  The very short chapters (2 – 3 pages) are dedicated to describing various memories of family members and childhood friends.  The reader receives a very intimate look into the Hispanic culture revealing the struggle of Hispanic women to become independent of male authority figures.

Three terms that best describe this book:  authentic, lyrical, character-centered

Similar authors and fiction works:

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julie Alvarez

Four sisters adjust to life in the Bronx after moving from the Dominican Republic.  Told in fifteen short stories from each of their perspectives.  builds in intensity (told in reverse chronological order), multiple points of view, authentic

Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks

Lyrical account of a young black girl growing up in Chicago, Illinois in the 1940’s to 1950’s.  unhurried, sobering, hopeful

The Book of Lamentations by Rosario Castellanos

A story about a Mayan uprising against the white ruling class set in the 1930’s.  relentless, disturbing, dramatic

Similar authors and non-fiction works:

From My Mother’s Hands by Nellie Campobello

Bedside table book about mother/daughter relationships told by thirty-three notable Texas women. Recipes included.  leisurely-paced, compassionate, inspiring

American Immigration (The Chicago History of American Civilization) by Maldwyn Allen Jones

Study of immigrants and the adjustment of their lives in America. stately, academic, accurate

Blowout!: Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice by Mario T. Garcia and Sal Castro

The account of the 1968 movement for equal education for Hispanic Americans.  engrossing, humorous, historical details

Name:  Debbie

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

August 10, 2011

Laura Esquivel, read by Kate Reading

Title: Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies

Genre: Latino Fiction


Publication Date: 1994 (audiobook)

First copyrighted by Laura Esquivel in 1989 with original Spanish Text
English translation copyright 1992

Number of Pages: 5 sound discs (54 min. each)

Geographical Setting: Mexico

Time Period: early 20thcentury

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: Divided into 12 chapters, one for each month of the year, this book shows a family living in the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution. Tita is the youngest of three daughters, and that position gives her a devastating fate. The family’s harsh tradition forbids Tita to marry and have children. Instead, it and requires her to take care of her mother until the day she dies. Sharing already a passionate love with her soul mate Pedro does not qualify for an exception to the rule. As Pedro asks for permission to marry Tita, the mother offers her oldest daughter Rosaura instead. Disappointed, Pedro decides to marry Rosaura just in order to be close to Tita. Living under the same roof, rebellious Tita expresses her desires to Pedro through the food she prepares for him. With lyrical prose, the narrator’s pleasant voice, magical realism, and unique structure, this story feels like a fairy tale thrown into a cookbook. Each chapter starts with a recipe, and is followed by detailed instructions for its preparation, blended with Tita’s emotions. Easy to follow, very descriptive, and bittersweet in style, this story is good for both a laugh and a cry. Although it can be listened to in only one evening, it remains in a memory long after that. Those interested in the recipes may wish to reach for the book format after listening to the audio

Subject Headings: Mexico – fiction, Families – Mexico – fiction, Mexican cooking, Love stories

Appeal: original structure, romantic, bittersweet, dramatic, magical realism, richly detailed, witty style, imaginative, nostalgic, passionate, character-driven, lyrical prose, plot twist, unpredictable ending

3 terms that best describe this book: original structure, bittersweet, romantic

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

House of Houses by Pat Mora (a nonfiction twin to Like Water for Chocolate:  divided into 12 chapters, one of each month of the year; explores family relations in the Mexican culture; memories aremixed with recipes and folk remedies; some sense of magical realism; lyrical writing style)

Seasons of My Heart: A Culinary Journey Through Oaxaca, Mexico by Susana Trilling (this culinary follow up to Like Water for Chocolate explores in depth one of Mexico’s culinary rich areas and provides detailed recipes; personal stories attached to the culinary experiences resemble the novel’s unique style)

The Wind that Swept Mexico: The History of the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1942 by Anita Brenner and George R. Leighton (Esquivel’s novel is set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution, and this title, accessible and rich in photographs, allows the reader to familiarize quickly with that piece of history)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber (although featuring Arabic instead of Latino culture, it resembles Like Water for Chocolate in lyrical style, magical mood associated with high spirited culture, the theme of love, and preparation of food as a major element of the story)

Esperanza’s Box of Saints by Maria Amparo Escandon (both novels feature Mexican culture and magical realism with the appearance of a spirit and rituals; in both stories the line between life and death is vague)

Mrs. Vargas and The Dead Naturalist by Kathleen Alcalá (both books feature Mexican culture and magical realism; a collection of short stories may resemble Esquivel’s novel’s structure where each chapter contains a different recipe through which the story within that chapter is told)

Name: Anna

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

April 20, 2011

Author: Julia Alvarez

Title: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

Genre: Latina; Women’s Lives; Audiobook

Publication Date: Written in 1991, Recorded in 2006

Duration: 8 discs/9.5 hours

Geographical Setting: Dominican Republic and New York City

Time Period: 1956-1989

Plot Summary: The experience of the Garcia family, particularly the four daughters, is told through a series of short stories in reverse chronological order.  The family emigrated from the Dominican Republic after the Trujillo Revolution and settled in New York City.  The first part of the novel is about the adult lives of the four daughters and focuses on their relationships with men.  The second part is about the experience of recent immigrants in New York and the difficulties associated with assimilation.  The final third is about the political tension that the Garcia find themselves involved in and their subsequent emigration.

Subject Headings: Dominican-American Fiction; Immigrant Experience; Coming-of-Age; Women’s Lives and Relationships; Domestic Fiction

Appeal: deliberate, relaxed, compassionate, earnest, homespun, moving, multiple points of view, realistic, sympathetic, character-centered, family-centered, episodic, chatty, issue-oriented, authentic

3 terms that best describe this book: compassionate, family-centered, and episodic
3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

The Militarization of Culture in the Dominican Republic, from the Captains General to General Trujillo by Valentina Paguero – An historical look at the emergence of military rule in the Dominican Republic leading to Trujillo’s dictatorship, which led to the Garcia’s emigration.

Hispanic Immigrant Identity: Political Allegiance vs. Cultural Preference by George I. Monsivais – An examination of the identity issues that Hispanic immigrants face, similar to those that the Garcia girls struggle with in Alvarez’s work.

Sister Knot: Why We Fight, Why We’re Jealous, and Why We’ll Love Each Other No Matter What by Terri Apter – A study of the relationships that exist between sisters with sections on empathy, jealousy, and identity incorporating various perspectives.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

America Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood by Marie Arana – The coming to terms with a dual heritage and intimate portrayal of family members is reminiscent of Alvarez’s work.

True Colors by Kristin Hannah – The story of three sisters who are raised by their status-conscience father as they mature to adulthood. The sibling relationships are similar to the Garcia girls.

Flesh and Blood by Michael Cunningham – Four generations of the Stassos family are chronicled in this novel of identity.

-Mike Monahan

The Invisible Mountain by Carolina De Robertis

April 20, 2011

Author: De Robertis, Carolina

Title: The Invisible Mountain

Genre: Latino/a

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 364 p.

Geographical Setting: Uruguay and Argentina

Time Period: Spans the 20th Century

Series: Not Applicable

Plot Summary: Three extraordinary women, grandmother, mother, and daughter, and their experiences span the 20th century. Pajarita, the Uruguayan miracle of 1900, Eva, her rebellious daughter with a traumatic past, and Salomé, the political rebel who cannot be contained during a political age. Pajarita endures a life of loneliness but filled with love for her children, especially her daughter Eva. Eva, whose traumatic childhood is disturbing and heart wrenching, yields way to a talented poet. Her daughter, Salomé, a political rebel, completes the lineage of women. Though plot-centered at times, this story is truly a tale of family, culture, and the bitter sweetness of life.

Subject Headings: Mothers and daughters, Fiction; Uruguay, Fiction; Miracles; Mothers and daughters; Family relationships; Survival; Motherhood; Daughters

Appeal: Engrossing, measured, engaging, well-developed, episodic, strong language, detailed setting, accurate, intimate, political, contemplative, dramatic, emotionally-charged, unpretentious, complex, frank, smart, vivid.

3 Terms that Best Describe this Book: Character-centered, bittersweet, lyrical.

Similar Fiction Authors and Works:

Amy Green’s Bloodroot: Literary, lyrical, interwoven; a similar style, but with more perspectives following an American family over generations.

Julia Alvarez’s Saving the World: Suspenseful, romantic, lyrical; a woman deals with disease in two time frames.

Jean M. Auel’s The Land of Painted Caves: Character-centered, strong sense of place, family relationships; a look at family relationships, but in a prehistoric setting.

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Jung Chang’s Wild Swans: Heart wrenching, researched, unhurried; Chang’s family saga, including her grandmother, her mother, and herself in China.

Asuncion Lavrin’s Women, Feminism, and Social Change in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay: Detailed, thought-provoking, accurate; a comprehensive look at the first part of the 20th century.

Lucy Moore’s Maharanis: Detailed, progressive, character-centered; the following of four queens of India in a similar time frame.

Annotation by Carlen