jump to navigation

Saints Alive December 12, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in historical fiction, Latino literature, literary fiction, multi-cultural fiction.
Tags:
1 comment so far

Luis Alberto Urrea

Some characters are simply to good to be true. The Pollyannas of literature. Melanie Wilkes. Pip. Forrest Gump. Sweet, kind, generous. We think of these characters as literary saints. They believe in the inherent goodness of people and can’t understand why others don’t. There’s another kind of literary saint, the ones with flaws. Ivanhoe, Atticus Finch, Jo March. There are the saints whose deep convictions are met with adversity and yet the remain true to their calling. These and others of similar cut are the literary saints we’ll be discussing this week in #litchat.

Joining us on Friday, December 16th, for his second visit to #litchat , is Luis Alberto Urrea, whose sequel to his award-winning novel The Hummingbird’s Daughter was published this month. Queen of America follows Teresita, the young Mexican woman called the Saint of Cabora, whose ability to heal the sick spread throughout Mexico near the turn of the 20th century and whose passion for freedom inspired the native peoples of Mexico to fight against the corrupt government. Queen of America opens where the The Hummingbird’s Daughter ends. Teresita and her father have fled Mexico with government assassins on their tail. It doesn’t take long for word to spread to the sick, wounded, and hopeless around their new situation in Arizona that Teresita, the Saint of Cabora, has not lost her gifts.

Urrea writes with Dickensian humor and a scope for history like Tolstoy, bringing the late 1800s to life from the border towns of the Southwest and the Indian uprisings on both sides of the border; to a San Francisco still rushed with gold, and into the parlors of New York society. Everywhere she goes, Teresita is followed by pilgrims seeking her touch, a phenomenon that both nourishes and depletes her. Among the powerful threads running throughout Queen of America is Teresita’s conflicted passion for romance and beauty against her calling as a healer. These flaws bring pain as Urrea takes readers through Teresita’s brief marriage to a violent psychopath and her later association with people bent on exploiting her gifts. Urrea paints all of this with the brush of a poet, combining the facts of Teresita’s life with the essence of her life’s work.

Luis Alberto Urrea, 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, is a prolific and acclaimed writer who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss and triumph. Born in Tijuana, Mexico to a Mexican father and an American mother, Urrea has published extensively in all the major genres. The critically acclaimed and best-selling author of 13 books, Urrea has won numerous awards for his poetry, fiction and essays. The Devil’s Highway, his 2004 non-fiction account of a group of Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert, won the Lannan Literary Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize.

Urrea attended the University of California at San Diego, earning an undergraduate degree in writing, and did his graduate studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder. After serving as a relief worker in Tijuana and a film extra and columnist-editor-cartoonist for several publications, Urrea moved to Boston where he taught expository writing and fiction workshops at Harvard. He has also taught at Massachusetts Bay Community College and the University of Colorado and he was the writer in residence at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Urrea lives with his family in Naperville, IL, where he is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Follow Luis Alberto Urrea on Twitter: @urrealism.

Advertisements

Breaking Away July 4, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in bestsellers, Latino literature, literary fiction.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

Jon Michaud

“Going separate ways isn’t a sign that two people didn’t understand one another, but an indication that they had begun to.” This anonymous quote says more about break-ups and divorces in one sentence than many books do in all of the pages between their covers. People come together and drift apart. They burn like meteors for a time, only to fizzle out when their passion hits the atmosphere of reality. Real life often gets in the way of love. If it was ever love at all. This week in #litchat we’re discussing books that feature break-ups and the questions, consequences and casualties that follow.

Joining us on Friday, July 8, is Jon Michaud, whose debut novel, When Tito Loved Clara, was named among this year’s Tantalizing Summer Reads from O magazine.  When Tito Loved Clara is about breaking up, breaking away, and breaking through everything from first love, expectations of family and the cultural ceilings of immigrant life in America. Clara and Tito were raised blocks apart in northern Manhattan’s Inwood, a neighborhood known for its large Dominican population.  Tito and Clara live a Romeo and Juliet existence as high school lovers whose warring families were once like blood. The comparison ends here. Abused and neglected as a child, Clara uses education to break away from the dysfunction she sees everywhere she looks. Tito is a boyish dreamer too content with his cushy existence in the bosom of family to see a reason for achievement. Where Shakespeare’s young lovers choose death over separation, the couple that is Michaud’s Tito and Clara dissolves when the consequences of young love threaten Clara’s plan of escape. Years later, Tito still carries a torch for Clara and fantasizes about life with her, while Clara carries the burden of guilt from her hard decisions. A cast of mostly endearing, yet quirky characters, absorb some of the angst from Tito and Clara with secrets and consequences of their own.

Jon Michaud was born in Washington, D.C. in 1967. The son of a U.S. Foreign Service officer, he grew up in Tehran, Iran, Bombay, India, Bethesda, Maryland, and Belfast, Northern Ireland. Jon was educated at the Methodist College, Belfast and at the University of East Anglia. He holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and a Master’s in Library and Information Science from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Michaud is the head librarian at The New Yorker magazine. Before becoming a librarian, Michaud worked as a passport courier, a bookseller, and a bakery assistant. As a librarian, he has also been employed by Time Inc. and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. His writing has been published in IronNorth American ReviewSouth Dakota ReviewDenver QuarterlyFawlt, and other periodicals. He writes regularly for the Back Issues and Book Bench blogs on newyorker.com. Michaud lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with his wife and their two sons. He is at work on his next novel.

Follow Jon Michaud on Twitter: @JonMichaud.

Note: There will not be a moderated #litchat on Monday, July 4th, as we take the day off to celebrate American Independence Day. 

Topic of the Week: Latino Literature November 9, 2009

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in fiction, Latino literature, literary fiction, multi-cultural fiction, weekly topics.
Tags: , , , ,
1 comment so far

No matter on which side of the border it’s produced, there’s no argument that Latino authors have produced some of the greatest works of literature in recent history. Despite its invasion by Europeans, Latin America maintains much of the cultural identity and heritage of its native peoples, providing a colorful tapestry for storytelling. Many Latino authors draw on that culture with remarkable stories of survival, conflict, love, mystery, spiritualism and humanity. Authors such as Carlos Castaneda, Isabel Allende, Laura Esquivel, Sandra Cisneros and Jorge Luis Borges brought Latino literature into the homes and hearts of readers worldwide. We’ll discuss these authors and other Latino authors on Monday and Wednesday during LitChat.

LitChat-LuisUrrea

Luis Urrea

Luis Urrea joins us as guest host on Friday, November 13. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and an American mother, Luis grew up on both sides of the border. He compeled his undergrad work in writing at the University of California, San Diego, then went on to study writing at the graduate level at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Nominated for a Pulitzer for The Devil’s Highway, his 2004 non-fiction account of a group of Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert, Luis has been widely published in literary journals and has 11 books in print.

Publisher’s Weekly said this about Luis’s recently released novel, Into the Beautiful North: “Urrea’s poetic sensibility and journalistic eye for detail in painting the Mexican landscape and sociological complexities create vivid, memorable scenes.”

LitChat-IntoTheBeautifulNorth

Alan Cheuse of the Chicago Tribune said, “Awash in a subtle kind of satire… A funny and poignant impossible journey… Into the Beautiful North is a refreshing antidote to all the negativity currently surrounding Mexico.”

After serving as a relief worker in Tijuana and a film extra and columnist-editor-cartoonist for several publications, Luis moved to Boston where he taught expository writing and fiction workshops at Harvard. He has also taught at Massachusetts Bay Community College and the University of Colorado and he was the writer in residence at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

BooksAreGreatGifts

Books Are Great Gifts

Luis’ other titles include The Hummingbird’s Daughter, By the Lake of Sleeping Children, In Search of Snow, Ghost Sickness and Wandering Time. His writing has won an American Book Award, a Western States Book Award, a Colorado Center for the Book Award and a Christopher Award. The Devil’s Highway has been optioned for a film by CDI Producciones.

Luis lives with his family in Naperville, IL, where he is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Follow Luis on Twitter at: @Urrealism.